During this season of the year many people share holiday greetings. I make it a point to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone with whom I speak. I have noticed that there is a sense a joy associated with Christmas for Americans of all cultures and faiths. After all, who can argue with the sales, the smiles, and our tradition of giving gifts.
For the Christian community, this season is a time in which we remember and celebrate the gift Christ is to us and to the world. For those who are born again, the message of the Gospel embodies an opportunity to “walk with God” and to receive His help in every area of life.
Many people believe that peace is the greatest gift that God gives to the world. They would quickly recite Luke 2:14, which says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV). Therefore, Christmas cards around the world seem to be announcing Christ’s entrance on earth as the ultimate arbiter of peace. In fact, every Sunday School child knows that Jesus is also called the Prince of Peace.
This concept doesn’t seem to jive with the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 10:34-35: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law” (KJV).
After reading these verses, one may easily ask, “Is He the Prince of Peace or not?” “Are the angels correct?” or “Are His words about Himself correct?” Jesus is essentially declaring that there is another side to His involvement in our lives.
The only way to reconcile these scriptures is to understand that both concepts are true. First, Jesus offers peace with God to those that accept Him. He died on the cross for everyone’s sin; He paved the way for anyone who desires to have a relationship with God. This amounts to giving humanity an opportunity to make their “peace with God.”
Years ago, the concept of making peace with God was much more popular than it is now. When people finally made their peace with the Lord it meant that the persons completely surrendered their lives to God. This surrender involved “doing it God’s way.” Romans 5:1 outlines this process in the scriptures.
In contrast, the Church in America is often in the position of bartering with God. We attempt to change the rules of relationship and the terms of our spiritual contract, which God has outlined in the Bible. This results in many American churches being populated by people that are “cultural Christians” who may not actually be “biblical” or born again. The angels of Luke 2 were not announcing an end to natural wars or man’s inhumanity to man. They were trumpeting an opportunity for man to approach a previously unapproachable God.
In light of this scriptural understanding, every time a Christmas card is sent to an unbelieving person, it is actually a personally customized invitation to surrender to Christ and receive eternal life. This is the peace of Luke 2.
Making our peace with God is just the first step in coming into a genuine relationship with God. The second step is receiving the peace of God (Phil 4:6-8). This means that we walk in a realm of personal peace that comes to us on the basis of our personal relationship with God. Then finally we, as His disciples, are drafted into a non-physical spiritual warfare in which the purposes of God’s kingdom are advanced – sometimes at the expense of our personal comfort.
Jesus’ statement that he came to bring a “sword” was addressed to His disciples from every generation who are entrusted with the task of carrying on His message and His ministry. Jesus leads His disciples into a life of personal sacrifice and selflessness. For His true followers, life can never again be about their personal agendas or personal well being alone. We, like the Prince of Peace who is our Savior and example, must endure conflict, persecution, and occasional rejection.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, we have a great number of national crises before us. The economy seems to be sluggish, the sub-prime lending problems have affected the financial industry, the War in Iraq continues to rage, and millions of Americans are facing an uncertain future. In this atmosphere, America needs God’s help.
In order to change America, we must be a spiritual Church that has been transformed by the power of the gospel. Christians who are normally peace loving are needed as soldiers in the spiritual war for our nation. But we need a different kind of soldier than conventional armies use. We need soldiers whose primary weapons are prayer, love, and the Word of God. In addition to social activism and political involvement, we need genuine Christians to make Jesus’ offer of peace with God available to all. Have a Merry Christmas.