Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Sunday of Advent - Peace

I am already a week behind and I haven't even started yet!  I planned to write a blog a week for each of the symbolic qualities of Advent and I still plan just that.  It is just that I am now a week behind, so you will see two (hopefully) this week.  The first Sunday in the Advent Season, focuses on Peace, so without further ado, let us begin our discussion of Peace.

One of the main points we can observe about the life of Jesus is that he was a man of peace.  Even when he disagreed with others, he was careful to not unnecessarily rile his opponent.  I think this is an interesting point, and one that we often need reinforced.  We feel that to disagree with someone, especially on issues such as religion (and politics), means we must make our opponent our enemy, or demonize and totally discredit their values and beliefs.  Don't get me wrong, I know there are true enemies out there whose sole mission in life is to destroy others.  I get that.  My point is that, as Christians, we are called upon to set ourselves apart from that - take no prisoners, WIN!, mentality.  By setting ourselves apart, I mean to conduct ourselves differently than they not disassociate from them.  We are not called on to isolate ourselves amongst our own kinds, but to live in the midst of those who are different, and yes sometimes even hostile, all the while holding fast to the tenants of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Hard to do at times, yes, but we are instructed to do so nonetheless.

Some might argue that Matthew 10 is an instruction to engage in battle with those who are non-Christian (and therefore automatically considered an enemy), to use our faith as a sword to beat the other guys into submission with.  I would offer that as a misrepresentation of that scripture.  That passage is written as an account of Jesus' commissioning of his 12 personal Disciples. He knew that at that time, as they went out shaking up the countryside with tales of the Messiah, that they would encounter vast opposition.  Not only were people going to reject their message, but he knew Satan had been waked from his slumber and would fight with all of his strength to tamp down the message they were spreading.  It was a case of 'Desparate times call for desperate measures.'  He wanted his disciples to have fair warning of what they would be up against before they got into the thick of it, so as to prepare themselves in advance.  He wanted them to be proactive, not preemptive. He never said attack first and ask questions later or even to be on the offensive, out looking for trouble.  No, he simply wanted them to stand their ground, to be aware of the force with which Satan would surely unleash his disdain for the message of Christ.

We do our own selves a disservice if we are on the offensive rather than peaceful.  People begin to  mistrust us, our message become diluted to the point where it is easily washed away by the current of animosity running between us and our opponents.  It is also important to note that it is not always the non-Christians who become our enemies.  We fight amongst ourselves on points of theology and biblical ideals as if our salvation depends on us all being of one accord on every issue we run across.  It doesn't.  If it did, I fear we would all be doomed to certain death because it has never, and probably will never happen.  That is probably why Jesus cautioned that family would be pitted against family; he knew that even in the family of God we would never agree on everything.  What we are to be in agreement and steadfast about, is one thing - our belief that Jesus was/is God's son, through whom we have been offered salvation.  The rest is just something we argue about as we pass the time until Jesus' return.  Why allow Satan to have the victory of our division?  To live in peace is one of the most powerful ways we can foil Satan's plans to conquer by division.

I have been as guilty as the next person of arguing my beliefs against those of fellow Christians and while I don't feel a civil debate is a bad thing, I do think if it becomes a dividing point and pits us against one another, it is wrong.  If I have ever crossed that line, I deeply regret doing so because at the core of my soul I am a peaceful person.  Plus, I feel God has better uses for me in the building up of his arena than to spend it in heated battle of minutiae.  I still feel called to point out injustices when I see them.  That is a deep desire of mine that I believe comes from God, and I will point them out when I feel called upon to do so, but I will make every effort, as far as it is dependent on me, to live peacefully among all people (Romans 12:18), believers and non-Christians alike.  Jesus made no distinction, and neither should I.  I will prayerfully consider my actions before doing so, but I will point them out if necessary.

I think we all have issues that are near and dear to us, things we feel especially convicted of, and I think that is wonderful.  God has equipped us all with hearts that run after him in different ways, but in the same direction - toward him.  I believe that as long as bringing glory to God, while living peacefully amongst others is a priority, we will succeed in our mission.  With God's loving leadership, of course.  We should always stop and pray for guidance before we act, even when we feel especially convicted, or perhaps most assuredly when we do.  We should never mistake misplaced emotion for the passion of conviction.  After all, it is not about us being right.  It is not about us at all.  It is about God and He is the prize on which our eyes, minds and hearts should be focused.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth Peace to those on whom his favor rests ~ Luke 2:14