And he will be called Prince of Peace…
In our current political climate, we are in desperate need of peace. Even more so, we are in desperate need of those who embody peace, who are bearers of peace. It’s a real mess out there and the turbulence has everyone up in arms, ready for battle. At this point, peace feels like some fantasy wish dream that will come and go as quickly as our Christmas decorations and we will be back at it in January.
What we need the most, is what we seem to resist the most. Why is that? Because it feels counterintuitive to our desire to be right (or left for that matter) more than a desire for peace. Perhaps it’s because we don’t understand the role of peace and how the embodiment of peace actually aids our conflicts, making it more productive than destructive. Because true peace, the peace that comes from above always considers “the other” and is never self-seeking.
We will never be without disagreement on this earth. We will never be without other traditions and belief systems that seem “scary” or “weird”. Longing for peace isn’t about neutralizing all arguments or throwing out culture and sitting in one giant homogenous, Kumbaya circle. The fullness of peace will only come with the return of Christ but “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” is a message that is both relevant now, yet not fully established. Christ embodied peace even in the midst of a turbulent and violent society with its clashing belief systems and we can embody peace in our world today.
“For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14)
Peace begins to take root in us when we begin to take root in him.
Peace is not conjured up through human means but only by the One who became human for us. His peace is both a historical distinctive and transcendent. Through him “all things were made” and so the essence of his peace is all over his creation. Some may not recognize it as him giving credit to moralism, meditation, or mediation but we would not know peace without him. This is a difficult thing to claim, especially in a world where many hear this message with hostility, seeing our faith tradition as close minded and oppressive. How much further can you get from a message of peace when others hear just the opposite?! How does one embody a message of peace that seems exclusive?
One thing we must remember as we enter into this season is that not everyone accepts our message of peace, there are other messages of peace that seemingly want to compete with ours and so has Christ really broken down the walls of hostility? It certainly doesn’t feel like it! So what now? Are we at a standstill? Has our message stalled out?
Embodying peace in a hostile world
We can learn a lot about how we can embody peace by just taking our eyes off the walls that divide us and putting them on Jesus. Let us remember that God came to us quiet and small to establish his peace on earth. He laid aside his power for a time to engage with us. How are we not obligated to do the same? How are we not looking for ways to lay aside our power on a regular basis to engage with others around us? This goes far beyond just a “service project”. Though well intended many service projects are, are we not still coming in from a place of power to “serve” and then retreat back to our privileged positions? Embodying the message of peace seeks to establish peace on earth through the message of Jesus not through the mere building of houses but building up lives. Jesus abolished the walls of hostility creating one man instead of two. The Ephesians passage is referring to Jews and Gentiles however I believe it now can apply to the multiple divisions we see inside our own churches and those who literally stand on the other side of a wall today. We are one in Christ. He is our peace. He came so that we might have peace. We as Christ followers are now those who are to embody the message of this radical peace. So what happened?
I believe we have allowed too many voices to speak into our lives. Our world is so full of noise, opinions, conflict, gossip, you name it, it’s on your phone right now! How can we embody the message of peace when we aren’t seeking peace for ourselves. I’m not telling you to not be informed but to first be formed by him. If we cannot see the news through the lens of Christ’s message then we have already lost our ability to bring a message of peace to the table. Instead, we end up being apart of the noise and not the message.
We are also unpracticed in reaching across that table to another who is unlike us, who has different opinions, different faith traditions, a different story all together and breaking bread with them. We cannot bring a message of peace if we aren’t even sitting at the table! Our willingness to be in relationship for the sake of relationship and not just conversion, is unheard of in today’s church. Why? Jesus broke bread with a myriad of people and did you see him preaching to them while in his presence? No, instead you saw him rebuke those who believed they had every right to sit at that table. Our God is a relational God. His message of peace comes in the form of relationship. A human child. Small and fragile, willing to be held and nursed and grow and learn. Are we willing to set aside our power to reach across that table and break bread with the “other”?
Where is one place you can start this week to reach across that table? How does this activity embody the message of peace?
Over the next 6 days, take 10 to 15 minutes per day to meditate on this passage: Ephesians 2:13-22
Read it 3x or more slowly
Asking God to reveal a phrase or word to you
Pray that word or phrase back to God
Concerning the questions above, if you have zero clue where to start, reading and learn first. Privilege tends to come with a hall pass that allows us to simply pass by uncomfortable conversations. Don’t let this Advent season pass by without getting a little uncomfortable. God made himself uncomfortable for us, may we do the same for one another. Here are a few books on my list to read during the Christmas break:
What book could you read over Christmas that would aid you in reaching across the table to connect with someone different then you?