December 19, 2018

How to Make Peace in a World Filled With Hate

We’re told in the story of Christ’s birth that he was sent to bring “peace on Earth” (Luke 2:14). All throughout the Old and New Testaments, God echoes his promise of peace, and he invites us to be a part of the process as well.

“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” Jesus told his disciples in his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9).

I don’t know how much of the nightly news you’ve been watching, but it looks to me like we could use a little peacemaking.

And I’m not just talking about in Israel, or Yemen, or Venezuela. I’m talking about amongst our very own family members, friends and neighbors.

Take a quick scroll through social media and you’ll see family members in a war of words over a political disagreement. Friendships are often ruined with one harsh word. Neighbors never speak again after one trivial dispute.

Perhaps you can recall a moment when you contributed to anger and division yourself.

It’s clear to me that we desperately need Christ to work in our lives, to teach us how to respond in an age of perpetual conflict. It’s so easy in our technologically advanced era to hide behind a screen and foster division with harsh rhetoric, thinking there’ll be no larger consequences. But there most certainly will be. Proverbs 18:21 cautions us with this: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit–you choose.”

As a follower of Christ, I know I am commanded – no matter how just the cause I am fighting for – to always refrain from stirring up division. In Hebrews 12:14 we're told, "Strive for peace with everyone." The Apostle Paul also implores us, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18).

In Isaiah 1:18 the Lord tells us, “Come now, let us reason together.” Conflict can’t continue if you don’t participate.

This essentially all boils down to one simple rule: Be a peacemaker, not a troublemaker.

I realize there’s a lot of shallow and hollow calls for peace out there. Many are well-intentioned, but lacking in substance.

The version of peace I’m calling for is rooted in Christ and is unattainable without him.

The honest truth is that you and I are incapable of being effective peacemakers without the redeeming love of Christ stirring in our hearts. We may broker peace among friends who are bickering or step in to stop a squabble among family members. But what about when an offense is dealt directly toward you? An angry remark, a nasty tweet, a passive-aggressive comment from a loved one. Sooner or later we give in to our flesh and we hold a grudge, or we respond in anger ourselves, driving the wedge deeper and deeper until one day a relationship is totally destroyed.

Just as we are unable to be sinless and perfect in our own strength, we are unable to make peace with someone using our own strength. Christ tells us in John 16:33, "...In me you may have peace." Further along in the same verse he reminds us, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."

The only way we can find lasting peace is by submitting our lives to the Prince of Peace.

We need Christ to stand in the gap for us. When we’re spent and exhausted and it seems like all hope for peace is lost, Christ calls us to put our trust in him.

This Christmas, humble yourself before the Lord. Ask him to fill you with his spirit and give you the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Not simply a temporary transaction of peace –like a ceasefire agreement between nations, or a court settlement amongst bitter enemies – but real and lasting peace. The kind that is anchored deep within our hearts and our minds.

Jentezen Franklin is the Senior Pastor of Free Chapel, a multi-campus church. Each week his television program Kingdom Connection is broadcast on major networks all over the world. A New York Times best-selling author, Jentezen has written nine books, including his newly released, "Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt."