At first, we thought he was like that because we are Christians and he’d had some sort of bad experience or prejudice against our faith or faith of any kind. (He has a scientific mind.) Now we notice that he is like that with everyone, guarded, always protecting himself against something.
Larry Crabb wrote an excellent book called Encouragement. In it, he describes how people fear rejection, and that most of us think that if others knew what we were really like, they would shun or avoid us. So people build a persona, a personality and way of behaving that they think others will accept. He called those structures walls, because they surround the real person. The big problem with them is that walls allow surface relationships only. True encouragement happens when the real people behind the walls can talk to each other.
Today’s verse comes out of yesterday’s devotional reading and continues the thoughts about peace. In the verse, the idea of being guarded is different from walls. It is something that we cannot do ourselves.
. . . and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)“Guard” is a military term. Yesterday I wrote that it implies that my mind is in a battle zone and needs the protection of a military guard. In war, a guard prevents hostile invasions or keeps those in a besieged city from escaping.
Applying that to the walls of self-protection, they are a human attempt to guard me from rejection by keeping people from knowing me. They also guard the “real me” from being let loose so others can see and reject who I am.
But this guarding in the Bible is not about human walls. It is about the peace of God that exceeds human understanding. It is about God taking down the walls in such a way that I do not feel any need to have them because He replaces them with something better.
He guards me with His peace. This is a supernatural calm that is bestowed when I pray with thanksgiving. I don’t have to think about my theology or fill my mind with Bible verses. God does this; I do not.
However, when I am at peace I am aware that God is protecting me. He knows what He can use for good in my life. I do not need to fear how people will respond to me because God is in charge of that.
Neither do I need to worry about the “real me” being exposed. My reason? “God demonstrated His own love toward me, in that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me” (Romans 5:8). I am accepted by God!
His peace, this supernatural, all surpassing state of calm, includes a deep awareness of His love and acceptance. I can relax, be myself, not worry if others see my shortcomings and weaknesses. Because God loves me, what can human rejection do to me?
There are two kinds of being guarded, my neighbor’s strained self-effort, and God’s way of guarding me. Sometimes I pick the self-effort and put up a wall, but it is definitely not the best guard. All it does is keep my fears and anxiety bottled inside. The better choice is the quiet assurance that God alone can give.