The Christmas standard “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” contains the familiar line “War is over if you want it, war is over now.” Lennon captured the sentiment of peace activists during a time in our history when many attempted to help us imagine a world free from war and strife.
There is within us a longing for peace on earth. And yet our world is filled with conflict, war, and strife. How do we as Christians reconcile our claims that Christ has come to bring peace when so much of our world is actually filled with the opposite?
Christ is the Prince of Peace and only through Him can we personally and corporately experience what peace on earth is like. And yet Christ also declared that His life would bring division (Luke 12:49-53). But why would He, who came as the Prince of Peace, declare that He would bring division?
(1) Christ faced conflict.
The peace that Christ secured for us in His death, burial, and resurrection represented the greatest conflict the world has ever known. Christ’s “baptism” (vv. 49-50) spoke of His death on the cross. Without the cross there could be no forgiveness of sin or peace with God the Father. God became man and took upon Himself our sin and faced head-on every conflict, opposition, strife, and evil that has ever broken into the world. When we think of the Prince of Peace let us remember that He was not naïve to the ways of the evil one. Christ looked evil full-on in the face and experienced death for us in agony so we could experience a new life on the other side of His resurrection. If conflict was necessary in the life of Christ it will also be part of our own lives as His followers.
(2) Christ faced conflict to bring reconciliation with God.
Christ knew that His claims demanded a response. He asked, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (v. 51). The message of the gospel brings peace between God and man but this reconciliation will have a life-changing effect on our relationships with others. To be brought into a personal relationship with God changes who we are from the inside out. The love of Christ that we have received shapes the way that we now love others.
(3) Christ’s Kingdom will only be fully realized when He returns again.
The Prince of Peace will fully bring peace to earth as we know it when the judgment “fire” comes with finality. We still live in a broken world. Evil is still present. Terror exists, poverty pervades, and darkness still fills the earth. Let us remember that Christ was born into the darkness of this world and by this same world was put to death in the darkness of the cross. But He was and is still the Light of the World and as such He illuminates our lives to truth and peace when we are changed by this Light.
Reconciliation with God does not mean that all of our earthly relationships will be peaceful, but it does mean that they can be peaceful. And that is the hope of the gospel. It is the hope that each of us can know the peace of God through Christ and because we have been reconciled with God we can be reconciled with one another.
(4) Christ described a broken world in which His followers would have to still live.
The claims of Christ demand a response from every person. The world, as defined by Satan and all that is under his rule, hates Christ and this same world will hate the followers of Christ. And yet we still reach out in love and hope that the power of God in us has overcome the evil that is in the world.
We want peace on earth without conflict but we cannot experience peace without embracing the cross.
And yes, I hope for a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear. But I only long for this because I know it is possible through Christ, the Prince of Peace.
© 2015, Phillip L. Dunn