Peace on Earth?
I would love to tell you that life is easy. That going through the motions of life is just like it’s portrayed in all those cheesy Hallmark movies that come on TV this time of year. Frankly, I think you can choose the plot of a Christmas Hallmark movie by throwing three darts at a board with the ten different options. Whichever options you hit… that’s your movie. A city girl on vacation (dart one) meets a small town boy (dart two) that has a hidden successful past and now runs a coffee shop (dart three). Throw in a slight case of conflict and misunderstanding that is easily resolved in a matter of days and BAM, you have a Hallmark movie.
The movie plots are typically the same: someone has a great life that transforms into an even better life with minimal conflict and a perfect romantic ending. Unfortunately, this storyline rarely matches up with what most of us have experienced in the real world. Yes, life brings with it joy and great happiness. But life also deals heavy blows of loss, suffering, and conflicts that don’t fit neatly into the “reconciled in a week” category. Life is rewarding, but it is not always easy.
Jesus and his parents can relate to that last statement all too well. In Luke 2, at the announcement of Jesus’ birth, heavens hosts proclaims to shepherds in a field, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Yet, in the first two years of Jesus’ life he and his parents had to run for their lives and flee their home to a foreign land in an effort to escape assassination attempts by Herod, ruler of Judea. I don’t know about you, but I would think that God was pretty pleased with Joseph and Mary, especially considering that He entrusted them with the task of raising His Son. So, why did they experience such heavy conflict in their lives? Where’s the promised peace for those in whom God is pleased?
To answer these questions let’s first look at what the word peace doesn’t mean. Peace is not solely the absence of conflict, as some have believed it to be. Rather, peace is an internal attribute, a trust in God that is maintained while in the midst of conflict. We see this type of peace in the life of Jesus in Matthew 8, where Jesus is found asleep in a boat in the middle of a huge storm while His disciples are scrambling in fear to save their lives. Jesus was in the same external life circumstance as His disciples, but the state of His internal life was much different than theirs. His trust to make it through this storm was more seasoned, more refined than His disciples. This is why Jesus could be in a life-altering storm without ever allowing the storm to alter His inner life. He maintained peace by trusting God in the midst of conflict. It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy.
The story of this storm leads us to an even greater truth regarding peace: we’re not just meant to keep peace; we are meant to make peace. In Matthew 8, Jesus kept an inner peace that allowed him to sleep in the midst of a storm while others panicked. That is awesome! But Jesus’ internal condition didn’t stop the storm. Jesus had to address the storm and make his external life match His internal one. Here’s the bottom line of the story: Peace didn’t happen by default; Conflict did. Peace had to be MADE in the midst of conflict. This shows me that we aren’t meant to simply sit by and watch what is happening around us and question why it’s all happening. We are meant to be active in addressing the crazy that sometimes comes our way. And even if it’s impossible to change the conflict of your external environment, make sure to keep your internal one trusting in God through the conflict.
If you’re like me, you’ve already asked yourself this question: why did conflict happen for Jesus by default? Now that’s a good question. First off, understand that the proclamation of “peace on earth” by the host of heaven wasn’t meant to convey the removal of conflict from our lives. It was a foreshadowing, a prophetic declaration of what Jesus was sent to earth to accomplish: to remove the effects of sin and make peace between God and man. Think about this: The Prince of Peace was born into this earth to destroy the works of the enemy’s kingdom and make peace for us. Just being born invited conflict with the opposing kingdom he came to overthrow. So why do we think our circumstance would be any different than His when we’re born again? Why would we think our lives would become clear of conflict when we just joined the team tasked with destroying the works of our new enemy? If anything, I would think that believing in Jesus would spark attacks of the enemy to try and preoccupy us with conflicts meant to distract us from tearing down Satan’s kingdom.
So no, life is not easy. It’s not a hallmark movie where things are neatly cleared up and resolved in an hour and a half. Life brings deep and difficult conflicts that may, or may not be fixable. The key for you is to not just let life happen to you. Make sure you’re engaging the power of God’s Spirit to change the script of your external life as much as possible. And when things can’t be changed, concentrate on changing yourself for the better in the midst of the conflict. Trust me, you can write a better story with your life than Hallmark ever could. Now, go make peace on earth.