The Advent season is coming to a close next week, but I still wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been musing on the last couple of weeks. Two Sundays ago, we lit the second purple candle, the Peace Candle. What a word for this year. What a desperate need. What a hunger. People long for peace. I long for peace.
Internal, personal peace.
Peace within my family.
So much of the brokenness I see around me can be described as a lack of peace. People experience brokenness in their relationships and instead of mending the relationships they shut people out. People turn to “spirituality,” or “mindfulness,” or “self-care” for some sort of peace. People turn to drugs and alcohol. People turn to disordered sexual relationships. Countries try to legislate peace by quenching dissenting voices. Churches try to have peace with the world by compromising on God’s standards. Wars are fought in an effort to find some sort of peace internationally. Treaties are made and broken. Relationships are cut off and destroyed. Where is the peace we so desperately want and need? And why can’t people find it?
Jeremiah 6:13-15 reads:
“For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the Lord.
This lack of peace is thousands of years in the making. When Adam and Eve sinned, when they listened to the lies of Satan and took forbidden fruit in the Garden, spitting in the face of God, their Creator, Master, and Friend, they ushered sin and unrest into this world. Their peace with God was destroyed. Their peace with one another was destroyed. The most perfect marriage of all became fraught with blame-shifting, anger, and unrest. How they would have longed for peace. And ever since then, we as the human race have experienced the peace-killing effects of sin, both our own sin and the sin of others.
This passage in James sums it up succintly:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)
We cannot have peace if we are at enmity with God. Period. And without peace with God, we won’t have peace within our own hearts. And enmity with God can look as unremarkable as unrepentant sins in our lives or as horrifying as mass-murder. Sin, our own sin regardless how “big” we deem it, causes our lack of peace.
Ultimately, the peace we need is peace with our Creator.
People look at our world and the chaos contained in it and imagine that we can just pull ourselves together to muster up peace, or that we can legislate it, or evolve into it. But we are so broken, we don’t just need an attitude adjustment. We need a radical change in our very nature. The peace that we need is a peace that can only come through the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts, regenerating, restoring, and renewing.
Over and over in the New Testament, we see peace as a work of the Holy Spirit, as a fruit of faith in our lives, and we see it paired with love, with joy and thanksgiving, with a “putting on” of righteousness and a “putting off” of those things which displease God. Look at the following passages:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9)
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:16-18)
I love that passage. “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” What a beautiful picture! Righteousness and peace being sown and harvested.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)
Through Jesus’s redeeming life and death, we can experience peace with God, and so we can, through God’s work in our hearts, experience peace in this life. As Believers, we are called to peace, to live peacefully with one another, to love one another and care for one another, in a beautiful earthly picture pointing forward to a permanent, perfect peace.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together;
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze;
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra,
and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
This passage in Isaiah 11 looks ahead to Jesus’s second coming, to His second Advent, and the picture it paints is one of the glorious, perfect harmony of Eden, perfect, unblemished peace, before Adam and Eve destroyed the peace that God had created. If you are feeling the effects of your sin this season, look to Jesus, who alone is able to reconcile you to your Heavenly Father. If you are feeling the effects of relational strains, look to Jesus, who perfectly bore and forgave the sins of those around Him. If you are fearful of the future, look to Jesus, who is your Friend and Brother and will not lose any of His own. If you are despondent at the sin of this country and this world, rest in Jesus, who will be the King we long for, upon Whose shoulders the government one day will perfectly rest. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts as we look forward to Christmas, and look a little further to a second Advent. For behold, He is coming soon!