What hope for peace when there’s so much conflict?
Verse 7 continues… “Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end...” In these words, the prophet Isaiah foretells the birth of the only one in all of history who can bring peace. Jesus.
But in a world so riven with conflict, and where each of us has had such a tough, tough year, what does it mean that of the greatness of his peace there will be no end?
It’s been a tough year
As we look around the world this year, it seems there’s conflict and suffering on every side. I actually don’t need to document them all here, because you know them already. You’ve lived through so many tough things yourself. Some of them people know about and others they don’t. Some of them relate to what’s happening globally, or nationally or just in your home city or town. And some of them are just about you or your family or your friends.
It’s been the same for me and the people I’m close to. There have been conflicts and loss. Terrible health crises. Some of my friends have seen bullying or unfair behaviour at work and with friends (but just to be clear – I’m not talking PeaceWise here! – which has been a place of joy and unity). There have been stories of tragedy and suffering.
So where’s the peace, you ask?
Does the promise of peace mean the absence of conflict?
The prophet Isaiah speaks with such optimism and promise. He announces that a time is coming when the great God of the whole universe will somehow be born into our world – and he will govern it as its ruler. But not as one who governs with an iron fist. He will be wonderful. He will be mighty. He will be the Prince of Peace.
This world is no longer how he made it – the Genesis account tells us how the beautiful creation is now marred and bearing the scars of our ignoring God’s good guidance on how to live in it (see Genesis 2-3). Now, we see Paul writing of a world which “groans as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 12:22). The perfect relationship between God and his people is broken too – sin has entered the world – and with it conflict too.
The peace that Isaiah is writing of is and that Jesus brings is not the there will be an absence of future conflict and suffering in the world. So if it’s not that kind of peace, what kind of peace is it?
Peace between us and God
Jesus came with the singular mission of bridging the chasm between us and God. John makes this patently clear: “For God did not sent his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17). Jesus is our hope of a way back into relationship with God – the only true place where peace can be found.
How do we get this peace? Through placing our hope and trust in Jesus. Through acknowledging him to be just exactly who he is – our Everlasting Father, Wonderful Counselor, our Prince of Peace (and note the hints of the three-personed God in how Isaiah writes).
We take into our hearts and minds, as a statement of identity and life purpose and core belief, what John says in the preceding verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that everyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Accepting Jesus for who he really is brings peace. It means we are reconciled to God, our sins are dealt with, and we have a place with him forever into eternity.
And yet, when we accept Jesus, our conflicts and sufferings don’t simply end. We are still living in the same world, with all its challenges. But we are able to see and experience them differently. Not that they don’t still hurt, cause our hearts to cry out, sometimes till we feel like we have no more tears to cry and nothing more to give.
But we no longer have to carry those burdens alone. Instead, we can bring them to God, ask for his comfort, rest in his love and be at peace even in the midst of the challenges of life. We bring our heart cries to God himself:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
In bringing our burdens to Jesus, we are able to find comfort and rest for our souls – to be able to continue with hope and optimism, acceptance of sadness, healthy grieving as it’s needed, and a dependence on God for our present and future (see also Matthew 11:28-30 and 2 Corinthians 1: 1-7).
Being at peace, we can bring peace
The peace which transcends all understanding – that strangely incongruous ability to still be at peace when life is throwing the book at us – gives us a place from which we can be bearers of peace to others. In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul writes of us as his ambassadors of reconciliation – that we are to bring the beautiful hope and message of reconciliation to others. We offer others the hope of peace with God.
At the same time, we are called to be peacemakers. Flowing from the peace which we ourselves know, which courses through our veins, we seek to be people who breathe hope and kindness and love into the troubled relationships of our world. In our families, in our churches, in our workplaces, amongst our friends, with whoever we engage with, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. It is not an optional extra – something we do if we feel we have the gift. It is a call from the Prince of Peace himself:
As Christmas approaches, we will likely have great opportunities to be peacemakers! I urge you to be the one who seeks to bring peace into any conflicts your family may face at this time.
But more than that, my plea to you is to take seriously Jesus’ call on your life. This world needs you to be a peacemaker, not just at Christmas, but each and every day. To show people Jesus. To be Jesus to people. To be a bearer of peace to people everywhere.
This is a life vocation worth investing into. May the Lord bless you richly as you do.