Saturday, April 14, 2012

So Much For Peace?

"So do you think I came into the world to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." (Jesus in Luke 12:51)

"Do not think that I have come to earth to bring peace. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Jesus in Matthew 10:34)

Wow, really?

What about your other words, Jesus?
In the gospel of John you say, "My peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So do not be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27 NLT)
And the apostle Paul says in his letters, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to Christ." (Colossians 3:15)
There appears to be a conflict here. Does Christ hold a sword or a dove? Does he bring peace or does he divide? It is possible he does both?
When thinking about this passage, this thought came to mind:
How does Jesus divide?
Well, right down the middle.You are either for him or against him, right?
Yes, but is this a division JESUS causes or one we cause?  
If all had accepted him as the Messiah when he came to earth two thousand years ago, there would be no divisions. If all who heard him say "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" had believed, well, history would have been very different, wouldn't it? Instead, like the "stiffnecked people" we can be, some rejected him and divided off against him, even killed him. Even today, we cling to our selfishness and like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, we hold on to our sin, stroke it lovingly and call it "Precious." We choose ourselves over Christ. This divides us from Jesus. It also divides us from being united in Him in one body, and with one heart.

Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it! (John 3:16-17) So His gift of salvation is for all, with no division.  If only all would accept him, peace would make a comeback.

There is another way we use Jesus to divide. We use him to push others away.  We use him as a sword to cut away those who we look down upon.  When we think more highly of ourselves because we have accepted the gift of salvation and they haven't, our pride divides us. We also divide amongst ourselves when we squabble over insignificant issues along the faith journey (In the 80's we squabbled over speaking in tongues; today we fight and divide over predestination.)  When we leave a church because they get the music all wrong or decide certain people are welcome in our congregation and others aren't, we divide, divide, divide. No wonder we have so many denominations within protestanism alone!

So we divide. Does Jesus bring peace?

He sure does. He holds it out in his pierced hands. It is ours for the taking. And we take it by believing that the price he paid on the cross is enough.

For years, I could not find this peace because I thought I needed to do something or change something about me to get it! Talk about a life of restlessness! I finally found peace when I realized there is nothing else I need to do; there is no price I need to pay to gain peace before God. The wrath of God that demands justice for my sin, has been satisfied in the death of Christ. He did it all and brought me peace before God and peace in my heart! There might not be peace on earth because we divide as a result of our sinfulness, but there is peace in heaven because God is no longer angry towards us because of our sinfulness. The death of Jesus provided the justice God demanded for our sin. "By his wounds, we are healed!" (Isaiah 53:5)There is lasting peace for all who believe in Christ. This peace "passes understanding" (Philippians 4:7) so don't expect to understand it fully. It As the gospel of Matthew says, "It is not the peace the world gives" which is temporary and passing - it is a profound, lasting, eternal peace. It is the peace that stays with me when I see the world dividing over religion, politics, skin color and class. I know that all of time is in God's hands and that I am in God's hands for all of time. We are divided now, but some day we will be united with him.  Even in our dividing, He is in control. Even when I am wandering, I am still within his hand. His gift of peace is mine forever and cannot be taken away. Lord help me to share this gift of peace with others. May your peace bridge the divides.

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