The challenge within 'peace to all men'

(Photo: Unsplash/Jonathan Chng)

This Christmas season brings joyous reminders of carols and hymns that celebrate the season and more importantly, the reason for the season.

While I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person and I join with all the faithful in rejoicing in the beauty of the peace brought by the prince of peace, I am also considering a sobering truth. Scripture instructs all believers to, as much as is possible, live at peace with all men.

Implied in this instruction is the fact that it will not always be possible to live at peace with all men. So how does the believer determine when it is possible and when it is not? Especially in a season where "peace to all men" is the almost universal salutation?

Although the Christian gospel preaches peace and good news, it is also a message that has the potential to be divisive. The coming of Christ is a contentious fact. People all around the world deny the historicity of Christ, and many of those who accept his existence in our historical timeline, argue against his divinity.

Good news may divide people

This demonstrates that although the gospel is in fact 'good news', this very same good news is capable of dividing nations and people. To go further, in the gospels Jesus alarms his listeners by telling them point blank that He didn't come to bring peace but rather a sword that divides mother and daughter and turns fathers against their sons.

So how do we herald peace to all men and bring glad tidings of great joy with this in mind? How do believers live at peace with all men? I believe that the starting point must necessarily be a recognition of God's love for all humanity.

When you come to know Christ by way of accepting His love and forgiveness, repenting of sin and entering into relationship with Him, the entire transaction of you being translated from darkness to light takes place because of the currency of God's love.

John 3.16 declares that God the Father loved you and I so much that He sent His one and only son to die so that we would not perish. This love compelled Him to sacrifice that which He held most dear. He withheld nothing in His pursuit of us and to secure our eternal place by His side in heaven.

Tough love

Paradoxically, because He loves us this much, He is also unable and unwilling to allow sin to remain in us or in His presence. His love is equally merciful to the sinner as it is terrifyingly wrathful towards sin. His love is a warm extended hand of grace to reach the lost, while it is a sword of damnation to cut off the lawless. Within this apparent duplicity lies a great and beautiful mystery.

To one who has not carefully examined scripture to understand the whole counsel of God, Jesus's remarks may appear to contradict his mission. How can the 'prince of peace' die to save us and reconcile us to himself while saying that he came to divide?

Costly peace

Jesus was making it clear that His coming was not to bring everyone together in a hand-holding circle of inclusive kumbaya singing choruses. He came to bring peace to the world, but he knew that in doing so, many of the fallen in this fallen world would reject His message of love, truth and peace.

Jesus' mission was to bring peace to all men, but only the obedient would accept it and subsequently live in it; he knew this. He also knew that the way to His divine peace was one that would cost many everything, including family.

What would happen in households where a member decided to recant Islam to follow Jesus' way of peace? that courageous individual may be ostracized, treated as an outcast and in many instances persecuted by their very own family or even killed at their hands. Thus, the peace Jesus brought came with war.

Additional revelation is the fact that Jesus' peace was a war on a sinful system established by Satan. It is one of chaos, lawlessness and anomie but Jesus' arrival announced that the world now had a way to be restored to God's peace and order.

God's Spirit empowers

The kingdom of God was contending against the kingdom of darkness from many millennia before Jesus' arrival in the earth timeline, bringing peace against lawlessness. Jesus' entrance on the scene was like the baddest quick shooter in your favorite western movie riding into town to evict the renegade rebels and re-establish law and order for the good citizens.

So, to answer to our earlier question, in order for a believer to live at peace with all men, they must first realise that they will never live at peace with ALL MEN. Not even Jesus did, that's why He was killed.

The scripture is not to be read as an absolute, universal command but rather as a qualified imperative. As far as possible, live at peace with all men. The Holy Spirit enables us to operate in a supernatural love and grace towards anyone and in addition to this, he empowers us to display the fruit of the Spirit.

Friendship with the world is enmity with God. This means we will never be truly at peace with this fallen world while we live in it as light in darkness and as sheep sent among wolves. Our peace is found in the comforting knowledge that Jesus Christ has overcome the world.

Republished from Christian Today UK.