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Advent: A path to peace
Through January 6, I’ll be posting devotionals with an Advent and Epiphany theme to focus our minds on the nativity of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!
In the previous Advent devotional, we examined the glorious words of the prophet Isaiah foretelling the coming of the Messiah. The many titles of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 included “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Now, peace is something most human beings would agree upon as an admirable goal for the human race. Then why is it that peace is so incredibly difficult to achieve? During my short (in historical terms) lifetime alone, I have lived through the Cold War, multiple crises in Lebanon, the Vietnam War, the Dominican Civil War, the Cambodian Civil War, various conflicts in the Korean Demilitarized Zone, an invasion in Grenada, a bombing of Libya, the Persian Gulf Tanker War, the invasion of Panama, the Gulf War, no-fly zone enforcement operations in Iraq, interventions in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Haiti, the Kosovo War, the War in Afghanistan, the Iraq War, intervention in Yemen and northwest Pakistan, Operation Ocean Shield, intervention in Syria, and other conflicts we’re probably totally unaware of. Sadly, those are only the wars that the United States has had some involvement in; it doesn’t take into account all of the many conflicts around the world that have taken place or are still happening today.
The Bible is proof that conflict has always been part of our fallen world. How many times do we read of Old Testament wars between nations, or outright slaughters of enemies?
So, let me ask that question again: Why is peace so difficult to achieve? Today’s verse calls upon the wisdom of King Solomon, the primary writer of Proverbs, and it might provide a simple answer:
“When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them.”
Proverbs 16:7 NLT
Since Genesis, people have seemingly gone out of their way to displease God! It’s not as if the covenants, old or new, are hard to understand. The Old Testament covenant — the Decalogue or Ten Commandments — was written in stone by God Himself. Of course, He had to scribe another set after Moses smashed the originals in anger over the people of Israel deciding to worship a golden calf while God was literally handing down the law.
The New Testament new covenant, of which Jesus is the mediator, is even more easy to understand… but apparently not to follow. Jesus delivers the terms of this covenant to the rich young man in Matthew 19:
“Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” the man asked. And Jesus replied: “‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. “I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”
Matthew 19:16-18, 20-22 NLT
Most of us, as “good Christians”, will never murder, commit adultery, steal, or testify falsely. But we find it extremely difficult to go that extra mile, living an ascetic life and giving all possessions to the poor. Part of that is simply “common sense”, knowing that we should save up for lean times. That goes against the Biblical common sense, which tells us that God will provide. We must all do as much as we can, though, to please the Lord… even if our sinful lives keep us from perfection.
To achieve true peace in this world is easy: “When people’s lives please the Lord, even their enemies are at peace with them.” As we travel through Advent together, let us all strive to please the Lord in everything we do. If we can bring enough of humanity to the Lord and instill in those new to the flock — and ourselves — the need for our lives to please the Lord, perhaps we’ll at last have peace.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Father, I thank you that I have the freedom to make choices in life, yet I am even more thankful that I have You to direct my choices. Please give me the wisdom to make the best choices in my life, and I thank You that I am not alone in making those decisions through Your guidance. Let me help You grow your Kingdom, so that there may be more people who please You and we can all live lives of peace. In Jesus holy name we pray, AMEN.