“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
Ephesians 2:14-16 NLT
Peace. A lovely concept but beyond human capability to achieve? All my life I have never known a total absence of strife. There seems to be something within human beings that desires war in preference to peace. As individuals, we battle anything that we feel encroaches on our space, disturbing our peace. The aggressive driver who annoys us on the roads. The person who cuts in front of us in the shopping queue. The spouse who disagrees with something we say. As nations we rattle sabres at the borders with the adjacent country, stressed over a few yards of barren soil. Religious groups fight and kill to eliminate other religions in their country, in some cases committing genocide in the process. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 120:7, “I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war!“.
So in this personal and national mayhem, a counter-cultural whisper calls out. “Christ himself has brought peace to us”. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). And right at the start of the early church an age old conflict between Jews and Gentiles was resolved. At a stroke. Over a period of about six hours one dark and dismal day. Jesus’ death at Calvary brought to an end the Old Covenant and replaced it with the New. A New Covenant of grace and love. The Old was discarded. The New was welcomed in. And there is no difference between the Jews and Gentiles any more. Regardless of our origins we are all one in Christ.
So we pilgrims, making our way through a complex and strife-infused world, shake our heads in disbelief. We long for the whisper of Christ’s peace to amplify into an audible shout, so clear that it penetrates people, principalities, palaces and parliaments, even pieties and principles. So clear that the world becomes a peaceful place. But our enemy the devil will have none of that. He thrives on wars and strife, doing what he can to stoke up anger and dissent. But peace will come one day – there is no war or strife in Heaven. In the meantime, our pilgrimage through life brings us into contact with all sorts of opportunities to be counter-cultural. Situations where we can bring a kind word to angry hearts, dispensing God’s love and grace to troubled souls. We pray today for our governments, our politicians, our civic leaders. But also our friends, families and communities. That “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7) will be with them all. And us too.