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Inside Out and the Peace of Christ

January 18, 2016

The Pixar movie Inside Out was recently released on DVD, and it’s a subject of conversation in our household.

My eight-year-old says he didn’t understand it, my nine-year-old didn’t like it, and my five-year-old was scared by it. The eight-year-old had to leave the theater because he was so disturbed by how Riley, the main character, was compelled to do what she knew was wrong when Fear, Anger, and Disgust were left in control. Yet, I found the movie a helpful allegory of human emotion in action, and it provided a platform for discussion with my children about the peace of Christ.

We all reeled watching as Riley was flung into despair after a desperate attempt to remain positive throughout her family’s difficult move to California. On the car ride home, I was peppered with questions from the back seats:

“How did Joy get locked out, Mom?”

“Why did Anger take control?”

“Why did Riley listen to Anger, Fear, and Disgust and do something she knew was wrong?”

“Do I have to be controlled by how I feel?”

I found it helpful to talk with them about an important presence that was missing in the control room:

The peace of Christ.

Philippians 4:7 says this peace will guard our hearts, when we take our anxiety to him in prayer. Colossians 3:15 says we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. What is the peace of Christ, and what does it mean to be guarded by it and let it rule?

The Peace of Christ

Romans 5:1 says,

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace with God was purchased for us through our justification by faith. At one time, we were at war with God, but in Christ we are reconciled with the peace he made by the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). The peace of Christ is a state of being, but it is also the experience of tranquility, rest, and security that comes from knowing and abiding in Christ through the Holy Spirit.

When faced with warring emotions, how does one let the peace of Christ rule?

In the movie Inside Out, the character Joy was clearly in charge. Under her leadership, the goal was to make sure Riley kept her happy cheerful disposition, whatever the cost. Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust were kept in minor roles in an effort to ensure Riley’s core memories were all happy ones.

But all doesn’t go as planned.

Riley is unavoidably sad about her move to California, and Joy can’t keep the other emotions from taking over. The climax of the film comes when Joy finally gives Sadness access to Riley’s memories, and she realizes that Sadness can help Riley come to a place of acceptance of her new home.

The main point of the film, which is a good one, is that is that all of the emotions have an important role to fill. What’s missing is a clear idea of who should be in charge.

If Joy wasn’t the right leader, who is?

The Peace of Christ Rules

I told my kids to imagine that the Peace of Christ is dressed in an umpire uniform and placed in our emotional control room with Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear. An umpire is refereeing the action and calling the fouls. All of the emotions are now free to work within the healthy framework for which they were created, controlled by the overarching presence of the Peace of Christ.

  • Disgust is given the freedom to help us hate what is evil, and cling to what is good.
  • Anger is allowed to rage against injustice and the things God hates.
  • Sadness is a proper response to the hurt and pain in the world.
  • Fear, when it is of God, is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
  • The Joy of Lord gives us strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

It’s helpful to note that in Colossians 3:15, Paul says we are to let the peace of Christ rule. An umpire can shout from the sidelines, but if the players are not listening, the game is not going to be played properly. We need to give the peace of Christ, the Holy Spirit’s voice, a platform on the stage of our minds and hearts.

We need to listen to the foul calls, and then we need to put our emotions back in their proper place.

The Peace of Christ Guards

After watching the film, my kids were afraid that some circumstance would come into their life that would make anger take over and lead them to do wrong, like stealing money or disobeying their parents like Riley did. It was helpful for them to imagine the Peace of Christ dressed like a Roman guard, standing watch over their heart and minds, protecting them from faulty thinking.

The peace of Christ can guard our minds by reminding us that fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore are in the Lord’s presence (Psalm 16:11), not in different circumstances. It reminds us that our God hears our prayers and will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

It reminds us that our value is determined by the infinite price that was paid to win us back (1 Corinthians 6:20), not by our successes or failures in this life. It also guards us by reminding us that in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:17).

We don’t have to do what our emotions are begging from us.

I don’t know if Inside Out will find its way into our home anytime soon, but I’m forever grateful that the peace of Christ is dwelling within me, guarding my heart and mind, and ruling over my volatile emotions. Christ has indeed given us everything for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. Praise be to God!


The Author
Rachel Lehner

Rachel Lehner is married to Peter, has four children, and serves in women's ministry at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church. Among other things, she loves helping with math homework and reciting Dr. Seuss from memory.



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