“Glory in the highest” the angels sang, “and on earth peace, goodwill to men.”
From this first joyful proclamation of Jesus’ birth to this day, Jesus’ name has been used by advocates for peace of all kinds regardless of those advocates belief in and surrender to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Pastor Todd preached Sunday on the hard thought that Christ did not come to bring the peace we men expected. In Matthew 10 Jesus proclaims something seemingly directly contrary to the angel’s words:
34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Isn’t the Messiah supposed to bring peace? After all, the angels could not be lying, could they? I’m so confused!
Elsewhere Jesus seems to confirm the angels and contradict Himself:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
The Jews Jesus was preaching to in Matthew 10 were expecting a Messiah who would wage one final war and end all conflict with Israel as the masters of the universe. They were expecting the Prince of Peace to beat the Romans into submission and enthrone their own county in the seat of eternal power. Forget Pax Romana, they wanted Pax Iudeah.
The Jews were correct, in once sense: the peace Christ brought would be achieved through final conflict.
In John 14 Jesus is speaking specifically to His disciples, and by extension, to those who believe in Him as their Savior and Lord. He reinforces the distinction between His peace and the peace the rest of the world claims by stating He will not give His peace the same way the world gives.
There are two different kinds and times of peace that Christ is bringing to mankind. The instant and constant kind enjoyed only by those who have fought Christ and lost and surrendered and now live in subjection to His will and in His protection. And the future, hoped-for peace which will only come about when all mankind ceases it’s striving with God, the vice-grip of sin is broken from every heart, and the deceiver and tormentor and death are cast, along with all their minions and followers, into the pit of eternal destruction in God’s wrath.
The peace Christ brought at his birth was the instant and constant peace available to those who put their faith in Him. In that same birth He began the final process up to the final day with the final trumpet shall sound, ushering in that final, lasting, and universal peace.
Wishing and hoping for universal peace on this earth is a hopeless and pointless task. Sin is the dominant force in the majority of people’s hearts, and sin is selfish. Sinners will not even agree together, and even God had not sent His Son to bring even greater conflict, the sinners themselves would find conflict enough among themselves.
Christ’s presence in this world brings even greater reason for conflict. The coming of Christ brought not the peace we men hoped for but the seed to greater conflict due to the presence of truth and those who would not and will not accept it.
Christ brought truth and truth wars against the lies which hold so many captive. Those who remain captive to the lies of the world also war with vehemence against the truth and those who have surrendered to it. The conflict is mutual and inescapable.
Peace on this earth is reserved only to those who surrender to Him and live in allegiance to His will. Peace in eternity is only given to the same.
This is not an exclusive claim because the means of salvation is freely available to all. There is no person alive not permitted to surrender to Christ, and God makes clear throughout the bible His will that no one should perish. This is the goodwill to men, that God, who worked with man despite his sin, provided the way out of the penalty for that sin.