Peace is something we all long for but, tragically, is something humanity finds impossible to obtain. Following the election (USA) the question of finding ‘peace’ around the Thanksgiving table was discussed on a PBS program (11/23/16). David Brooks, one of the panel commented, “I recommend not talking about politics right away, but having several earlier rounds of conversations. So, the first subject could be, ‘things I have always resented about you. And the next subject could be ways you have wounded me from which I will never recover’. And then, by the time you get to politics, it will seem pretty good, actually”.
How can we make the world a better place? In the Letter to the Colossians we read, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful (3:15).
In the flow of the Letter Paul the Apostle indicates that the place to begin is with our own circles of influence: our church, our family or household, our neighbors and our work colleagues. But significantly Paul anchors the peace of which he speaks, in Christ: Christ is its source and exemplar.
It calls to mind the song of the angels the night Jesus was born: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, ‘shalom’, ‘peace’ (Luke 2:14).
The juxtaposition of the supernatural and the natural, the heavenly and the earthly, catch our attention: ‘Glory and Peace’; ‘God and us’; ‘Highest (heaven) and earth’. Glory and peace: God has come and made peace possible. God and us: God has come amongst us in person. Highest heaven and earth: God has set aside his glory and taken on the greatest rescue operation ever.
While Jesus could have mustered forces to smash the might of Rome, he didn’t. Nor did he call his followers to arms. Rather, he served others. He is the king who came to serve. In fact, he so gave himself for others that his feet and hands were bloodied as they were nailed to a cross.
Jesus Christ knew that our deepest problem is our self-absorption – we are trapped in self-love. Unlike God who exists in three Persons and is ‘other-person centered’, our interest is primarily self, not others. Consequently, our relationships are broken, starting with our relationship with God.
Jesus knew that only through his sacrificial death could our relationship with God be restored. Furthermore, the cross of Jesus opens the way to heal our broken human relationships and bring us peace. No wonder the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, ‘shalom’, ‘peace’.
The response of the shepherds that night sets a challenge for us. They didn’t discuss the probability of miracles or whether they were dreaming. Rather they said, ‘Let’s go and see the baby for ourselves.’
We can’t physically go and see that baby but nor could most of Jesus’ contemporaries. But we do have the record of eyewitnesses. We need to discover this truth for ourselves and encourage others to do the same.
LET’S ALL MAKE THIS OUR AIM FOR 2017
Over this Christmas Season, I am reading Dr. Paul Barnett’s excellent book, Messiah: Jesus – the evidence of history. Paul Barnett is an internationally respected teacher and preacher, Bible commentator, and ancient historian. The Anglican Connection Council is inviting Bishop Barnett to address the subject ‘Is Jesus the Only Way?’ (Solus Christus) at the Anglican Connection conference to be held in Dallas from June 13-15 next year (2017).
If we want the peace those angels spoke about, the peace we long for, we need to recognize the source – God. We can’t have peace on earth let alone peace with God, without God. God is the only one who can restore peace. The good news is that in Christ he has made it possible.
© John G. Mason