Luke 2:8-14 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called sons of God.” (NKJV)
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.” Matthew 5:9 Message Bible
In a world filled with anxiety, uncertainty, busyness, chaos, violence, selfishness, and endless responsibilities, the message of “Peace on earth” is a welcomed one. The Bible calls Jesus the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6 and says that when we become “Peacemakers” we become “Sons and Daughters of God.”
When we think about this season of giving, gift giving comes to mind. Spreading holiday cheer makes the list. But what about giving people something more than jewelry or socks, more than well wishes and a fleeting “Merry Christmas?” What about being a peacemaker and dispensing peace? If Jesus’ titles describe His character and His ministry and the Father’s will, and we have been given the opportunity to do what Jesus does, we need to take a look at what it means to be a peacemaker.
The word itself implies action. To make peace is different than to keep peace. Keeping peace implies prevention, vigilance, force, or avoiding conflict at any cost. Making peace, however, involves an investment. It’s a very proactive and intentional thing to make peace.
One of the most dramatic scenes in the Christmas story is the angelic host bursting into song in the sky in front of the shepherds. After the angelic announcement that a Savior had been born, they announced that peace on earth was finally possible. Jesus makes peace with God possible. He makes peace with others possible and a growing relationship with Him makes it possible for us to be peacemakers.
The mission of peace is so central to the Messiah’s coming that even in the angelic announcement a formula for peacemaking can be discovered. Before we analyze the angels’ words and actions, let me say that those who will be peacemakers must first personally know the Prince of Peace. Peacemakers know the Prince of Peace personally.
There was a Peanuts cartoon with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, “I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!” Charlie Brown says, “But I thought you had inner peace.” Lucy replies, “I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness.” (Sermon Central)
Lucy’s statement is an oxymoron. If you have inner peace, you won’t have an outer obnoxiousness. Your inner peace will flow out of your life into your relationships with others. When I am at peace with God, I begin to naturally want what God wants. He wants everyone to be saved. He wants everyone to walk in His blessing. He wants everyone to find strength in His comfort. He wants everyone to know and do His plan for their individual lives. When I am at peace with God, I want you to succeed. I want you to be at your best. I’m not hoping you’ll go down so that I can be elevated. I’m not competing with you for someone’s attention or for some kind of promotion. Do you see that when I am at peace with God, I have good will towards you? My thoughts and my actions will be such that they create peace in your life.
You see, wherever Christ rules and reigns, there is peace. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” Colossians 3:15 When Christ is ruling my heart, I embrace my calling to be a peacemaker.
“All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace.” Thomas À Kempis-Wise Words and Quotes
So, once we have peace with God, what are some things that make for peace that we can offer persons in our world? Let’s look at the angels’ approach for some ideas.
Peacemakers glorify God. The angels’ announcement of peace included this statement, “Glory to God in the highest.”
How can peacemakers glorify God? I believe peacemaking begins with prayer. If you want to be a peacemaker in any situation, start praying and asking, “God, how can I glorify You in this situation?” You see, people who are peacemakers seek not just to bring an end to a conflict. They seek not merely to lighten someone’s load or to make someone feel better. But ultimately they seek to know and do the will of God so that God is glorified. You will disturb the peace if you rush ahead and get involved in a situation without input from the Prince of Peace. So take time to pray about issues before attempting to help.
It’s not about what we are entitled to. It’s not about demanding our rights. It is about seeking what God’s will in any situation that needs peace. A husband was a henpecked by his wife, and he talked to the guys at work about it. They told him, “You don’t have to let your wife bully you! Go home and show her you’re the boss! The young man got home, slammed the door, shook his fist in his wife’s face, and growled, “From now on, you’re taking orders from ME! When I get home from work, I want my supper ON the table. I want my clothes laid out. I will be going out with the boys. And another thing.
Do you know who’s going to tie my tie? Yes, she replied, “The undertaker.” If you want to be a peacemaker, don’t rely on the world’s advice or your own wisdom. It will lead to destruction. Seek the Lord and His will for your situation or your friend’s situation.
So first of all, you can be a peacemaker through prayer and that will glorify God.
Second, you can be a peacemaker through pointing others to the Answer.
The angels’ announcement of peace was preceded by the announcement of the Answer to all of life’s challenges. “A Savior had been born.” We hear and read that we are a part of a post-Christian era. I think we are so far into this time period in history that it’s not just that people have rejected Christ and quit coming to church, but that the current generation is growing up oblivious to Him. It’s not that they have turned their backs on Him, but rather they don’t even know God has come, why He has come, or what He can offer. Our children are going to school with kids who have never been in church before. How could we expect them to choose Jesus if they don’t know that He has come? Listen, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed it will bring peace and God will be glorified.
Where people are in despair, where people are dealing with discouragement, point them to Christ and ask to pray with and for them. Pastor David has a habit of passing out books that simply have the promises of Scripture in them. They are inexpensive to buy and are such a blessing to people who receive them. When he passes those out, he is pointing people to the Answer to their problems. He is making peace.
