SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Peace Among Men
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 12:00 AM
"For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault." (Colossians 1:19-22)
Quite often, the prospects for lasting peace among us seem remote and elusive. Keeping the peace, whether between brothers, neighbors, businesses, nations, or even churches, is not an easy achievement. It's a little like walking a tight rope high above a chasm of utter chaos while dogging arrows of disorder and strife which threaten our balance. Let's face it, the things that lend themselves to the disruption of peace among men appear endless. And if anything, this world in which we live seems to be running in short supply of peace, to the disconsolation of us all.
But once again the Season of Christmas is upon us and our thoughts turn to peace. In our churches and on street corners carols of peace are sung, even as words of good wishes are extended all around. But do these measures, in themselves, increase the chances of peace among us? Can our differences and ills be set aside with such ease? Will the jealousies and greed and abuses not resurface at some later point to do insult to the façade of peace we often labor to promote at Christmas?
What's the real problem? Why can't REAL PEACE be established? Ever asked yourself that question? Well, let's consider it together.
The word, PEACE (eirene), is employed in nearly every book of the New Testament. It is a word that speaks of men living in harmony one with each other. It represents the absence of hostilities and freedom from molestation. The Old Testament Hebrew counterpart, Shalom, speaks of 'wholeness' and is very often associated with the concept of 'salvation' as is seen with great clarity in the sacrificial giving of the peace-offering. So, this is not a new concept - Peace. Nor did the love of peace begin with man.
In the angel's message to the shepherds on the night of Christ's birth (Lk 2:14) a pronouncement of peace was given: "and on earth, peace among men with whom He (God) is pleased." It showed that peace was a concern of God and at the heart of the reason Jesus was sent into the world. Within God himself, there was a desire for peace - not just between man and man, but more importantly, between God and man. This is why the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6) came among us - to establish peace between an offended God and a sinful people.
This is one of the reasons I have trouble with Jill Jackson's song, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me". I think I understand what Jill was trying to do there and her thought certainly is in harmony with what we read in Romans 12:18 where Paul writes: "Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as it is possible." But the problem I have with her little song is the absence of an underlying recognition that real and lasting peace among men is only possible when peace has been established with God - and that is beyond our doing. We can sing as many songs as we might like about the brotherhood of man and walking in harmony and making solemn vows to "live each moment in peace eternally" - but without the foundation of peace with God, such thoughts are ephemeral and short-lived.
This is the reason why what we find here in Colossians 1: 19-22 is so vitally important. God makes it clear that real peace is something we can know and experience. In fact, it was for this purpose that Jesus came and died. He came to a people (you and me) who found themselves to be alienated from God by sin and corruption - afar off from Him and without even the remotest hope of ever doing anything that should change that situation. But the "good news of great joy" which the angels voiced on that night was that God never gave up on us or His own pursuit of peace. In the fullness of time, He sent His Son to us, born of a woman, born under the law, to deliver law-breakers like you and me, and to establish peace by the shedding of His own blood. It was through the rendering of that peace-offering that two estranged parties (us and God) were reconciled (reunited).
The angel made it clear that this peace was the outgrowth of God's good pleasure: "among men with whom He is pleased" - that is, with those whom God graciously chose to show His good favor. Peace, then, is to be seen as a gift of grace. Men choose to live in peace, one with another, out of a sense of gratitude and with an understanding of responsibility before a gracious God who established peace with us through the sacrifice of His Son. Peace, then, begins with God - not with us. If it were something that rested on us, then the jealousy Cain had for Abel would continue, as also the hatred of Esau for Jacob, the bitter disdain of the elder brother for the younger (Prodigal Son) or even the injurious strife between Euodia and Syntyche. There would be no reasonable expectation that relationships should ever be any different had God, according to His own good pleasure, not reached down to us with an offering for peace. Think about it!