"Peace on earth." Those words are familiar for people who know the Bible story about the birth of Jesus Christ. An angel appeared to shepherds out in the fields near Bethlehem. He announced to them: "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Then a great company of angels appeared, praising God and speaking about "peace." We enjoy hearing about peace, especially around Christmas time. But what does this peace involve?
Peace with God.
There are many passages in the Old Testament that speak about the coming of a "Messiah," a Saviour. God was talking about a Saviour who would obtain true freedom for his people: freedom from the burden of sin and guilt. Those passages were written centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ was born, the announcement by an angel that he is the "Saviour" was therefore very significant. The Bible teaches us that we are all sinners. We sin in many ways against the will of God. Christians believe that the Ten Commandments give us a summary of God’s moral law. Even if you do not know exactly what God’s will is, there are times when your conscience convicts you that you have done something wrong. That is a reminder that there is a standard. It is a standard that no one can measure up to "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Our sins make it impossible to live at peace with God in our own strength. Our sins are like a debt that increases from day to day. Jesus Christ came to be the Saviour. He is the peacemaker between God and sinners. But there is only one way to receive that peace: by believing in him as Saviour and Lord. We must look beyond his birth to his life of suffering and finally his death on the cross for sinners. We should not try to earn our own salvation. That is impossible. We must trust that God grants forgiveness of sins to those who put their trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour.
Peace among each other
When we receive peace with God through Jesus Christ, we learn what forgiveness means. Our sins are many. If God can forgive us so much, then we must also learn to forgive others. That is something that involves prayer and effort. We read in Hebrews 12:14 "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." A holy life is one dedicated to serving God. It does not mean a Christian can become perfect in this life. It does mean that where there is sin, a Christian should seek forgiveness from God and from people against whom he or she has sinned. Where you see this happen, you see evidence of the peace that Christ has come to bring to earth. Relationships that have been disrupted by sin can be healed if there is forgiveness. Then a new start can be made. People are imperfect. But where there is an ongoing willingness to forgive and to put in a new effort, there can be progress. Humanly speaking, this may seem to be impossible. But the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, shows us that God can do what is impossible for man. He is still at work today!
Dr. Andrew J. Pol