By Keith Storment
“Peace on earth” sang the angels when they announced the birth of Jesus (Luke 2:14). But today, our old world knows so little of peace. Many spend their nights in futile tossing and turning, too worried about the troubles the next day may bring to find the sweet rest of sleep. Families are being torn asunder with bickering and strife. Local churches, intended by God to be a foretaste of Heaven on earth, are often filled with discord as supposed brothers and sisters in the Lord bite and devour one another. And on the international scene, the end of the great Cold War has not produced universal peace. Around the globe, nations stare across their borders with hatred, fear, and envy as the rumbles of tanks, guns, and war planes fill the air.
Is peace just an impossible dream? Perhaps, for many are unwilling to seek and follow the path of peace. Many today follow in the footsteps of doomed Jerusalem and close their eyes to the things that make for peace (Luke 19:44). But as the angels promised on that long ago night, there is a way of peace for those who are willing to strive to live in such a way that God will be pleased with them. Let us seek to learn the way of peace: in our lives, in our homes, in the church, and even in our nation.
The Prince of Peace
Centuries before the Savior was born, Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be “The Prince of Peace” and spoke of the wonderful blessings his reign of peace would bring (Isa. 9:6-7). Jesus echoed the pronouncement of the angelic hosts and promised to give peace to his followers (John 14:27; 16:33). He shed his blood to provide peace for mankind (Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20). But only those who are willing to render obedience by faith to Jesus can have access to his peace (Rom. 5:1-2). Today we face the question: Will we surrender our lives to the Prince of Peace or will we close our eyes to the things that make for peace?
The Peace That Jesus Gives
First and foremost, Jesus came to give peace between man and his God. Man by his sin has made himself the enemy of God. His sins have made a separation between himself and God (Isa. 59:1-2). He is dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-2). Through Christ and his death, God seeks to reconcile the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19). If we are willing to come into Christ, he will wash away our sins and restore us to fellowship with God (Acts 22:16; Eph. 2:16).
Those who find peace with God will receive the second great gift of peace: Peace with themselves. In the world we will still experience tribulation, but in Christ we can find a peaceful center of rest (John 16:33). If we have found peace with God we can sleep soundly at night, secure in the knowledge that he who sees each sparrow fall is watching over us (Matt. 10:29-31). We should not worry about food, clothing, and shelter because God will provide the necessities of life for those who put him first (Matt. 6:25-34). Rather than being anxious over what shall be tomorrow, Christians should take their worries to the Lord in believing prayer. We will find that the peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard our minds because we are in Christ (Phil. 4:6-7). “(Cast) all your cares upon him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). We cannot know what tomorrow holds, but we can know Who holds tomorrow!
The third great area in which Jesus provides peace is peace with others. Especially should this peace to be found among the fellow citizens of the kingdom of peace. When we find bickering and strife among those who claim to be God’s children, we must obviously conclude that at least some of those involved have not surrendered their will to the Prince of Peace. In Ephesians 2, Paul described the horrible state of alienation, hostility, and enmity that existed between Jews and Greeks (vv. 11-12). This hatred between Jews and Gentiles ran bone deep and generations old. The current hatred that often exists between the races in our society would only look as mild dislike compared to the hostility these two groups felt and often exhibited towards each other. But God wrought peace between them by providing reconciliation through the cross of Christ in his one body, the church (Eph. 2:14-16). So those who have rendered obedience to the message of peace are now at peace with God and each other (Eph. 2:17).
And we can often be at peace even with those who are enemies of Christ because of our peaceful nature. Paul exhorted us to be at peace with “all men” as much as we can (Rom. 12:18). But this peace is not to be purchased at the cost of truth. Jesus himself warned that for some his advent would bring a sword and not peace (Matt. 10:34). Sometimes we must unsheathe the sword of the Spirit and take up spiritual arms to defend the cause of the Prince of Peace. Jude wrote that we need to contend earnestly for the faith that God has once for all time delivered to his people (Jude 3).
An Example of a Peaceful Life
Consider Simon Peter as evidence of the great change that peace with God brings to the life of an individual. The gospels first introduce us to a Simon Peter who is a most un-peaceful man. He lacked peace with himself. While the great storm tosses Galilee’s waves, fearful Peter joins the other disciples in castigating the Lord for sleeping while they face imminent drowning (Mark 4:38). Peter was also violent and unpeaceful towards others. Perhaps Peter’s violence reached its peak the night of Jesus’ arrest when he reached out a sword and cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest named Malchus (John 18:10).
Earlier, Jesus had reached to the heart of Peter’s troubled soul when he told Simon his mind was not set on the interests of God but of men (Matt. 16:23). Later, the Savior warned Peter that the outcome of the apostle’s failure to find lasting peace with God would be a time of severe trial when Satan would sift him like wheat (Luke 21:31). That very night, Jesus’ words were fulfilled. Simon sank to the depths of selfishness, three times denying his Lord, at least once with cursing and swearing (Mark 14:71). But the Father answered the prayer of Jesus: Simon’s faith did not fail. At this point, a look from the Savior pierced his heart and with bitter tears Simon repented. Ever after, Simon Peter was a changed man — a source of strength to others (Luke 21:32; 61-62).
And for Simon, finding peace with God brought peace with himself. The Peter who had fearfully awakened Jesus that storm-tossed night on the Sea of Galilee now found the peace to sleep very well the night before Herod had purposed his execution. So soundly was he sleeping that the angel sent to deliver Peter had to strike him in the side to awaken him (Acts 12:6, 7). Simon had learned to sleep like Jesus, and we need to learn to sleep like Peter.
But not only did Simon find peace with himself, but he also found peace with others. When for a moment the old, selfish Peter resurfaced at Antioch, the apostle Paul was forced to administer a public rebuke (Gal. 2:12-14). But Simon Peter, the man who once had stretched out a sword in bloody violence against another, later wrote of Paul as his “beloved brother” (2 Pet. 3:15).
The life of Peter testifies that those who will submit to the Prince of Peace truly find “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). If you are seeking peace in your life, then seek to live the life that Christians live. By submitting your will to the Lord and striving every day to put God first in your life, you also can experience “the peace of God that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).