Tami Evans was given thirty days to live several years ago now. God dramatically healed her of cancer. During the time Tami was sick, she repeatedly prayed Scripture from a book called “Healing Prayers.” It was God’s Word and the prayers of so many that got her through. She has sought to use her testimony to encourage others and the blog she wrote about her journey was recently read by a woman in CA who is undergoing cancer treatment. The woman is a Christian, but she was struggling with her faith and was in despair. She told Tami that until she read her blog, she had no hope. Now Tami is pointing her to Christ, and the woman’s hope and peace are renewed. Tami and I have just discussed a plan to purchase a bulk of the “Healing Prayers” books. We’re going to print Tami’s picture, testimony and contact information and glue it into the inside cover. Tami will begin handing the books out to cancer patients or anyone who is struggling with life issues. Through this effort, Tami will be making peace in the lives of those who need to experience it.
Not only do peacemakers glorify God, but also:
Peacemakers bring comfort to others.
Part of the message of peace the angels gave to the shepherds that night was a message of consolation. The shepherds were afraid, and the angels spoke words of comfort them.
We read in the time of Christ’s birth that people were walking in darkness. Our time is no different. Only I think that the darkness is now coupled with great fear. Our society as a whole is quick to jump to the worst possible conclusions.
Just this week, I had an opportunity to bless someone in the name of the Lord through Teays Valley Church of God. I was made aware that someone who works in Teays Valley needed some encouragement and I was able to get a Kroger gift card on behalf of the church to take to them. I only knew their first name, but I also knew where they worked. When I got to the place of business and said, “I’m looking for a lady named ‘Betty’ (we’ll call her) a woman said, “That’s me, but I hope it’s not bad news.” She automatically assumed the worst.
We live on the edge of our seats and at the end of our credit. We are nervous, worried and troubled in our spirits. We are short, snippy and are demanding with people. We are impatient, angry and out of control. In an age where cyber space has greatly replaced meaningful conversation and friendship, we long for someone to touch us, for someone to embrace us, for someone to comfort us. Never underestimate what your presence or your words of encouragement will mean to someone who needs peace.
One of the most beautiful prophetic passages about the coming of the Messiah is found in Isaiah 40. It begins with these words, “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God. “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.”
You can make peace whenever you speak tender words of comfort to people. Christmas is often a depressing and lonely time for many. They aren’t going to wear a sweatshirt that says, “I need some comfort, please help.” If you are going to make peace, you are going to need to take some initiative.
The key to peacemaking through comfort is speaking tenderly to people. There are times one must be firm, but offering comfort must first begin by expressing concern. Often, people who are grieving or hurting don’t need cheered up. They need listened to. Words of encouragement don’t have to be heavy handed and judgmental. Words of comfort have the “I’m here for you.” “What can I do to help?” “I’m praying for you,” tone to them, rather than the “Snap out of it” “Get on with it” or “Get over it” tone.
For many, this will be the first Christmas without a loved one. It won’t be the same. It will never be the same. What can you do to acknowledge that void and bring comfort to them?
Comfort is offered not only through words of encouragement but through acts of service. When there is something that people can’t do for themselves, it brings comfort to people to have it taken care of. Who needs you to run to the grocery for them? Who needs a sitter so they can shop for their kids without their kids present? Who needs something repaired at their home and they can’t afford to hire it done?
In addition to words of encouragement and acts of service, if you are striving to be a peacemaker, just being in your presence, just being included offers people comfort. Jesus is “Emmanuel, God With Us,” for a reason. We need the comfort that comes from God being “with us.” As you consider being a peacemaker this Christmas Season, think about who could use an invite for dinner, who could benefit from you stopping by and spending a half hour just being present with them.
I believe much of the darkness in our world is the result of people who have searched for comfort in the wrong places. Drugs, alcohol, isolation, inappropriate sexual relationships-none will provide true comfort. Comfort is only found through godly relationship.
Maybe our greatest error as Christians hasn’t been a lack of preaching the Gospel, but a lack of sharing comfort. Perhaps instead of hearing tender words of love and grace, many heard condemnation and shame. Maybe instead of weeping with those who weep we have gone on with the busyness of our own lives and people are forgotten, left to grieve alone.
The truth is, we are either peacemakers or we are peacebreakers. We’ve looked at some attitudes and actions that make peace. What are some attitudes and actions that break peace?
1. Self-centered living will break the spirit of peace at work or at home. Whether you are an adult or a child, exerting your own will at all times will never make for a peaceful atmosphere. Expecting or demanding to be catered to is childish and won’t produce peace. Jesus came and emptied Himself. He didn’t demand His rights, even when He was unjustly and falsely accused. He lives and died to bring peace. We are supposed to be like Jesus, adopting His attitude as Philippians 2 says. In humility, we are supposed to look out for the interests of others.
