The Peace Of Christ

christmas-tree-ornament-911705-mIn Colossians Paul admonished the Church to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Apparently, then, the peace of Christ is something different from plain ol’ peace.

When I think of Christ, I’m conscious of God’s forgiveness; the great love He extends to us so that we might be reconciled to Him; the sacrifice He, the Sinless One, paid in order that we might have peace with the Father.

When I think of forgiveness and an end to a broken relationship, some of Jesus’s stories about forgiveness come to mind. One such was about a certain servant who owed an outrageous debt to his master. He begged for more time to pay up, though in reality he could never meet his obligation though he worked his entire life to pay what he owed. His master generously forgave him the entire obligation.

The servant went out and saw another servant who happened to owe him a modest sum. He insisted that he be repaid. The debtor begged for more time, but the forgiven servant refused.

When his master heard about it, he had him punished.

Why? Because he hadn’t apprehended what forgiveness is all about. The reconciliation he experienced with his master should have filled him with such thankfulness, he would want to pay it forward and let others also experience this same kind of bond.

It’s a bond of peace. It’s the end of keeping accounts. No more Peter-ish keeping score: Did I already forgive him seven times? I am not about to forgive one more of his ____. You fill in the blank.

Paul’s entire admonition about peace says this:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

I’ve thought for some time now that the “and be thankful” part seems sort of out of place. But as I began to think about Jesus’s parable, it seems clear: when we are thankful for the forgiveness we received, we are willing to extend forgiveness to others—which is the means by which we appropriate peace with one another.

If we’re holding grudges, we aren’t at peace.

If we’re plotting how to get even, we aren’t at peace.

If we’re harboring resentments, we aren’t at peace.

If we’re paying back evil for evil, we aren’t at peace

Paul says we—believers in Jesus—have been called to peace. In fact that’s precisely what Jesus did:

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35)

Ah, but that’s love, not peace.

Have you ever tried to love someone you were holding a grudge against? Or plotting against, or resenting, or gossiping about or giving the cold shoulder to or the evil eye or whatever behavior you perceived they had given you? Those things are not loving. In truth, love is the gateway to peace in the same way that forgiveness is.

It makes sense. God’s forgiveness of us didn’t happen in a vacuum, separated from His love. Nor did his love and forgiveness fall short as a means to peace with Him. It’s a package deal. We love, we forgive, we live in peace to which we’ve been called.

We are one body, and a body needs to be at peace with itself or there are problems.

Peace is pretty important at Christmas. Relatives who don’t always hang out with each other or even see one another more than once a year, get together, and there can sometimes be tensions. We are tired and busy and many have been traveling and are living out of a suitcase.

We love Christmas, but it can still be stressful.

Enter love and forgiveness, then peace follows.

Published in: on December 11, 2015 at 6:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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The Christ Of Colossians

I’ve spent the last month or so working my way through the first chapter of Colossians. Initially I thought, why in the world did I decide to tackle this rather difficult book? But that has changed to, How did I miss all these years what a great book this is?

So far I’d characterize Colossians as a book about Jesus Christ. What more can a Christian want? It’s sort of like a wife discovering her husband’s journal — the one he told her he’d written when they first met. She’d known about it before, but now, with his permission, she gets to read the thoughts he had about her in those early days.

In Colossians, it’s the Holy Spirit’s thoughts, given of course through Paul, about Jesus and ultimately about His relationship with me.

The first passage that really arrested my attention was actually one about the Father:

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. (Col. 1:12)

First, the verb “qualified” reminded me of the Olympics. Athletes work and work and work for four years in their sport to qualify for the Olympic team. Then they have preliminary rounds or races through which they have to advance if they are to qualify for the medal round and a chance to win the top award.

In this verse, though, the Father has qualified us. I don’t have to work and work and work to share in the inheritance. In fact, I could never do enough.

I could never qualify to make the Olympic team in any sport, no matter how hard I try. Even more so, there’s no way I could qualify for a share of the inheritance of the saints in Light. But the Father did what I couldn’t. He basically said, I’ve got you covered. You’re in. Qualified.

As if that wasn’t enough, the next verse elaborates:

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13)

OK, qualifying me for the inheritance was awesome, but He went further. He rescued me. I wasn’t just unqualified, I needed to be rescued.

Here I’m thinking of a story I hear about a couple that went to the former Soviet Union, I think it was, to adopt. Their account of their visit to the orphanage was heartbreaking. At every turn were children who needed to be rescued.

That was me before God claimed me for His own.

I was in the dominion of darkness.

Now you have to realize what I as a fantasy writer see in this verse. This is the story I want to write. I am unqualified, in need of rescue, trapped in the dominion of darkness. Along comes the Hero who rescues me and transfers me to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

Now we start the focus on Jesus. I’ll just take two of the gems today:

in [His beloved Son] we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:14-15a)

The Father rescues me, the Son redeems me. And that redemption is very specific: it is the forgiveness of my sins. Not just the big ones or the past ones or ones I feel really, really sorry about. He forgave me completely — even of sins I didn’t realize were sins when I first came to Him — because He paid what I owed, in total. I won’t owe again tomorrow, requiring a new payment. I’m now debt free.

Which brings up the next point. Jesus Christ could forgive in such a categorical, sweeping way because He is God. Paul brings the point home more than once in Colossians, so it’s apparently a truth he didn’t want the Church to miss:

1:19 – For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him

2:9 – For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form

Notice in that last verse that the verb tense is present. Jesus hasn’t ceased to dwell in bodily form. He has a new, glorified body, the first of its kind. But that’s a hint at what else Colossians has to say about Christ. The book is chock full of gems.

Published in: on September 6, 2011 at 6:38 pm  Comments (4)  
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