Yesterday we lit the second candle of Advent, the candle of Peace. As I contemplated the word peace, I found I had a hard time defining it. At first I could only say what peace isn’t. For instance, peace is a lack of conflict in a person’s life, or a lack of war and aggression between nations. That didn’t seem right to me – that the whole definition of peace should be a lack of non-peaceful circumstances. While my dictionary offered little better, I did find a few words tucked away in a list of things peace isn’t that seemed to adequately define it for me – a state of security or order or mutual concord. It’s a subtle difference, but important because when I say out loud that peace is a lack of war and conflict, I don’t feel peaceful. But when I say that peace is a state of security, order, and mutual accord, a feeling of peace seems to surface.
So then I turned to my Bible to see what I could find on peace and I found many references, mostly talking about peace-offerings and the lack of peace or the return of peace in the Old Testament and lots of people greeting each other with peace in the New Testament. However, several lines of Scripture in the New Testament grabbed my attention and as I put them all together on one document to meditate on, I found this seamless message which I just had to share with you as I read it:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2:14) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9) “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Mt 10:34) “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Lk 12:51) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14:27) “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:32-33) For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], 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. (Col 1:19-20) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Rom 5:1-2a) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phi 4:6-7)
At first you may think that Mt 10:34 and Lk 12:51 don’t belong, but they do. Jesus tells us in Jn 14:27 that there are two different kinds of peace – the peace of man and the peace of God. Just as there is a difference in defining what peace isn’t as opposed to defining what peace is, there is a difference in the peace of man and the peace of God. Jesus did not come to bring man’s peace. No, Jesus brought disruption to man’s temporary security, order and mutual accord to make way for God’s everlasting, unfailing, miraculous peace.
In Jn 16:32-33, Jesus is talking to the disciples on the night of his arrest, but don’t we all have moments when we desert Jesus. Moments when we deny we know him and run away from his presence in our lives. So how wonderful is it to know that Jesus does not withhold his peace from us even when we reject him. Again, he speaks of trouble in this world – disruption, aggression, disorder, but in the same breath has assured us that he has overcome sin and the world and offers his peace to every person who will take hold of it.
Jesus was not and is not a messenger of God. Jesus is God incarnate, and as humans we will never be able to truly comprehend or explain it. But we can accept it with a childlike faith and find peace with him and in him through his selfless sacrifice on the cross and receive everlasting life with him in his resurrection. The peace we have with and in God through Jesus beckons us to cry out to him, to bring to him all our anxieties, our needs, and desires and his peace in us will stand in and against and overcome and outlast all chaos and disorder we find ourselves facing.
So this week as I look for God’s peace, I will be looking for the security that comes from knowing that Jesus is my Savior and God’s grace has redeemed me and brings me into the presence of the Lord with thanksgiving and praise, not in fear and under condemnation. I will be looking for God’s order in the chaos that is my life and the mutual accord that is between him and me and between me and his children throughout the world. No matter what I face this week, God’s peace is what I will seek and what I know I will find even amid the craziness of the Advent/Christmas season.
About the pictures:
North Park (Sept. 2011)