“If I were granted one wish, I would ask for world peace!” While cliché, this oft-repeated phrase emphasizes a crucial point: despite the fact that in the history of civilization there has been no end to feuds, conflicts, skirmishes, battles, and outright war, people long for peace.
When we move from the macro to the micro, we do not always see peace there either. How many of us can say that we have the peace we desire in our local communities or in our homes? Even if there has been no actual violence, we have all seen families who have been torn apart by internal strife.
If we zoom in even closer and take an honest look at ourselves, we must admit that we do not always have peace in our own minds and hearts either. Regardless of times when there is smooth sailing on calm waters, we often fear that one of life’s storms may soon come upon us.
After considering all of this, we are confronted with the question, “why?” and “what can we do about it?”
What is peace?
A few possibilities could be suggested:
Some of these definitions may strike us as more accurate or more appealing than the others, but even if we were free of war, strife, and stress, and all our relationships were harmonious, would we be able to say that we had perfect peace? Sadly, we would still need to reckon with what has been called the “ultimate statistic”: one hundred percent of people who live will eventually die. As difficult as this fact can be to think about, we must face it. Any peace we have can quickly be snatched away by the death of someone we know and love.
The Bible begins in the book of Genesis with God who created a world that was “very good.” The people He created lived in perfect peace and fellowship with God, with each other, and in harmony with God’s creation. That is how our world began; in peace which was so deep that it is as if it permeated every cell and was woven into the fabric of creation.
As we notice every time we read news headlines, we don’t live in a peace-filled world. Why? How did that happen?The world that God created was permeated by peace because Adam and Eve, the first people God created, were living in harmony with Him by obeying His commands; however, they did not keep the peace. Instead, they listened to Satan (disguised as a serpent) and sinned by disobeying God.
Adam and Eve’s disobedience was an act of rebellion that robbed the world of peace. Humanity was now at war with God. Every person since has sinned and contributed to this lack of peace, this “war against God”. God is just and perfect and cannot look upon sin. Our sin, therefore, separates us from God, destroying the peace we had with Him and with our fellow man.
If we once again move from the macro to the micro and honestly consider our thoughts and feelings, we recognize that our own internal, day-to-day sense of peace is often disturbed by fear. Sometimes we experience fear and anxiety over relatively small matters, but man’s deepest fear has always been death. Why is this the case? In the words of Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” Life ends and then there are only two destinations: heaven or hell. Our greatest fear robbing us of peace, is (or should be) fear of hell—eternal punishment; that’s what we deserve. But is that the end of the story? It would be depressing if it were.
Where can we find peace?
Can we go anywhere on earth to find true peace? No, the answer is not a geographic location. The question we need to ask is if anyone can restore true peace, and if so, who? From the Bible we know that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) who brought the “Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Maybe you are thinking, “Yes, Jesus taught peace and lived a peaceful life, but that was a long time ago, what does that have to do with me here and now?” Good question. Humanity’s relationship with God was broken by the first sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, long ago. But Jesus came as the “second Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45-49) in the form of a human, yet still fully Divine – and therefore without any sin and in perfect relationship with God.
Because Jesus had no sin of his own to pay for, He was able to take upon Himself the sins of all who would have faith in Him. On the cross He became our sacrifice, satisfying the justice that God requires. And through Jesus’ sacrificial death, a way was made for the relationship between God and people to be restored. Jesus is our peace! (Ephesians 2:14-15)
Despite His perfect, peaceful life, many people rejected Jesus and were jealous of Him. His sinlessness showed everyone their sin, and they hated Him for that. He said things that showed he was God, and for that they tried to kill Him a number of times. (John 8:58-59; 10:22-39). Eventually He was taken before the Roman government officials on false charges and condemned to death by crucifixion.
Jesus, as fully human, was and is the perfect representative of humanity, and He, as fully Divine, is in a prefect relationship with God; thus, He can restore peace between God and people. The sins that each repentant sinner has committed are taken by Jesus and a clean record is given instead. That clean record imparts peace to those who receive it as the way into heaven is assured.
Jesus died on a cross and was buried in a tomb – and that would have been the end of the story if He were just another man; He would have been a martyr and an example. But Jesus had done no wrong, He did not deserve to die, and so death could not hold Him. He resurrected from the dead on the third day and by this we can have peace knowing that after death we will rise from the dead and heaven will be our eternal home. This will be a place of perfect peace in God’s presence forever.
Peace among nations and people of this world today is not present, but the greater need of peace between God and people was achieved by Jesus. Already now, those who believe on Him can have peace knowing that they will not have to bear the punishment their sins deserve – because Jesus already took this upon Himself on the cross.
Though death is an enemy that destroys peace today, those who believe in Jesus can have peace because even death has been overcome by Him, and death is now the way out of this difficult life and into God’s peace-filled presence in heaven. Trust in Jesus to find peace – true peace, eternal peace.