Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God's Good Gifts - Peace

            Isaiah prophesied that the coming messiah would be called “the prince of peace!” Christians claim that phrase as a great description of Jesus Christ. Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, made peace between God and sinners who are willing to accept his grace. “For God was pleased to have all fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) It is a staggering sentence – peace through his blood shed on the cross – for out of the violence Jesus suffered he created peace!

            The reason for that is actually quite simple: Jesus decided to stop the hatred and violence by refusing to return evil for evil! Rather than defending himself by destroying his enemies, he surrendered to their evil plans and offered himself as a sacrifice. The decision to take the violence into himself, and return forgiveness for hatred, created something new in the world.

            The people around Jesus were not sure what to make of his amazing act of self-sacrifice. His enemies interpreted it as weakness and were pleased to be rid of him (until the resurrection!). His friends did not understand it either and were almost out of hope, again until his resurrection! It is the resurrection power of God that makes the willingness of Jesus to die himself rather than mistreat others such a wonderful gift. After Jesus ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit came to the disciples on Pentecost, they began to understand the full significance of what Jesus had done. The power of peace through loving and praying for enemies was on full display. Listen to their voices as they relate the impact of what Jesus did by choosing peace over hostility:

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” – Peter (1 Peter 3:9)

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” – James (James 3:18)

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men, and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord.” – Paul (Romans 12:17-19)

            It takes a great deal of faith to walk the path of peace with Jesus. But we will arrive at true peace – not just the absence of hostility but the presence of love – in no other way. To follow Jesus on the path to peace is the calling of every disciple and the only hope for the world. “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone!”

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