Why no peace yet, and no end to evil?

So how come pain, suffering and evil still exist when 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…not only in the present age but also in the age to come“ (Ephesians 1:20-21)?

Anyone suffering surely has the right to ask that question, that if Jesus really is fully in charge of what happens on this planet right now, then why isn’t he putting a stop to terrorism, serial killers, corruption in high places, and all the other awful things happening to people? And if it’s true in Colossians 1:20 that he’s “making peace through his blood, shed on the cross,” then why aren’t we seeing peace spreading throughout the Earth as well?

Paul answers both questions in verses 21-23, that Jesus IS creating peace and he is putting a stop to the awful things happening to us – by getting at WHY we have so much pain, suffering and evil still, and why we don’t have peace. And the simple reason why is because “You were God’s enemies. You hated him, and you were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (21).

The reason we don’t have peace and why pain, suffering and evil continue, is because our minds have been so twisted against God that we can’t stop the evil thoughts and actions that wreck our relationship with him, and with each other.

But that’s why Jesus died. He died, as Paul phrases it, to “reconcile” us to God (verse 22). Jesus’ dealt a death blow to our hatred for God, so that the process of healing our twisted up minds could begin. And the process begins with the dawning in our minds that we are all now “holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation” because of Jesus’ death (22).

That’s “the hope held out in the gospel” (23), that in Jesus’ death we have a fresh start. None of our past evil thoughts and actions are held against us. We all stand in God’s presence with a completely clean slate. But that’s just the beginning, because the hope that’s ALSO held out in the gospel is that “if we continue in our faith, established and firm” (23) God will complete what he started.

We now enter a lifetime of healing, where the evil thoughts and actions that are the cause of all our pain, suffering and lack of peace are brought to the surface and dealt with. And there we have God’s solution, which is happening right now in the minds of those who believe it and trust him.

Advertisements

Jesus was born to bring peace – so where is it?

The reason Jesus was born was to announce to “all people” the “good tidings of great joy” that peace on earth had begun (Luke 2:10-14).

But experience since has taught us that peace can only be obtained by war, which most Christians have endorsed as well, having gone to war in their millions to create peace. But is that what Jesus meant for us to do, as his way of creating peace?

Well, yes, some might say, because in John 15:13 he said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” So surely it’s the right thing to do for Dads, husbands, sons and brothers to willingly become cannon fodder. But it begs the question, “How does being cannon fodder create peace” when it also creates devastating grief and financial hardship for those men’s families back home, and terrible heartache for their wives and mothers, who may never be able to forgive their menfolk for letting propaganda rule their emotions and drag them off to war.

But didn’t Jesus sacrifice his life to create peace? Oh yes, but only because the sacrifice of his life was the ONLY way evil could be stopped. But what was the rest of his life about?

It was also about “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” but in the sense of laying down every living moment of his life for us, too.

And that part of his life was just as important as his death, because it laid out the pattern for how “peace on earth” happens. It’s in laying down one’s entire life for others. It’s a life-time of unselfishness, of always being aware of the needs of others, and of laying aside our own wants when we realize we have talents and gifts that can really help others. And that’s the way God created us too. He gave us all gifts that enable us to be helpful to others (1 Corinthians 12:6-11), because that’s how peace works (verse 25).

Most of us will never be faced with having to risk our lives to save someone from death, but every day peace happens when we “lay down” what gifts God has given us to the service and benefit of others. And a living sacrifice is far more valuable than a dead one, because it keeps on giving.

So what if everybody believed that this was Jesus’ way of creating peace, that we follow the example of his life, every moment of which he “laid down” or sacrificed for others? Because that’s where peace can be found – in those who do believe it.

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.

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.