Today I’d like to speak on “Peace on earth”. According to Luke that’s the message that the choir of angels gave when they announced the birth of Jesus Christ:
Luke 2:13-14. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others - the armies of heaven - praising God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favours." NLT
When you hear the word “peace” you think of things such as harmony, rest, tranquillity and quietness. The opposite of peace is hostility, tension, conflict or even war. Peace is something I’m sure we’d all like to see more of, especially in an age of increasing conflict and tension. Peace is a huge theme right through the Bible. It’s one of those loaded words – like ‘love’, 'hope’ and ‘grace’. Today we’ll just look at three aspects of ‘peace’. We need to be at peace:
1. Peace with others
God wants us to have peace with other people - in our relationships with those around us (family, school, work and community).
The Apostle Paul puts it this way … “Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” Rom 12:18. NLT . ‘World peace’ begins with you and with me – it starts right where we live, living at peace with one another. This doesn’t just happen. It takes effort (see Eph.4:3).
Jesus gave us a simple but powerful principle for building and maintaining good relationships. Some people refer to it as the Golden Rule … “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matt 7:12. NLT
In other words, think about how you want people to treat you … then you go first and treat them that way. In life, you tend to reap what you sow. So, go ahead and sow good things into all of your relationships. This requires us to first think about how we would like to be treated … and not treated. If we had time today, we could take a whiteboard and list all of the things we like people to do for us … and not do to us. Then, Jesus tells us to just go ahead and treat people the way we want to be treated and don’t do things we wouldn‘t like done to us.
It’s pretty simply but more often than not we don’t do it! Imagine a world where everyone simply obeyed what Jesus says in this one sentence! Every ‘people skills’ and ‘human relations’ book or course is summarised in this one profound statement! That’s because Jesus is the smartest person that has ever lived. Learn from him and be wise!
The apostle James gives us some good advice on getting along and being at peace with others when he says … “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God's sight.” James 1:19-20. NLT
We naturally tend to do the opposite: (1) poor listening, (2) thoughtless speaking, and (3) being quick to become angry. Good relationships require: (1) good listening, (2) controlled speaking and (3) controlling your anger. This is not as easy at is sounds because some people can be difficult to get along with and they can do things that annoy us and even hurt or offend us.
When we’re hurt by other people we all respond differently. Some people keep the peace at all costs (teddy bears); some people withdraw (turtles); some people attack (sharks); while others tend to respond calmly yet firmly (owls). Under pressure, we can morph into a different approach! The truth is that different situations call for different responses (fox). Sometimes it is best to give in to save the relationship; sometimes it is best to sidestep the problem and avoid any conflict; sometimes it is right to say a firm ‘no’; and sometimes a compromise is best.
We all need to learn to handle conflict well, as it’s not going to leave us. When conflict occurs, acknowledge it and then take the initiative to sort it out, whether you are the one hurt or the one who did the hurting. Avoiding conflict kills community. Resentment builds up inside like buried toxic waste. Sooner or later it will leak. The important thing is that we make every effort to restore a relationship when it has been damaged. Paul tells us to not let the sun go down when we’re angry (Eph.4:26) – that’s 24 hours to sort out that argument. Imagine how much better all of our relationships would be if we all simply did that. Learn to say, “I’m sorry” and “Would you forgive me?” These words, when spoken genuinely, can heal broken relationships and restore peace into our world. Make it a priority to be ‘reconciled’ rather than to be ‘right’ (Mt.5:9).
The good news today is that there are things you can do to be at peace with others. Yes, at times it takes courage and often lots of humility, but it sure is worth it.
2. Peace within ourselves
We also need the peace of God within us to help us with our own struggles, issues and turmoil. Life is not always easy and many times we are filled with negative emotions such as fear, worry, anger and bitterness.
The apostle Paul tells us that we can bring our worries to God in prayer and he will help us (see Phil.4:6-7). Not only that, he will fill us with his peace – a peace that transcends our human understanding. God is the God of ‘through …’ (see Is.43:1-2).
The good news today is that you can have the peace of God in your heart – whatever you’re going through.
3. Peace with God
The primary reason that Jesus Christ came to earth was so that each one of us could find peace with God. In the beginning God created us to have a relationship with him and to be friends. Unfortunately, we turned our back on God and in response he turned his back on us resulting in separation between us and God. In the person of Jesus Christ, God turns toward each one of us and reaches out his hand – wanting to be friends and to restore relationship with us so that we are at peace with him (see Rom.5:1-2). He never forces us – it’s a choice we have to make.
The good news today is that peace with God is available - right now! You can get right with God and become his friend. You can have ‘peace with God’.Conclusion
We will never have the (b) peace of God until we have (c) peace with God. We will never have (a) peace with others until we have peace with God and within ourselves.
May you find true peace this Christmas!Sample Discussion Questions
- What are some of the common causes of conflicts in relationships?
- What are some practical ways we can help bring peace into a relationship that is strained or where there has been conflict?
- What is the difference between ‘forgiveness’ and ‘reconciliation’?
- What can be done if the other person in a conflict doesn’t respond or doesn’t want to change?
- Think about the ‘Golden Rule’ that Jesus taught about relationships – discuss ways that we all like to be treated.
- Have people share stories about times of pressure and stress where they knew God’s peace even in the midst of the storm.
- Why does God sometimes allow us to go ‘through’ things (see Is.43:1-2) rather than around them?
- Is ‘peace with God’ a one off thing or do we regularly need to make peace with God?