15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Establishing love as the chief mark of Christianity as love, Paul continues to give exhortation with regard to the manner in which a believer should live. If love exemplifies the nature of Christianity, then the life of a believer ought to manifest peace, unity, and gratitude. In a world so tainted by sin and despair, the ideals of peace and unity must be pursued in order to be made manifest.
The imperatives of verses 15-17 are exhortations that must be actively pursued. The world surrounding Christians is a world that attempts to ruin the peace of believers and is actively attempting to stifle the believer’s ability to grow in holiness. Paul warns in Ephesians that the believer should make the most of the time they have because the very days themselves are evil and actively work against believers (Ephesians 5:15-16). Peace is a goal that the true believers must strive for. In order to have peace, one must work to establish it. The effort to cultivate peace begins in the heart of a believer and is secured through the community of believers. Paul’s admonition to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” is both a command to submit to Jesus and a reminder that He is King. The word translated “rule” means to control or arbitrate for the benefit of another. Christians must strive to bring their entire being under the control of Christ’s character. Some of that will require surrender to His work and plan. For most believers, surrender is simply a matter of trusting that the Lord is good and will accomplish what He promises. For others, surrender actually entails a giving over or giving up of some activities and efforts that are inconsistent with following Christ. In order for the peace of Christ to be present, Christians must surrender to His rule.
The peace of Christ also thrives through a consistent Biblical community. When true Christians intertwine their lives together, the peace of Christ is made manifest in the transparency and grace of the community. As believers gather together to worship God, serve others, and love one another, the love and character of God are made manifest and the peace of Christ results (1 John 4:12). Paul’s exhortation is that the peace of Christ would rule in the collective body of believers. This peace that transcends all understanding is present most effectively and most obviously in a Christian community (Philippians 4:7). Consider for a moment your own circumstance. Are you living in community with fellow believers? Could you say the peace of Christ rules within your heart? If the answer is no to both, then perhaps you ought to consider finding a faithful Christian community to join. Search for one that teaches the Bible and urges you to live a holy life. In our world, anxiety and turmoil are common among people. Strive to engage with brothers and sisters who love the Lord and live in holy community.
At the conclusion of verse 16, Paul urges the Colossians to “be thankful.” Gratitude is perhaps the greatest weapon that a believer has against the unsettled anxiety of the tortured world we live in. When Christians cultivate a spirit of gratitude for all things, they can often overcome the besetting anxiousness that overwhelms. There are two reasons that cultivating gratitude can provide a sense of peace among believers. The first is in the recognition that Christ is Lord over and sustainer of all things. So a believer can give thanks to The Lord, knowing that He is providing according to His plan and desires, which are ALWAYS good. Second reason gratitude begets peace is that gratitude is a way to conform the thoughts and mind to consider God’s will greater than our own. Cultivating gratitude for everything slowly transforms the way we engage in this life and removes the critical and self-righteous attempt to rule over our circumstances. In this way, we can say with Paul in Philippians that we have “learned the secret of contentment” (Philippians 4:11). For more on cultivating a spirit of gratitude, go check out Anne Voskamp’s books “1000 gifts” and “the broken way.”