Many people think that when Jesus was born and the angels proclaimed the message of peace, that all war would cease and peace would reign supreme. But even as I write this, violence is happening in Jerusalem and surrounding areas. Protests, violence and war is happening all around the globe. Our own country is being torn apart by hate and division. If ever we needed the peace proclaimed by the angels on that first Christmas night, it is now. So, then, how can we really believe in the message of peace found in Luke 2:14?
First, take note that actual scriptures do not read the same as the shortened versions found in greeting cards and Christmas carols, “…and on earth, peace”. (Period. End of story.) This version implies that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, suddenly all hate and violence was supposed to stop and the whole earth would be at peace. If you are alive and breathing, you know this is not what happened. So why not?
At the time Jesus was born, many Jews wrongly believed he came to conquer Rome and set up an earthly kingdom where he would be king and the Jews would be freed from Roman tyranny. They did not understand that the kingdom he regularly referred to was his Father’s kingdom, a spiritual kingdom not of this earth. In the same way today, many people believe that Christmas will magically blanket the earth with peace, misunderstanding the true concept of the peace that the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ made possible. The peace promised and proclaimed on the night of his birth was the peace that transcends all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Look closer at the complete statement the angels gave to the shepherds in Luke 2:14, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Notice that it doesn’t say “peace, good will among all men”.)
God ministers to individuals. While he is the sovereign ruler of the universe and sets up and deposes kingdoms at will, he chooses to redeem and change individual lives one life at a time. God didn’t send Jesus to wave a magic wand to end all wars. He gave us Jesus so that we might know God the Father as an individual, and to experience a right and loving relationship with Him; that our lives would be changed and made new as we accept and experience His gift of Shalom that the birth and death and resurrection of Jesus made possible.
Our English translated “peace” is far too wimpy and vague to convey the meaning and message of Shalom, which is the Hebrew word meaning God’s gift of peace.
Shalom is not simply one word or idea. Shalom embodies completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord. It encompasses the idea of putting back together that which was broken, and putting it to rights as regarding relationships and lives. Shalom is the restored peace that is the result of living in the righteousness of Christ, and the “abundant life” that he came to bring, as spoken of in John 10:10.
Luke 5:1,“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The first gift of our salvation is that we are now able to make peace between ourselves and God. In that Christmas scripture, he says “…peace; good will toward men.” What he is saying is that he, God, is stretching out his arm in peace to us by giving Jesus to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. Our yielding to God destroys the hold the sin of humanity had on us, and creates a holy relationship between us and God. We are now in right relationship with God, and the result of that is shalom peace created by the absence of guilt, shame, and separation.
Luke 7:50- Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” This scripture tells us that when we have faith to believe that Jesus is who he said he is, and we accept him as our savior, we now make peace with ourselves, seeing ourself as the person God created us to be. The fact that we know we belong to God gives us peace that no person or no circumstance can take from us. As we walk out our life, living as his child and his ambassador, both the peace with God and the peace of God goes with us. Shalom peace includes confidence in knowing who you are and knowing your purpose.
Luke 1:78-79 “Because the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” By his Holy Spirit, we will be shown the way, guided through difficult and terrifying circumstances step by step. We do not need to fear because God knows the way and he has our back. We make peace with our life circumstances because we know who is in control. Shalom peace includes courage because we know it is God himself who guides us, and is with us, through difficult places.
Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” As we grow in our faith and follow his example, we become more and more like Christ. We learn to love others unconditionally and forgive those who have wronged us. Luke 6:27-28 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Because of our growing in the likeness of Christ, we make peace with those around us, loving them and forgiving them, even when they choose to hate us. Shalom peace includes freedom because we are not controlled by the hate or opinion of others.
Mark 5:34- He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Suffering has no place in heaven. Jesus suffered while he walked on earth, and especially at the cross, so that we can be free of suffering. Some things are beyond our understanding yet, regarding horrible diseases such as cancer, and traumatic events that some have experienced, but we do know that God promises that if we abandon ourselves and come into his presence, we will be comforted. Suffering belongs to the earthly realm. In God’s presence, your disease may be healed, or it may not, but your suffering can be overshadowed by the comfort and joy of the presence of God. Shalom peace includes freedom from suffering and the joy of God’s presence.
Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” This scripture is probably not a favorite among most people because it reminds us that we need to be disciplined from time to time. However, it is good news because those who are willing to receive correction and are obedient are rewarded with peace. Shalom peace includes contentment in obedience and humility.
As Jesus’ time on earth was growing short, he said this to his disciples, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
The fact that we will have troubles and sorrows is something we do understand. But listen again to his parting words given to those who receive his offer of reconciliation: “Take heart! I have overcome the world!” The peace of shalom includes hope because it is always victorious, and is eternal.
And how do we receive shalom? Jesus says, “…in Me you may have peace.”
Let’s look again at the kind of peace God sent the angels to sing about the night Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Shalom embodies completeness, wholeness.
Shalom includes health and safety.
Tranquility and rest, harmony; the absence of agitation or discord are part of shalom.
Soundness of mind, and prosperity are part of shalom.
It is putting back together that which was broken, and putting it to rights as regarding relationships and lives.
Shalom is the “abundant life” that Jesus came to bring, as spoken of in John 10:10.
We have peace with God, having acknowledged who he is and submitting ourselves to him.
We have peace with ourselves, having come to see and understand who we are in Christ and his design and purpose for our life.
We make peace with life, with all its trials and hardships, because we know who is in control, who will have the victory, and where we will spend eternity.
We live in peace with others because as imitators of Christ we love unconditionally and forgive, we hold no grudges or animosity, nor do we purposely act in any way that is harmful to others, always remembering that no matter what our personal human-based opinion of someone may be, that person is an eternal soul that God created, Jesus died for, and who God desires to be redeemed.
God sent His son Jesus to die for the whole world, and yes, it is his will that all will be saved, and will receive the gift of shalom. But that will be accomplished one soul at a time as each individual person reaches out to grasp the extended arm of God and makes peace between themselves and the Holy One. Will we live to see that day? I sure don’t know the answer to that question. But I do know that peace on earth, peace between all mankind, and the end to all war and violence will only take place as each life accepts the gift of salvation, and its reward of shalom.
As we welcome the year 2018, let your daily goal be to spend as much time as possible sitting at the feet of Jesus, which is to say: kneel before him, praise his holy name and his mighty deeds, meditate on his words, sing songs from your own heart to him, ponder his unfailing love and mercy, and bask in the glory and joy of His presence.
For it is in His presence where you will receive the peace the angels sang about on that first Christmas night.
We send our love and blessings to you as you look forward to 2018. We say to you “Shalom“, speaking into your life all the wonderful things that this powerful and lovely word means.