“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
On the surface, “peace” clearly means the absence of conflict. But scratch even just a little and you will find far more than just the obvious. It is that which is just below the surface that the author of Hebrews was referring to when he said “For the word of God is living and active…” (Heb. 4:12). Just below the surface of the texts is where abundant life is to be found.
So often in the Church peace is portrayed as some kind of ephemeral state of tranquility achieved only by the super spiritual. A kind of Christianized version of nirvana. Is that what the heavenly host meant when they announced the arrival of peace on earth in the person of Jesus Christ? In the words of the King James Version… “I trow not.”
Most people are familiar with the Hebrew word “Shalom.” Superficially translated as “peace” it speaks more to wholeness and security than just a lack of war. Well-being is closer to what biblical peace is about. Profound well-being. A state of wholeness that is not conditional upon circumstances.
When Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27) He knew full well that those who were listening to Him were going to have hard lives and die horrible deaths. If peace is merely the absence of conflict, boy was He off! And so was the heavenly host on that first Christmas. I am not aware of a time in human history where a state of global tranquility was ever observed.
While biblical peace can be referencing a state of calm and acceptance it is more often talking about peace from the perspective of the victor’s reward. Consider this passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (Romans 16:17-20).
Note that the context is strife and angst. He writes of “divisions,” “obstacles,” “appetites,” and naïveté. When peace is brought into the mix, is it a feeling of unity and acceptance brought about by concession and accommodation? Absolutely not. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” That is biblical peace! Well-being through complete victory. The Apostle acknowledges the strife, turmoil, and subterfuge in the lives of the Christians in Rome but notes that their faithful obedience will prompt God to crush Satan under their feet bringing them the well-being the God of peace wills for them.
History says the difficulties and hardships for Roman Christians didn’t get much better for about another two hundred and fifty or so years. Did Paul misspeak? Only if you have yet to grasp the enormity of what Scripture is talking about when it mentions peace.
But we’re looking at it from the outside in. Biblical peace and well-being begin where life is most troubled…the soul.
When Paul was in the preliminary stages of exalting and extolling Jesus to the Colossians he wrote,
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross (Col. 1:19-20).
“[P]eace by the blood…” True peace is about ending the soul’s conflict with God. More than any facet, component, or segment of the human being the soul knows precisely where it stands before God. Pride, vanity, and a host of other human traits can cover and mask that knowledge to the will and consciousness of the person, but the soul knows. More than anything else the soul yearns for a sense of well-being through acceptance by God.
Dawinists, atheists, secularists, and humanists can gloat all day long about their self-perceived sense of worth but their souls tell a different story. Burdened by a soul in agony from the certitude of being separated from God, their inner being cries the lament first uttered by Cain, “from your face I shall be hidden” (Gen. 4:14).
There exists no sense of well-being outside the presence of the Almighty. That’s why Jesus spoke of it as “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 22:13).
But then there is “peace by the blood of his cross.” The absolute tragedy of being cast away from God has been undone. But it wasn’t/isn’t through tolerance or accommodation that God’s peace is extended to you. Rather, it is through absolute victory over sin purchased by the blood of God Himself. Truly it is “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
If you want to know what that means or looks like click HERE to familiarize yourself with the circumstances that prompted Horatio Spafford to pen one of the most powerful and uplifting hymns of the Christian Church titled “It Is Well with My Soul.” Well-being in the midst of terrible circumstances.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul…
When the angelic army proclaimed to the shepherds that first Christmas that on Earth there was now “peace among those with whom he is pleased” it wasn’t promising that the end of strife and conflict among people and nations had arrived. No, the heavenly army was proudly announcing that through Jesus Christ the eternal death sentence of being a fugitive from the face of God was coming to a close.
Ending the soul’s conflict with God results in the greatest sense of well-being that exists. Getting everyone on the same page as your cultural agenda won’t bring the peace the soul craves. Making people accept some self-perceived identity won’t help either. If you really want “peace,” peer into the manger, kneel before the Cross, celebrate the empty tomb, and make way for the Holy Spirit. Then, it really doesn’t matter what the circumstances are.
For those who surrender to the will of God and wash themselves in the blood of the Lamb there is finally and eternally…Shalom. Peace. Well-being. No wonder they prefaced that good news with Glory to God in the highest!