- An eery orange blaze lights up the narrow London alley. Hundreds of rioters fling stones, shout obscenities, and dash away from the approaching wall of riot police.
- It is the middle of the night in a rural Sudanese farming village when a group of Arab raiders swoops in, snatching a crying four-year-old boy from the arms of his screaming mother. The helpless boy is sold into slavery, enduring a life of abuse, oppression, and loneliness.
- In China, a twelve-year old girl, kidnapped from Thailand, wakes up in her squalid room in a brothel. Her body is racked with pain and disease, yet she faces a sixteen-hour day of torturous treatment.
Is Peace For Real?
These stories—true accounts of what is going on right now—seem to be the furthest thing from peace. Peace seems such an elusive quality. As I read and watch what is actually going on right now in the world, my emotions crumble in a confused mixture of grief, outrage, and disbelief. My awareness of the depravity of man grows sharper and larger, nearly eclipsing other beliefs regarding goodness, peace, mercy, and love.
The world is literally convulsing with earthquakes that kill thousands of people, tsunamis that wash away human life and property, diseases that ravage entire continents, and floods that carry away people’s homes, dreams, and lives. At the same time, racial hatred and ethnic superiority spill over into murderous raids, guerilla warfare, and the separation of countries. Families are ravaged by anger, substance abuse, jealousy, and cruelty of the worst kind imaginable.
And it leaves me wondering. Is peace for real?
Five Facts About Peace
Questions like these drive me to Scripture. The topic of peace appears all throughout the Bible. From God’s promise of peace in Genesis (Genesis 8:20-22) to the reign of peace in the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21:1-4), peace is a vast Biblical theme. But what kind of peace is it? Who brings it? How can it be realized today…right now? Is peace—real peace—possible?
- Peace comes from God. Whether we’re settling down for a good night’s sleep (Psalm 4:8), or enjoying the blessings of life (Psalm 147:14), God is the one who brings peace. Biblical peace (shalom) may be the peace of material prosperity, food, sleep, or national security, but God is always the one who brings it.
- Jesus is the Prince of Peace. In Isaiah, Jesus is named “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6; c.f. Luke 1:79). This may sound like a contradiction when we hear Jesus say, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The contradiction melts away both when we understand the context of Jesus’ statement, and when we get a glimpse of the events in the End Times. We read of One who “judges and makes war…[whose] robe is dipped in blood…[who wields] a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations…[who] will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Revelation 19:11-15). That doesn’t sound very peaceful to me. Who is this War-Maker? He is the “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” His mission is one of peace and war. God must judge the wicked; Jesus, the Prince of Peace is the one who accomplishes this judgment. Yet Jesus is also the one who satisfied God’s wrath, bringing true peace and redemption for those who put their faith in Him. This, then is Jesus’ peacemaking mission: 1) To provide salvation, and 2) To accomplish universal subjugation under His sovereign reign.
- Peace is provided now. As I consider the violence and upheaval around the world, I wonder if peace is really possible. The Bible confirms that peace is indeed available. Psalm 46 describes the refuge and peace of those who trust in God (Psalm 46:1-8), but also speaks of the violent vengeance that God will unleash upon the wicked (Psalm 46:8-10). Those who trust in God will have peace, though the wicked will suffer violence. This is in keeping with the biblical contrast between the godly man, described as peaceful, and the godless man, described as violent (Psalm 37:7, Psalm 120:6). The angels sang a blessing of peace upon those who please God (Luke 2:14). Jesus consistently used the customary “shalom” benediction as He healed, taught, and interacted with others (Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48; Luke 10:5; Luke 24:36). Peace, personal life peace for those who believe, is available now (Romans 2:10; Romans 5:1; Romans 8:6).
- Universal peace is yet to come. At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus talked about peace, but he made it clear that the peace that He gives is different from the world’s idea of peace (John 14:27). What kind of peace is this that Jesus gives? As He goes on to discuss peace, Jesus says, “You may have peace….you will have tribulation.” Is this doublespeak? Not at all. The complete statement goes like this (emphasis added): “IN ME you may have peace. IN THE WORLD you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Personal peace comes to those who abide in Jesus (John 15:4), even though the world is rocked with wars and tribulation. Universal peace will come when “the God of peace…crush[es] Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20).
- We must pursue peace. “Seek peace and pursue it” is a command (Psalm 34:14). Jesus promised blessing upon those who work for peace (Matthew 5:9), and commissioned His disciples to go out on a mission of peacemaking (John 20:21). Paul commanded the church to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Romans 14:19). Paul began each letter with a prayer for peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:3). Christians seek peace for other Christians (1 Corinthians 16:11). After all, peace is the message of the gospel (Ephesians 6:15, Ephesians 2:17, Colossians 1:20). Although they are surrounded by a milieu of violence and persecution, Peter exhorts Christians to “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Peace and unity are the result of the Spirit working in a body of believers (Ephesians 4:3, Colossians 3:15). Pursuing peace is the task of true believers, whether it is peace within churches, families, or areas of world conflict.
In conclusion, we must realize that peace is available now, but this does not mean that the riots in London will end, that racial divisions will forever be unified, war will never break out, and families will never split—at least not until the end of the age. Instead, this means that God’s servants, as ambassadors of peace, should proclaim the gospel of peace throughout the world, and confidently hope for the ultimate coming of peace in Jesus Christ.
Let us follow Jesus final commission: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).