Philemon 1:3 (NIV): “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I served in the military over 32 years. Our world has wars. I have served in war zones for 6 combat tours. I’ve seen people die. I’ve conducted and overseen scores of military memorial ceremonies – I’ve lost count. Believe me, I personally prefer peace over war. Yet sometimes the violence of war is necessary to get to peace.
According to Jesus (see Matthew 24:3-8) wars and rumors of wars are signs of the end of the age. Based on that I could think that we are experiencing the end of the age now. We not only have wars involving physical violence, but we even have wars of words with our fellow citizens.
Why can’t we all just get along?
Paul used a standard greeting in many of his letters. The verse above, in his letter to Philemon, is fairly standard. He wanted peace for his readers. But the peace wasn’t just the absence of war, it was based on God and Jesus. When Paul talks about peace he is talking about the result of violence. What? Did I actually say that? Yes I did. You see, God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to die a violent death on the cross in order to satisfy the justice that God has always demanded. Sin leads to death. Jesus took our sin, therefore Jesus had to die. And He died violently.
Without the violence of Jesus’ death, I cannot have peace. Yet Paul invokes both God the Father and Jesus as the foundation for the peace that he wants for me. Every time I hear the peace that God has for me, I must remember the violence that was required. When I ponder that truth, I am brought to tears. Jesus died for me in order that I can have peace.
During this season of advent, the second week is a focus on peace. I hope that I don’t ever take for granted a peace that was somehow only associated with shepherds listening to angels. I must also embrace the cross of Jesus. Will you?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die a violent death because of my sins. Because You did, I have peace. During this advent season, may I always remember the price Jesus paid for the peace You give. Thank You that Jesus is the key for all of us to “get along.”