PEACE ON EARTH - TRUE OR FALSE?
"He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him." (John 1:2). Would we have received Him? Would we have recognized Jesus as the long-awaited King? Two thousand years ago, the masses neither believed nor accepted Him. Seeking an earthly kingdom ruled by a human king, some stretched His words to fit their vision. Others sought to kill Him. The reason? He made pseudo "good" people feel bad, for His message exposed their sin. "...the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light...." John 3:19
Through the centuries, religious leaders have often added the name or promises of Jesus to their self-made paths to peace. The marketing message of the popular Christian painter Thomas Kinkaide -- probably written by professional advertisers rather than Mr. Kinkaide himself -- shows the growing acceptance of such spiritual synthesis today: "My newest work, A Prayer for Peace, is a poignant reminder that peace in our world is always possible for those who believe and pray. The dramatic figure of a prophet occupies the rocky heights above the city.
"To my mind, he is a Christ figure, but I have treated him with a deep spirituality that could well be embraced by people of other beliefs. Illuminated by a radiant moon, this holy person prays... that the warm glow of moonlight can wrap the walled city in a spiritual blanket of serenity." Would the true Jesus point to "glow of moonlight" as a source of peace? Would His true followers respect other gods and gurus as "holy?" Would our Lord, who prayed "Thy will be done," pray such a prayer as that? As the curtain falls on the "Christian" era in the West, the timeless divide between God's Light and the world's false glow becomes more visible. And no month better illustrates this hostility toward Jesus than December.
Those who envision global peace through social engineering can't tolerate any signs of the new-born king. Kwanzaa and winter solstice may fit, but Bethlehem's manger must be banned from public view. That ban is now being stretched to include non-Christian symbols such as Christmas trees, Santa, Rudolph... even red and green colors. An article titled, "Santa Claus Deemed Too 'Religious' for School Fundraiser," quotes an angry parent who accused the local elementary school of breaking the law by featuring Santa Claus, a "religious" figure. "I look forward to sponsoring an event that is within the law and inclusive of all," the offended parent wrote in her letter to the superintendent. "'This is not an argument about religion; it is about the law of our land."
In a world that trusts feelings more than facts, this absurd argument makes sense. It illustrates the attitude of those who despise the slightest reminder of that Holy Night long ago. But we shouldn't be surprised. God warned us that the world would have little tolerance for His truth and followers: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.... If they persecuted Me they will persecute you... for they do not know the One who sent Me." (John 15:19-21) Those who "do not know" Him can't understand why He came.
Many consider the gospel a myth and the cross an outrage. Having rationalized sin and justified their compromise with immorality, they dismiss His death and resurrection. Their quest for "peace" demands denial of His Truth. TWO KINDS OF PEACE Many Old Testament prophets foretold the birth of Jesus and His indescribable peace. "For Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given," wrote Isaiah centuries before Christ was born. "His name shall be Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. " Isaiah 9:6-7 “Glory to God in the highest," sang the angels who announced His birth. "And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14) Yes, through the cross, there would be "peace on earth" -- a peace that far exceeds the shallow illusions of blinded idealists.
God's joyful angels proclaimed a heavenly peace for all who welcomed the King into their lives. Reigning in their hearts, He would establish His spiritual Kingdom on earth -- in and through His own people living as "pilgrims and sojourners" in a corrupt world. That may sound strange to those who share the vision of global solidarity. But remember the question Jesus asked His confused, earth-focused disciples: "Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." (Luke 12:51) The world still despises this division. Wanting peace and unity on its own terms, it calls for pluralism, inclusiveness, an end to the stigma of sin, and tolerance for all that God calls wrong. The British article, "Whose Country Is It?" illustrates the deception: "
In recent times we have increasingly seen officialdom trying desperately not to offend minorities at Christmastime. Reacting to their need for political correctness, supposedly to encourage inclusiveness but actually creating divisions and dissent, the imposition of attitudinal fascism by officials at Christmas is even more nasty than usual. Schools and councils hold festivals to celebrate (if that is the right word) multiculturalism. Holly and Christmas trees are banned, even though they have their origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The carol service becomes a multicultural concert...." Today's high tech media and rejection of absolute truth (the anchor of our faith) speeds this transformation.
The pragmatic ("whatever works") attitude taught by the emerging, purpose-driven movements reject Biblical discernment as divisive. Pastor Rick Warren's "close friend" Sen. Barack Obama, made the following statement at the “Building a Covenant for a New America” conference last June: “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values.... It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason.... Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.” TRUE PEACE Actually, we do have a choice: to deny Him or to follow Him.
The latter may cost us our jobs, friends, freedom, and worldly acceptance. But through the centuries, His faithful friends have gladly given their all to follow Him. Loving Him more than the world, they faced imprisonment, torture, and cruel death. But the peace of His presence was worth the pain of persecution. A Jewish girl in Nazi Germany discovered this wonderful truth when she learned to trust Jesus. Anita Dittman tells her amazing story in the book, Trapped in Hitler's Hell:
"It was 1933... I couldn't come home after school without suffering a stoning or a beating.... And this was just the beginning of what would be a twelve-year nightmare -- twelve years of waiting for a knock on the door from the Gestapo; for a loved one to be dragged away by the hair or the beard to points unknown; for a boxcar ride, to be jammed in with hundreds of frightened, weeping people on their way to a death camp; or for a merciful bullet to end it all.
"Among those unfortunate Jews I was to be one of the few with a real home. I would come to know Jesus who was to offer peace in the midst of the turmoil. After all, wasn’t He the Prince of Peace?" Indeed He is! And to Anita, one of the highlights of those horrible years was Christmas 1944. By now a skeletal teenager struggling to survive unthinkable labor on a starvation diet in a Nazi work camp, she rejoiced in an unthinkable gift: She and a few other Christians were given permission to celebrate Christmas Eve in a nearby village church.
A guard would go with them, so they prayed that the truth about Christ would touch his cold heart. "To war-weary Christian prisoners who loved Jesus, this was the best news in months, perhaps years.... Twenty of us trudged over the snow-covered hills and meadows that night to a little country church.... The snow was falling lightly.... "That night we huddled in the little church with a hundred or more of the farmers and townspeople. We sang Christmas carols and praised the Lord until well after midnight.
As we read the Christmas story, we were reassured that Jesus knew our every ache because He also had been a man and had experienced human grief. In the dim candlelight we all gathered at the altar on our knees and prayed for Germany and our separated families; the guard stood careful watch in the doorway. Then we trudged home in the moonlight, for the snow had stopped falling." “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:1