2. Careless words will break the spirit of peace at work or at home. It’s true that everyone has a right to have an opinion, but for those of us who are Christians, if we are seeking to be peacemakers, we exercise self-control and discernment when it comes to deciding whether or not we share ours. If my opinion is going to minimize or tear someone down or dismiss the contribution they have tried to make, it may not be appropriate to share.
In addition, name calling, gossip, and judgmental comments should never be a part of Christian speech.
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” When you allow yourself to become angry and defensive, what will follow will be a saltless, unproductive conversation. You won’t be making peace when you start speaking carelessly. If you keep your words full of grace and seasoned with salt, if you maintain control while you speak, you’ll be able to continue to dialogue in a way that is helpful, peacemaking and sane. You’ll know how to answer everyone. But when you forget the grace and forget the salt, you lose your cool and start to say things that are hurtful and sometimes don’t even make sense.
3. Avoiding conflict. Why do we put off much-needed conversations thinking that will “keep the peace,” when in reality it just keeps things stirred up? We’ve all done it, right? We just try to sweep something under the rug that ought to be dealt with and we are the ones who wind up with an ulcer and a headache. “Out of sight” isn’t “out of mind” because the conflict preoccupies our thoughts and stirs up anger and tension in us the next time we see the person we are at odds with. Speaking tenderly and communicating value and respect to the person you are at odds with will bring peace and resolution. As peacemakers, we are supposed to be the ones initiating these meetings of reconciliation.
If something is bothering you and you can take it to the Lord, pray about it and chalk it up to a misunderstanding or someone having a bad day and simply move on from the injury, great. If you can’t, however, and you are harboring ANYTHING against someone, Matthew 18:15 has the remedy. Go to the person and let them know that you are concerned that things may not be right between you. You don’t have to start with, “You really hurt my feelings,” or “I need to set you straight on something,” but with “I want to make sure we’re okay.” We are peacemakers when we begin healing communication.
We’ve often talked about the fact that people will know we are Christians by our love. Matthew 5:9 says that people will know we are sons and daughters of God by our peacemaking. In our peacemaking we will be known as people who belong to God. In our peacebreaking, we’ll be known as hypocrites and fakers.
Steve Sjogren, founding pastor of a large Vineyard Church in Cincinnati tells the following story:
Not long after we moved [into our first house in California], my wife, Janie, and I picked up on the tension between a couple of neighbors. One was a very outspoken churchgoer, while the other was an unbeliever. I knew I was in the hot seat when the unchurched man struck up a conversation with me as we were both working in our yards.
“Say, Steve, aren’t you a pastor?” It seems implicit in the public’s understanding that pastors exist to serve as referees in times of conflict, so I reluctantly listened as this troubled man opened up about the neighbor he’d never understood. He unfolded a long history of numerous conflicts over small issues. …
Then he looked up and sighed, “But the most recent problem takes the cake. We received a letter from his attorney threatening to sue us if we don’t trim a tree that borders his yard. It seems strange he didn’t just come over and ask me to take care of the tree before he went to his attorney.” …
With a little wink this streetwise unchurched man continued, “You know, I was getting ready to trim that tree, but now there’s no way I’m going to do anything until he forces me. I will gladly go to court just so I can have a story to tell about being sued by Christians over an orange tree.” Steve Sjogren, Changing the World Through Kindness (Regal, 2005), pp. 103-104
How sad. Why add fuel to any fire when we can be peacemakers?
Peacemakers show they are “children of God” by using every opportunity to bring about reconciliation with others. God is a Peacemaker and they are like their father. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Carl and Sam were at odds with each other. They could not even remember the initial cause of friction … but their hostility had festered through the years. A deeply concerned deacon prayed that God would use him as a peacemaker.
He called on Carl. “What do you think of Sam?” he asked. “He’s the sorriest guy in town!” “But,” countered the deacon, “You have to admit that he’s a hard-working man.” “No one can deny that,” said Carl. “I’ve never known a person who worked harder.”
Next the deacon visited Sam. “Do you know what Carl said about you?” “No, but I can imagine his lies,” he responded angrily. “This may surprise you,” said the deacon, “but he said he’s never known a harder worker.” “He said that?” Sam was stunned. “What do you think of Carl?” asked the deacon. “It is no secret that I have absolutely no use for him.” “But you must admit he’s honest in business,” said the deacon. “There’s no getting around that,” said Sam. “In business he’s a man you can trust.”
Later the deacon met Carl again. “Do you know what Sam said about you? He claims you’re absolutely trustworthy in business, that you are scrupulously honest.” “Well, how ’bout that,” reacted Carl with a smile.
Soon the peacemaking deacon noticed Sam and Carl would cautiously nod in a friendly sort of way. Before long they were shaking hands, talking, even visiting in each other’s homes. Today they are best of friends.
Instead of focusing on little annoyances, trivial matters, and that which divides us, peacemakers focus on what brings us together; the Good News of the Gospel, glorifying God and bringing comfort to others.