Peace was a rare commodity in our nation over the 4th of July holiday weekend. In Brooklyn Park on Saturday evening, four people were shot and transported to the hospital.[i] In New York City 42 were shot and 9 died.[ii] Gun violence In Philadelphia left 22 wounded and 6 dead.[iii] The most horrific violence belonged to Chicago where 79 were shot and 15 killed. Among the victims were a seven-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old boy.[iv]
Turning our eyes to the world beyond our borders, we find even more violence and war. Hong Kong continues protests against Chinese control. A border dispute between China and India in the Kashmir region resulted in 11 deaths of Indian soldiers. Chinese casualties were unknown.[v] Washington DC remained embroiled in a controversy over a leaked report that Russia offered the Afghan Taliban bounties on the killing of American soldiers. In the South China Sea, two American aircraft carrier groups are conducting exercises in response to China’s own exercises in the same location. China claims ownership of the sea, in conflict with other southeast Asian nations.
How we yearn for peace, but wherever we look, peace is broken by hatred, violence, and war. Into such a world Jesus came, preaching, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” One of Jesus’ other Biblical titles is “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When Jesus was born the angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will to men!” (Luke 2:14.) But Jesus’ arrival didn’t bring peace to Israel or to the world. Wars and violence continued as ever before.
So what did Jesus mean by “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” The key is in his very next words, “I do not give to you as the world gives.” The peace that Jesus promises is not political peace between nations or societal peace within nations. The peace he offered, and the peace he came to accomplish, is peace between God and mankind. Mankind’s continual sin against God had built up a dividing wall between man and God (Ephesians 2:14). Christ, through his redeeming death, broke down the wall and restored peace between man and God. God is again at peace with man, and man can be at peace with God. And when a man is at peace with God, it affects his whole life. If I am at peace with God through knowledge and faith in the Gospel, now I can also be at peace with the people around me. Only when I am at peace with God can I truly be at peace with others.
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Christ’s peace is the reason your hearts need not be troubled. God is at peace with you. He is not angry with you. He is not “out to get you.” You can live in peace, not constantly looking over your shoulder to see if The Judge is coming for you. If we really want peace in the world, it must start within us. You must hear and believe the Gospel of peace. You must first be at peace with God. Then you can be at peace through forgiveness with your neighbors, and a nation of neighbors at peace can have national peace, and a nation at peace can influence the world toward peace.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have established peace between man and God. By your suffering and death, you have paid all the penalty of sin. You have quenched God’s righteous anger toward sin and sinners. You have revealed God’s unfathomable love toward us. You have opened the gates of heaven. Fill us with this peace every day, and through that peace let us be at peace with everyone around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.