If I were to ask you to say the first thing that comes to mind when I say “peace,” it’s unlikely you would respond with “Jerusalem.” Unless it was Opposite Day. The Middle Eastern holy city in Israel has been an epicenter of conflict for centuries, hardly a hotbed of peace. Interestingly, Jerusalem means ‘founded on peace,’ though I’m sure her residents and others who care about her have often bemoaned that for Jerusalem peace seems nowhere to be found.
Peace is the first of my 12 Gifts of Christ that I intend to unwrap this month. When we believe and trust in the One who walked the streets of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, we are given the gift of peace. As he said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”1
Wait…what? Does Jesus give us peace or doesn’t he?
The Jerusalem of Jesus’ day was under Roman rule and had previously suffered conquest and destruction at the hands of other neighboring warring nations. So the Jews were hoping and expecting that when their Messiah came he would be a conquering hero who would free them from oppression and usher in a great time of peace. But as quoted above, Jesus was debunking that perception because his mission as Messiah, the Christ, was about conquering death, not Rome…the oppression of sin, not soldiers.
So what of this peace of which you speak? And why do I need it? This ain’t Jerusalem and I don’t feel oppressed.
Well, my friend, if you have not dealt with your sin (‘cause we all sin) then whether you realize it or not, you have an Adversary, and as he is undefeatable, you need to make peace with him or die. All of us were at one time, or are now, enemies of God2 because of our sin. That’s just the position we assume when we rebel against his will and do our own. It’s not a fight God picks; we volleyed the first shot.
So Jesus came as mediator and peacemaker, a hero who conquered by offering himself as a victim. Paradoxical but true. He came as the God-Man because God loves man and wanted reconciliation, so he provided a resolution that satisfied his holiness and justice, and in his mercy and love became the satisfaction.
Well, that’s cool. Jesus got himself crucified. God’s satisfied. War’s over.
Not exactly. You see, though God was the victim, he is also the victor. And the war is not over for you until you surrender…until you personally agree to the peace terms by putting your faith and trust in Christ. Then, as Paul says in Romans 5:1, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Peace has several meanings. It can refer to a state of mental and emotional calmness and serenity. Or it can signify an absence of conflict or enmity. They are closely related because the peaceful mental state is often a result of living without conflict. Our peace with God through faith in Christ is a description of our relationship with him, but it is also the inner confidence and rest that come from knowing that, God and I…we’re good.
Though because of our sin he must sometimes take a position of opposition, God is all about peace. He is the “God of peace”3 and the “Prince of Peace”4 and he offers it as a gift that just needs to be received by faith. It’s a positional peace and a psychological peace. As the Prince said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”5