We’re exploring how to live in what God calls the real world. It’s all about whether we will relate to God or not. But there’s opposition to this everywhere.
So now, if we are in this battle, how can an announcement of peace help us? It not only helps but is effective because Christ has won a great victory. He has won the right to announce the peace. And Paul says having this peace and this message gets us ready to fight our real enemy.
The letter of Ephesians tells us how this is so. Here’s three things that are clear.
First, we were far from God. But then, we are brought near to him, by Christ’s blood (2:13-18). An offering has been made for our sins. We have peace with God.
The world assumes God is an enemy to be hated, or a delusion to destroy. But if God reveals himself and tells us he has no more quarrel with us, that our sins are forgiven, our whole being can operate properly. We can think. We can sing. We can love.
It has been noted that atheists often have a personal rather than a logical reason for their belief. Something has happened, or not happened, and they blame God for it. But what if we see that God is not against us but for us? What if we discover we are loved? This is peace with God.
When Jesus rises from the dead, his first words are, ‘Peace be with you’. This was a common greeting at the time, but coming from Jesus, and after what has just happened, it is an announcement of peace between Jesus and his followers. And this means, an announcement of peace with God.
So, Jesus comes announcing peace and declaring good news of happiness (Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15). He does this through the preaching of his gospel.
Second, there’s one way of reconciliation for everyone.
This is important to Paul because he has thought you have to be a Jew to know God. Then, he hears the church announcing peace with God without the trappings of Judaism. Jesus has entered his space and says there is room for people of all nations to live before him in peace.
This makes Paul desperately angry. He begins to fight against the enemy he can see—the church. But then, Jesus speaks to him as a friend. ‘You’re having a hard time Saul. Why are you fighting me?’ Paul has come to God with war in his heart. Jesus comes to Paul with an announcement of peace. (XXX; James 3).
Paul now knows the way to have peace with God. And he knows this is the way of peace for the world—Jews and Gentiles (2:13-14).
Jesus has not only resolved the conflict between us and God. He has resolved the reason for our conflicts with one another. He spells this out in some detail (2:15-22).
Jewish worship had pointed to Christ. But now that Christ has come, its purpose is completed and everyone must embrace the reality—Jesus is our peace with God.
So, Jews and Gentiles can come to God in the same way. The reason for Paul to defend his ‘territory’ is gone. Jews and Gentiles can be in the same family. God himself comes to live with his people.
Christ’s peace has removed the need to defend our cultural space. For Paul, it has been religion. But now, he can relate freely—travelling with Christ into all the places God takes him.
The same principle applies to all the other ‘territories’ we create for ourselves. Paul speaks about it in numbers of his letters. With Christ as our peace, we don’t need to make a warring party out of our social status, or our race or our gender (Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:28; 5:6; Colossians 3:10-11). If we belong to Christ, we belong together.
Perhaps you can see how urgently we need this peace of Christ—bringing us to God—in the midst of what we call issues today. He puts to rest the seeds of our discontent. He frees us to love without necessarily agreeing, and discuss without being spiteful. We learn this, even if with some difficulty, as we relate to our fellow Christians. But then, this gives us ways to relate to others as we move out into the world.
Third, this announcement of peace is the preparation we all need if we are to engage in the battle ahead.
Paul is astonished that he has been entrusted with such good news for the world. He is ready to go anywhere and do anything that will enable others to know it is true. He is ready to live!
This new way of peace—peace with God—confronts the unseen powers we are fighting against (3:8-10). It names and shames this whole hostility thing and says, ‘You don’t need to be angry!’ That is, not selfishly angry.
If you can’t see the real battle, you have to maintain the rage. And we do! And we are! Even in countries that have no political oppressor, we find one thing after another to fight about.
But what if we can announce Jesus Christ as God’s way of peace! Many will scorn it of course. But then, some will find that the wars they are conducting are not the main game. They will discover that the currents of God’s loving are more powerful and persuasive than all the puff of the world and its Prince.
Paul is telling us to wear this announcement of peace like shoes! We shouldn’t go anywhere without God’s peace in our hearts. We shouldn’t say anything that merely defends our territory. And we should never be ashamed of the blood of Jesus by which this precious peace has been announced to us. This is the peace we have needed. And it is the peace that is needed in the world.
With Jesus, we may say to those who persecute us, ‘It is hard for you to kick against the peace Christ has established!’