Peace Isn’t Always Peaceable

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.            Matthew 10:34

The pronouncement made by Jesus is dramatic.  It really catches us off guard.  The angels sang at the first Christmas, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men with whom He is pleased” [Luke 2:14], and Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace” [9:6], so we sort of assume that peace should be a nice comfortable atmosphere which simply flows around Jesus.  How bewildering that then He would here use the imagery of a sword and the idea of creating conflict – don’t we just expect that warfare should not be in God’s character?.

Yet as we think about this passage, our minds pass over history.  Think of the times when peace was celebrated, such as the end of World War II – how great was the relief when finally the war which enveloped the world had ceased. How many times was that relief echoed whenever in different times and places hostilities were finally abandoned and the breath of freedom and life was in the air.

Notice how peace most often does not come peaceably – it comes only as the result of conflict.  From the evidence of history, real peace is something which is won only at great cost, and how powerful and meaningful it becomes when it is threatened and hangs in the balance; it’s value is revealed only when a great evil has been conquered.  The disappointing thing, though, is that even then, we know that lurking in the background are the seeds which lay the foundation for yet more conflict, yet more misery, despair, and.death

But somehow we expect more – after all, aren’t good things such as peace, joy, contentment, blessing simply a natural result of life, a part of the package of being in this world, a “given” for existing here?  Should they not be something which comes automatically, without any demand on us, something which requires no cost or commitment, just a gift laid at our doorsteps?  After all, don’t we get angry and offended when things don’t work out properly, how annoyed are we when our plans are thwarted, how frustrated when our imagined way of life betrays us?

Yet once it was true that peace, joy, contentment, and the rest had been part of the design for human life.  As the newly created Adam woke to the breath of God’s Life in his being, there was the environment of companionship with God and the human’s purpose in harmony with the will of its Creator.  This is the origin of the Hebrew concept of “peace,” and is quite different from the Greek concept which is currently today’s understanding.

The Greek “peace” merely speaks of an absence of war or of disturbance; whereas the Hebrew “shalom” revolves around the state of a person’s body, soul, and spirit, including as well his relationship with God, with others, and with all creation.  You might say that its best translation is “wholeness in a comprehensive sense,” and therefore can really only be a gift from God.

Yes, other religions try to say the same thing, but it is in the relationship with the Creator where their philosophies break down.  There is the attempt often of trivializing the problem, for example, as is common nowadays, by claiming that one need only develop a better technique of meditating into inner peace, particularly by emptying the mind, which Paul frequently described as the battleground for our life with God [c.f., Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17].

Jesus once told of an evil spirit who left a man, but finding no rest, returned to him, only to discover this dwelling place was “clean, swept, and – conspicuously – empty.”  With seven other spirits subsequently invited in, the man’s last state was worse than at the first [Matthew 12:43-45].  So also, human solutions even for an earthly peacefulness open the door to both a greater spiritual emptiness as well as a greater vulnerability to the powers of evil.

Sadly, when the connection with the Creator was shattered as Adam and Eve turned their back on Him in rebellion, they no longer had “wholeness.”  Broken from the Source of their life, and therefore from the source of peace, joy, contentment, and all the rest, they anxiously sought the elusive human key to peace, thinking that the absence of  conflict would, oddly, fill the emptiness surrounding their lives, all the while terrified as death forces upon them the realization of their insignificance.

Still we blithely continue to “fix” ourselves, striving to measure up to what peace – but without God – should require: if only we had more control of our circumstances, or of ourselves, or of others; if only we could be sure of our value to the universe; if only we could feel worthy enough for true quietness in our restless hearts.  We come up with all sorts of self-righteous postures, even attempting well-meaning and noble deeds, which still fall short of inspiring the contentment we crave; we seek out self-improvement routines, drugs, partying, even false gods to believe in – anything – anything to distract us, to cover over the holes left from the missing connection to our Creator.

In our world of today, there is a mad scramble to what is called “virtue signaling,” the attempt to show the flaws of anybody who may be an hero.  Perhaps the idea is that failure in humans is inevitable and therefore we are released from heroes lifting our sights to a more excellent way of life.  Meanwhile it seems that by revealing flaws in others we somehow become their superior.   But as we view people set against each other, with hatreds and riots spilling out into the streets through other acts of revolt, all that this has done is to rip peace even farther from our hands.
If it is, it might not be the real thing. Even having enough sexual stimulation, holding a stronger in store viagra erection for longer period of time. To have the product you need to place order through online website or use your telephone place orders.Kamagra is available in packets containing total 100mg tablets. Chew curry leaves twice daily to get rid of diabetes. levitra on line 4.
We are brought face to face with the realization that any cheap peace, half peace, and compromised peace simply increases our desperation for something far more fulfilling and lasting than humanity’s pitiable efforts.

