Is there an answer in Christmas to the world’s problems?

Christmas provides temporary relief to the world’s problems, where for a brief while we let the good part inside us have a chance to shine, but then we’re right back to another year of fighting traffic, more disasters, terrorist attacks and accidents, family health and financial problems, poor quality appliances breaking down, the car needing constant repairs, children’s needs becoming ever more expensive, problems with school bullies and insensitive neighbours – and on and on it goes.

Christmas in its traditional secular form, therefore, can at best only offer temporary relief, and for many people Christmas doesn’t even offer that. But there is a side to Christmas, that got Christmas started in the first place, that offers permanent relief. It was predicted by an angel, that with Christ’s birth a new era of peace would begin, and that was confirmed later by Jesus in John 14:27, when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”

Jesus said this to his disciples who were about to experience anything but peace. They would be scoffed at, bullied and killed, which in this world is a cause for much grief and heartache, as we see in bullied children who kill themselves. The world’s solution to such insulting behaviour, therefore, is to come out fighting, defend one’s national honour and personal dignity, and to hit back, like the immediate response from politicians to a terrorist attack.

But Jesus didn’t offer the peace of this world that comes with revenge, justice for victims, getting one’s own back, or the satisfaction of being vindicated. It didn’t come from seeing bullies and terrorists publicly humiliated or killed, either. Nor did it come from putting someone in his place, or outgunning someone in a debate or argument, or winning a court case, because all those things, just like Christmas, only offer temporary relief, and the hurts never really heal.

What Jesus offered by comparison was totally different. He’d learnt from a lifelong relationship with the Father that peace can only come from loving the Father and doing exactly what his Father commanded (John 14:31). Jesus, therefore, was the only one who knew the source of peace, the only human being who’d ever experienced this peace personally, and the only one who could make it real in our lives too, by making his home in us and living the peace he’s experienced in us (verse 23).

And those who believed it would experience it, and every Christmas be reminded of it too, that the answer to the world’s problems is the peace Jesus experiences that he lives in us.

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Is Jesus already bringing peace?

Our world is a mess, so how could anyone even suggest that Jesus has been bringing peace to our world? Isn’t that something he only does in the future when he comes again as the Prince of Peace and sets up his Kingdom “that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14)?

Can we only dream of peace, then, and not expect any changes for the better in this world? The media would certainly like us to think that, because it delights in highlighting all the bad things happening. It’s all we get to hear about, the same old stupidity and madness over and over again.

But the media isn’t doing itself a service, or anyone else either, by ignoring what Jesus said the first time he was here. He said, “The time has come. The Kingdom of God has arrived” (Mark 1:15). So we don’t have to wait for Jesus to come again to bring peace; he already started the peace ball rolling two thousand years ago. It’s about time then, Jesus continued in verse 15, that we got off the negative bandwagon and got our minds wrapped round the “good news” instead, that world peace is on its way already, and it has been ever since Jesus was here.

So why doesn’t the media look for evidence to prove that instead? They don’t have far to look either. Paul made their research easy by recording what happened to Jews and Gentiles because of Christ’s death. Suddenly, the wall of hostility, that had kept Jews and Gentiles in conflict for centuries, came tumbling down, and in the Christian Church the impossible happened: Lifelong enemies got along famously. It proved Paul’s point in Ephesians 2:15 that Jesus’ purpose was “to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” That’s why Jesus came, to “preach peace” to Jew and Gentile (verse 17), because peace was now possible.

That’s why people join the Christian Church, because they not only believe the good news that peace is now possible, they can also take part in it, just as Jews and Gentiles did in Jesus’ day. For two thousand years the evidence has been steadily building, therefore, that this “new man” experiencing peace, whom Paul talked about, really exists. It hasn’t created perfect peace in the Christian Church, but if those in media did their homework and went to where Christians truly believe what Jesus made possible, they would have all sorts of stories to tell of peace at full bore in this world.

It’s a case of knowing where to look, but it’s worth looking because it would prove the good news that Jesus is already bringing peace.

Pain, suffering and evil

So how come pain, suffering and evil still exist, despite the fact that Christ in his death “condemned sin in sinful man” (Romans 8:3), and in his resurrected state he’s now at God’s “right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the age to come“ (Ephesians 1:20-21)?

Surely our hope rests in clear evidence that those two scriptures are true “in the present age” – in life in this world right now, in other words – and we can see with our own eyes too that Jesus rules supreme, “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20). If peace is what Christ died to create, then shouldn’t we be seeing pain, suffering and evil becoming less and less?

Yes, if by “peace” it means an obvious decrease in pain, suffering and evil worldwide. And isn’t that the world’s great hope, that one day all pain, suffering and evil will be eradicated? But in Colossians 1:21-22, that’s not what peace means. Peace isn’t the opposite to pain, suffering and evil. Peace is defined as no longer being “alienated from God,” and “enemies in our minds because of our evil behaviour.” Peace is defined in context here as the eradication of our hostile attitude to God, because at the heart and core of all evil is thinking God is our enemy.

Remove that thought in our heads and, hey presto, we have peace. But that’s what Christ died for, to reconcile us to God (verse 22) so we don’t see him as our enemy anymore. But how can he be our enemy when it was God, in Jesus, who died to cancel out every evil thing we’ve ever done or thought of, and now “through his death presents us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (verse 22)?

We brought pain, suffering and evil on ourselves by our hostility to God, but God shows through Jesus’ death that he feels no hostility to us. It’s so hard to keep that in mind, though, when evil things happen, because it looks like God doesn’t like us at all, and he makes us suffer to show his disapproval.

But we can keep it in mind, Paul says in verse 23, “IF we continue in our faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” The hope of the gospel is that Christ’s death will end everyone’s hostility to God, and it’s keeping that in mind that keeps us remarkably and miraculously at peace, despite everything happening to and around us.