“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”Luke 12:49-51 (NIV)
“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.”John 14:27 (NIV)
It’s the second week of advent, and we’re just over two weeks away from celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6 NIV). As followers of God, how do we follow in the Prince of Peace’s footsteps? What kind of peace does the Prince of Peace bring?
I personally like to “keep the peace.” I am of the “don’t ruffle any feathers,” non-confrontational breed of human. If someone has hurt me or said something I disagreed with, my inclination is to just be quiet and let the moment pass. Sometimes I laugh nervously. When it’s slander, gossip, bigotry, racism, or other hateful speech, I’m reluctant to call it out. They probably didn’t mean it. I don’t want to hurt their feelings. Wouldn’t it just be better to slap a Band-Aid on it and call it a day?
The Prophet Jeremiah called out this inclination: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14 NIV).
More often than not, this is the posture we take in the world. Afraid of confrontation, we sweep our hurt feelings and disagreements under the rug. The trouble is that eventually, the rug has so much swept under it that it becomes bumpy with the clumps of unforgiven and unforgotten conflicts, a stumbling block that makes it impossible to navigate relationships with any kind of authenticity.
That is not peace. Jesus didn’t offer this kind of passive aggressive peacekeeping. In fact, he tells us he didn’t come to bring peace, but division. God does not call us to trade in truth and justice and righteousness in order to keep the peace; instead, he calls us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. That is a confident, fearless, Holy Spirit fueled peace, a peace that doesn’t just aim to keep up appearances of peacefulness, but instead makes peace through the hard work of dialogue, action, and love.
There may not be peace between you and someone who does not live by the same Lord. But the Prince of Peace who entered this world and overcame this world gives a peace that passes understanding, a soul-level peace that frees and empowers us to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly into areas of discord and division with confidence, compassion, and love. That’s what Jesus modeled, and that’s what he calls us into.
Points of Reflection
- Are there areas in your life or people with whom you prefer to keep the peace instead of making peace? How can you strive to make peace instead?
- Can you recall a time when your circumstances called for distress, anxiety, fear, or strife, but instead, God delivered a peace that passed all understanding? Share that moment with a friend or family member this week.
For the Kids
- What do you think Jesus meant when he said he came to bring division and not peace?
- How do you think keeping the peace and making peace are different?
As a fruit of the Spirit, soul-level peace is not something that we’re naturally inclined to seek. Ask God to reveal those areas or relationships where you’ve resorted to peacekeeping. Spend time journaling about or meditating on the bitterness, brokenness, and hurt that may have been swept under the rug to bring it out into the light of God’s love. This is the first step toward forgiveness and reconciliation and is true peacemaking work in our personal lives. Then, pray for the courage and clarity to change the course of that relationship the next time discord or division surfaces between you.
Part of the work involved in shifting from a peacekeeper to a peacemaker is knowing who you are, what you believe, and how you can guard your inner self without becoming a carapace of indifference in the world. Easy, right? Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book, Boundaries: When to Say YES, When to Say NO, To Take Control of Your Life is an important and influential work in psychology and Christianity that can help you define who you are and who you are not. Understanding this leads to establishing healthy boundaries with people that may, as Jesus said, create division, but will ultimately lead to the soul-level peace Jesus also promised to give.
Listen or read online through your local library’s Libby app, or buy on Amazon.com or through a local independent bookstore near you.