This then makes the sword which Jesus speaks of so perplexing – how can an instrument of conflict bring about peace in a world  wracked with hostility??   But the battle is far beyond disagreements between people, it is a spiritual one, where human rebellion has destroyed the pivotal connection with God required for true “wholeness.”

Looking at Ephesians 6[:17], we find the sword, as part of the spiritual armor, is God’s Word.  In that Word is the evidence of how rebellion has swept down from Adam and Eve, through to each one of us, leaving the frightening reality: “There is none righteous, no, not one;  …They have all turned aside; … There is none who does good, no, not one”  [Romans 3:10,12] – there just is no one good enough to recapture the needed relationship with God.  No wonder the search for true peace – “wholeness” – seems to be a futile “chasing after wind”!

Jesus demolishes all illusions about our attempts to plug the gaps in true “wholeness” because the biggest one has to be dealt with: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, reckless foolishness”. [Mark 7:21-22].  The rebellion in our own hearts is the great weakness revealing just how broken we really are.

But why the sword idea, which describes violence?  It is because we cling to our ideas and our self-importance.  We are not eager to put aside what we demand ought to work, which we imagine should obligate God to give us our peace, but which instead simply reinforces the jagged edges of our broken relationship.  In many ways we need to be pried off of ourselves – no dainty surgeon’s knife, the sword of the Spirit is required to cut away major blocks of the “sin which clings so closely” [Hebrews 12:1], the rebellion which constantly interferes with true peace.  It must cut away the vain and silly attempts of human effort which tries to patch what is beyond its ability to fix.

However, Jesus had said, “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” [Matthew 26:52], and that same sword, the Word of God, was turned against Him.  In taking upon Himself human sinfulness, though He Himself had done no such act of rebellion, He “Who knew no sin was made to be sin for us” [II Corinthians 5:21], “having become a curse for us” [Galatians 3:13].  Suffering the torn edges of sin’s broken relationship with God, He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him” [Isaiah 53:5].

It was a battle greater than anything else in the universe.  Upon Jesus alone, the Law of God arose in wrath and condemnation against all of humanity’s offense against the will and plan of God.  As well, people rejected that Jesus would show them up spiritually, in arrogance hated Him for His goodness, truth and perfection.  Then Satan piled on mocking and taunting this ineffective Son of God.  Alone, He gave up His spirit.

Yet it was in the horror of this conflict that real peace was born.  For those who submit to Jesus, the gaps in their “wholeness” were not merely held in check, they are overlaid by “the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”  This was no mere repair, but replacement has been given for the People born of water and the Spirit, having a far greater and more powerful ‘wholeness” found nowhere else than in the resurrected Savior [II Corinthians 5:21].  We aren’t yet at the full and complete “wholeness” which is still to come, but it does mean that we can even now access a peace which the world does not know, nor can it understand.

The battle on this earth continues – Jesus has no sugar-coating about taking up the cross and sharing in His ministry to a troubled and peaceless world.  Humanity has loved evil and clings to what is the very opposite from the real satisfying “wholeness” for the human.  It will continue to strike out in pain, confusion, trouble, rejection and persecution in its blind quest for peace without God.  Christians will continue to be hated for exposing the emptiness which still plagues human efforts and we react to this expected suffering with surrendered and obedient faith.

But what upholds us is the realization that all of this will come to an end in the not too distant future.  Jesus will return to destroy evil and establish the greater eternal peace – true “wholeness” – which was initiated on the Cross, confirmed in the Resurrection and will be finalized before His throne.  His reassurance and renewal of this promise is in His gift of Himself in Holy Communion, in which we remember that He brings the real connection to God in body, soul, and spirit and we rejoice in the peace – wholeness – this brings.

Yes, the sword means business.  Yes, Jesus came to destroy – to leave no middle ground, no bargaining, as He intends to destroy sin and all love of evil forever.  But the promise is that when through contrition and faith we lose the pathetic life and the peace this world offers, we instead gain the “wholeness” with God offered by Jesus, a genuinely hearty peace which will never diminish throughout all eternity.

Leave a Reply