In the Biblical book of Genesis a dove brought Noah an olive leaf which he took as a sign of hope, that the Flood was receding and life on earth restarting. When Jesus was baptised in the Jordan River witnesses record heaven opening and the Holy Spirit descending on Him ‘like a dove’. The New Testament later speaks of the positive effects of Jesus’ followers being filled and led by the same Holy Spirit, and these include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. We even sing a hymn that celebrates the ‘Spirit of God…gentle as the dove’.
But what I witnessed in my back garden recently was anything but gentle or peaceful!
A dove, yes a dove, was tearing into a much larger magpie, chasing it round and round a tree and away from the bird table. After six violent rounds the magpie gave up and flew off. No plunder to be had in this garden! With the thieving bully banished, the smaller sparrows and chaffinches seemed happy to return to their meal in safety.
And (with some hesitation) I’m wondering if sometimes a degree of vigorous struggle is necessary for peace to be established.
After all Jesus Himself overturned tables and drove corrupt traders and moneychangers out of the Temple area. And when the Holy Spirit first came on the gathered believers on the day of Pentecost there was the sound like a mighty, rushing (in some translations ‘violent’) wind and what looked like tongues of fire. That would certainly shake up some of our church services these days! It did theirs!
Perhaps before we can begin to know the distinctive ‘peace of God that passes understanding’ we need to welcome His Spirit and allow Him to drive the thieving bullies of sin and selfishness from our own hearts. To really know Jesus and become more like Him we ourselves need to thoroughly ‘repent’ and firmly reject all evil. There may well be some inner effort and struggle involved before we can enjoy His freedom.
May is the month we celebrate Pentecost and the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit in the Church. So let’s celebrate, and humbly submit to trust and serve the Lord Jesus. Let’s give His Spirit room to operate!