And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Our Adult Bible Fellowship class just finished a study of Rick Warren's The Purpose of Christmas. First, I'd like to tell you that I highly recommend this material, especially the DVD for families or groups who will have Christmas visitors. It's easy to watch and delightful to follow as Pastor Warren - as always - delivers the gospel in such a warm and welcoming manner (our class, while watching the final segment of the DVD just days after Rick Warren has come under intense criticism as a "homophobe" unworthy of praying at the presidential inauguration, did duly note the irony, as this man of God comes across as nothing other than upfront, inclusive, loving, and civil, but I digress...).
But speaking of the angst and dis-ease in the world, here is one of the claims Warren makes in Part 3 of The Purpose of Christmas DVD:
"There will never be peace in the world until there is peace in nations.
There will never be peace in nations until there is peace in communities.
There will never be peace in communities until there is peace in families.
There will never be peace in families until there is peace in individuals.
And there will never be peace in individuals until we invite the Prince of Peace to reign in our hearts.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace."
I think he's right. One criticism unbelievers often have about Christ is that if he was supposed to bring peace, why do we have wars, why is there strife? The answer, as well as the question, is summed up in Warren's quote above.
But one question remains - how to achieve peace? The angel did say, after all, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14). Yet the world is in conflict! What to do? Do we need Compromise? Tolerance? Conquest?
None of the above. We need Reconciliation, the catalyst of peace.
Warren's DVD cites three kinds of peace that begin with a person reconciling their sin with God, which can only be done through Christ:
- Peace WITH God, which is Spiritual peace, and brings...
- Peace OF God, which is Emotional peace, and fosters...
- Peace WITH OTHERS, which is Relational peace.
Interesting how that works - from the inside out. It's something we all know about the peace Christ brought, but perhaps we don't always feel or apply.
That's why today's verse struck me in a new and interesting way today. Not only is God's peace mind-boggling ("beyond comprehension"), and calmly assuring (minds and hearts at rest), but it is also its own gate-keeper.
That's right. Paul writes here that such peace - once reconciliation is achieved - serves as the very GUARD against the agents and circumstances of unrest. That's a pretty amazing thing when the very bridge you hope to erect is self-sustaining and the very wall you seek to build is self-defending!
This Christmas, let's follow Paul's charge to young Timothy, and "pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22). Start with reading the verses below:
1 Thessalonians 5:13
Merry Christmas, and peace on earth, good will toward men.