Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Cory Gonyo Can there be peace on earth? As we are in the midst of one of the most wonderful celebrations, Christmas, we hear again the angelic refrain, "peace on earth, and good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). It doesn't take long, however, to recall that our nation is at war and contemplating more war. Not to mention the fact that there are many places in the world where peace is not a reality.
A cursory study of the evening news shows us this. And what about those of you who are finding Christmas time to be less than personally peaceful because it brings with it memories, good and bad, of times gone before or loved ones no longer with us? How do we find this peace spoken of in connection with Christmas?
Is peace on earth even possible? Why don't we just make people be nice?! We can try to force people to behave in peaceful ways, right?
The problem is that dealing just with outward behaviors is like applying a tissue to a cold. It may help with the symptom of a runny nose, but it doesn't do a single thing for the disease itself. The root of the matter is not a person's behavior, but rather one's actions flow from what is in the heart (Mark 7:20-23).
If we want to find true peace in this peace-less world, we must at least realize where to look and how to solve the problem. It is all about the heart.
So, why would the angels proclaim "peace on earth" at the birth of Jesus? Three suggestions give us a clear answer.
First, an announcement of peace directly implies a situation of non-peace. To proclaim peace when there is no threat, war, or unrest is meaningless. So, for the angels to proclaim peace at the coming of the Lord Jesus, is to proclaim Jesus as the one who is the answer to a conflict.
But what's the conflict? The apostle Paul refers to humans as being "enemies" of God because of their sin against him (Romans 5:10). The peace that Jesus came to bring about is first and foremost peace BETWEEN God and men, men who have offended God in their sin. That is where the conflict is.
Sinfulness is a matter of the heart. If that conflict is not dealt with first and foremost, then it is no wonder that people still rage against God and sin against each other. Creator God came in the flesh to take away our hearts of sin and replace them with hearts that love him and others.
Second, an announcement of peace directly implies an opportunity for reconciliation. Where there is war, peace is offered. Because our sin puts us at war with God, we must achieve terms of peace through some way that makes both sides of the conflict happy. To reconcile enemies is to alleviate any existing problems and bring enemies together in harmony with each other. The problem being sin, how then is Jesus offered to us as our "peace?"
The apostle Paul also says in the same passage as above, that believers in Jesus "were reconciled to God through the death of his son" (Romans 5:10). That is, peace was made between God and man in the person of Jesus, specifically through his death on the cross. True peace comes between you and God when you personally receive Jesus as your savior from the penalty for your sin. He offers you peace even though you are at war with God. This is true reconciliation.
Third, peace on earth will flow from peace with God. Can there really be peace on earth? Yes! When one is at peace with God in Jesus Christ through personal faith in his death, burial, and resurrection, only then will one be able to truly love his earthly enemies (Luke 6:35) because his heart will be changed. When people realize that Jesus put forth his own life to save theirs, they will follow his example and put forth their own lives even for those with whom they are not at peace (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21). The greatest form of love (and peace) is to lay down one's life for the benefit of another. Jesus is our only hope of peace with God and he brings to us the ability to have peace with others in the world.
To apply our "tissue" analogy then, true peace in the world will not happen by dealing only with people's behaviors (symptoms). The fatal flaw of a corrupt heart (the disease) must be exposed, healed, and then reborn as a new creation. Only when one is recreated from the heart will one change in outward behavior.
War, terrorism, murder, sexual sins, hateful speech, enmity of all kinds, are all just symptoms of a deeper, underlying disease. That disease is sin in the heart. To stop terrorism is a good start, but ultimately it is only applying a tissue to a symptom if the disease of sin is not addressed.
The cure for the disease of the sinful heart is not applying "tissue" to a behavioral symptom, but exalting Jesus Christ as the cure for the disease. The love of God in Jesus' death and resurrection must be proclaimed to all peoples in the hopes that they will believe, be healed from within, and war no more.
Then, for those who put their faith in Jesus, there would be real peace both with God and with men. This is the peace the angels sang about.
Peace on earth will come as people, one by one, embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Martin Luther said about Jesus, "He is the sole redeemer of man from the thralldom of sin and the gates of death. He alone is the hope of any enduring society upon earth. When men do not know Bethlehem's babe they rave and rage and strive. The angels proclaimed peace on earth, and so shall it be to those who know and receive this babe."
Oh, the joy and peace that Jesus brings to the warring soul!
Have you been reconciled to God in Jesus Christ? The issue is between you and your maker. He has provided the penalty for the offense that is between you and him. Have you been forgiven by the king of kings? The only way that that is possible is to turn away from your sin and turn to the living and true God in Jesus Christ (see Romans 10:9-13).
Faith in Jesus is what makes peace between you and God. When that is done, then real peace takes over and you can experience love for God and all others regardless of the wars that still rage in the world.
May true peace be yours in Jesus Christ by God's grace through your faith now and forever.