In my church’s Christmas concert this year, we sang, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
‘Tis a common theme of songs and stories and Scripture quotations at Christmas. After all, the angels sang to the shepherds: “…on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (see Luke 2:14)
Yet Jesus said something very interesting, almost startling, to His disciples.
“Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.
“For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two and two against three.
-Luke 12:51-52 NKJV (emphasis mine)
Matthew 10:34 says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to fit with the Jesus who died to save lives and is not willing that any should perish. But seem is the operative word here.
Jesus didn’t come to set the world at war. Division is an unavoidable side effect of His mission.
He came to redeem people. To free them from sin, Satan, and death. If everyone accepted that redemption, then peace would reign on earth.
But someone has far too much to lose if everyone chooses redemption. Satan would completely lose his power over humans. Oh, sure, he’d still be able to tempt them. But they would be equipped to resist his lures. They’d be armed to withstand him as never before. They would no longer be his slaves.
And he will stop at nothing to prevent his captives from slipping away.
So Satan convinces people that Jesus is the problem. That all who follow Jesus are a threat. To freedom, to pleasure, to life. Anything to get souls frightened and furious at the very thing which could save them.
Clever distraction tactic, is it not?
Unfortunately, this distraction tactic tends to ensnare Jesus’ followers, too. We see all these people attacking us, and we think we have to attack back. (Best defense and all that.) We fall into bickering and bitterness, cruel words and worse. But we miss the real enemy. We think it’s the people charging against us. It’s really the devil who has deceived these people.
It’s such a brilliant plan. It keeps the slaves safely bound, and keeps the redeemed ones wasting their energy on the wrong enemy.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
-Ephesians 6:12 NKJV
That’s why God commands us:
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
-Romans 12:18 NKJV
Christians are not supposed to be quarrelsome, contentious, argumentative, rude, disrespectful, unkind, or violent. We may be hated and despised because we follow Jesus, but we shouldn’t retaliate. In fact, we don’t need to retaliate; it doesn’t do any good. Our job is to live peaceably as much as possible.
But guess what? Sometimes it’s not possible. We may do everything in our power to have amicable relationships with others. We may bend over backwards until our heads touch our heels (figuratively), and still be unable to appease those in our lives who just cannot stand us.
That’s okay. That’s when we step back and pray because the enemy is not the person in front of us. The enemy is the “spiritual hosts of wickedness.” Until Satan’s defeat, begun on the cross, reaches its culmination, there will always be conflict on earth.
See, Jesus didn’t come to give peace. He came to be peace.
The angels’ message was true in the most literal sense possible. Peace had come to earth—because Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace and He had come to physically dwell on earth. Peace was truly on the earth for the first time.
Now those who believe in Him have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within them. We have peace. Mind-blowing peace, if we choose to embrace it. (see Philippians 4:6-7)
So as we sing this Christmas of peace on earth beginning with us, it is a worthy goal. We should strive to let the peace of God dwell in us and spill over into our relationships with every person who crosses our paths.
And when people dislike you, despise you, or hate you for no apparent reason, take heart. Division is just part of life in this world.
One day, Jesus will come to this earth again. And at His second coming, He will finally establish peace on this earth.