Ever had one of those moments where you’re reading a familiar Bible passage and something stops you in your tracks? This was the passage that had me doing a double-take one year at Christmas:
“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:14 NLT)
I distinctly remember a banner at the church I grew up in that was pulled out each Christmas and displayed prominently. It declared, “Peace on Earth!” But nowhere did the banner mention conditions for this peace.
In fairness to the banner-makers, they didn’t have room for the whole verse. But as a young boy, I preferred the short version on the banner.
I’m guessing most people prefer the short version too… with no conditions.
Which perhaps explains why so many people are disappointed at Christmas when “Peace on Earth” doesn’t pan out. Why would God put conditions on peace? And more importantly, how do I get to be one of those, “…with whom God is pleased” so I can experience peace?
To me, this begs two questions:
1. With whom is God pleased?
Let’s look at the individual that God most compliments in the Bible: Jesus!
Three times in the life of Jesus we hear from none other than God that God is pleased with Jesus:
Matthew 3:17 – The baptism of Jesus. This act signals the official beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus follows God’s plan, fulfills prophecy, and receives the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 12:18 – Citing Old Testament prophecy found in Isaiah 42:1-3, this text speaks to the promised one who will “proclaim justice,” even to the Gentiles (outsiders). But he won’t be obnoxious about it, he will do it gently… and with great mercy… until justice wins.
Matthew 17:5 – The Transfiguration of Jesus. Ironically, as God says to listen to Jesus in this context of dazzling white glory, the next thing that Jesus says is very telling: “Get up… tell no one… let’s go back…” Down from the mountaintop and back into the daily grind.
Why? Because that’s where the needs were, and that’s where God sent him… into the heart of needy people. And what were the needs?
– Justice (the way things should be… as in the world is right again).
I’m thinking if we combine all those things, not only would God be pleased, but we might begin to see peace on earth.
There’s just one more question that stuck with me as I read this passage: If peace is for those with whom God is pleased, then:
2. How do I please God?
This is where most people miss the mark, and me included. It’s not about trying to do enough good deeds so that we’ll earn God’s favor. God’s favor has been earned by someone else on our behalf.
God’s favor was earned on a hill called Calvary, when God’s Son carried the weight of the sins of the world to the cross and put them to death. And guess how God’s Son did that?
With mercy… grace… healing… he restored things as they should be between God and humans. Jesus brought justice… peace… in the most loving way possible, despite extreme cruelty and rejection of those around him.
The best way to please God is to accept and believe God’s Son, and the incredible gift that he gave not at Christmas-time, but at Easter-time. And once this prince of peace reigns in our hearts, we’ll be able to carry out His mission, with mercy… grace… and healing… until justice wins.
So, back to the main question: why would God put conditions on peace? Because my version of justice and restoring the peace has little to do with mercy and grace. My version has more to do with getting even. And I have to lay aside my version for God’s version to give true peace a chance.
The one who lays aside their own agenda and invites the prince of peace into their heart…
The one who brings mercy… grace… healing… as a result of Christ living in them…
Is the one who will experience “Peace on Earth.”
… and there’s a whole lot more where that came from!
What is your experience with “Peace on Earth?” What do you need to lay aside today in order to be an agent of peace?