Sunday, December 27, 2015

Paying for Peace

Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they shall be called children of God.

Late in January I'm sharing the pulpit at our church with Jason, one of the young men in our young adults group, called "Pulse." Jason and I have been leading weekly Bible studies together, along with several other young adults in the group, for the past few years, and I've really grown to appreciate and enjoy his leadership. He's passionate about the Word and about Truth and I'm praying that preaching a sermon alongside me at our church will be used by God in unique ways in his future to minister to the Body of Christ.

As you can see from the verse above, the sermon is on Matthew 5:9, the "Blessed are the peacemakers" verse in the Sermon on the Mount. In preparation, we've been studying the concept of "peace" in the Scriptures. I'd like to take a few blog posts to share what I'm hearing and learning, and to see what your thoughts might be on this subject.

What is the meaning of peace?

Most people know that the most common Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. What they probably don't realize is the root meaning of the word Shalom: "It has been paid for."

This word therefore reflects a key biblical and life truth that true peace must always come at a cost. Since time immemorial, the human race has been in conflict — brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, nation against nation, and ultimately, human beings against their Creator. Peacemaking (which is a process and cannot happen instantaneously ... note the word "making") always involves a price that is paid (by the peacemaker) to bring two parties previously in conflict into unity.

It's one of life's severe ironies that peacemaking can be a very violent process. "Officers of the peace," or police officers, as we know them, carry weapons and are authorized to use them to make or enforce peace. It is well known that the two atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ultimately created peace and probably saved tens of thousands of lives (even as they killed thousands and wounded many more) by bringing a dramatic end to the Second World War in the Pacific Theater.

Every enlisted soldier knows that he or she may be called upon to pay the ultimate price for his country, for the sake of peace. And most fathers are also willing to do the same thing to protect their families.

In the Bible, our quintessential model for peacemaking is Jesus Christ. Even before His birth, He was dubbed "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." In fact, He is not simply a peacemaker; He personifies peace, according to Ephesians 2, where Paul details wonderfully the price Christ paid to earn the title:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility ...

We know from the accounts of Christ's crucifixion in the four Gospels that His life wasn't taken from Him against His will. In John 10:18 Jesus assures us: "No one takes it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Jesus laid His life down, shed His blood and allowed His body to be broken, to create peace between us and God. Because of the price that He paid (and not on the basis of anything we have done), we are no longer enemies of God: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

So Jesus truly is our Shalom; He paid the price so that we can be reconciled to God.

This then gives rise to a number of questions, which I'll take a look at in subsequent blog posts, but you can be thinking about a few of them now:
  • If peace is a result of a debt that has been paid, what does peace look like after this act of redemption?
  • If Jesus is our Peace, then what did He mean by passages such as Matthew 10:34 ("Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.")?
  • And how was Christ's role as peacemaker reflected in events such as overturning the tables of the Temple moneychangers?

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