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Pastor's Corner

April 2018

Real Peace

I don’t know about you, but I place a premium on peace. I don’t like stressful situations, and I dread conflict. I would gladly sacrifice a great deal of my own needs and desires in order to maintain peace with those around me. Not everyone is like this, of course. There are those who seem to thrive on conflict—they like to throw their weight around to get what they want, and they aren’t at all scared of stepping on other people’s toes. But most of us, I think, would rather go along to get along. We prize peace.

As it happens, peace is a significant blessing mentioned repeatedly in Holy Scripture. At the birth of Jesus, the angels proclaimed “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). When Jesus had risen from the dead, He pronounced peace upon His disciples (Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 21, 26). St. Paul preaches the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). And that doesn’t begin to exhaust the scriptural witness to the blessings of peace. Clearly peace is a good thing that we Christians should always pursue!

But that’s not all there is to say about peace. We must understand that there are different kinds of peace, some good, some bad. Genuine peace with God is always something to be desired, but the delusive peace that comes from deception is a great evil. The Scriptures warn of the dangers of such false peace. Jeremiah, speaking for God, says of the false prophets of his day, “They have healed the wound of My people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). The people of Judah had angered God through their ongoing impenitence, and the false prophets curried favor with the people by telling them that God was not offended by their sins. In other words, they said, “Peace,” even though wrath was being stored up. This is a dangerous delusion that robs sinners of the opportunity for repentance and leads ultimately to condemnation.

There is also danger in prizing peace with other people too highly. We should always lead “a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). But sometimes peace with others is not possible. We may find ourselves in situations in which we have to stand up to others in order to protect and defend the neighbors entrusted to our care. Or we may be required to offend others in order to remain faithful to our God in Christ. The Word of God causes scandal wherever it is purely preached, and surely our Lord came not to bring peace, but a sword (10:34), setting the faithful against the unfaithful in every household. Peace forged with others at the cost of unfaithfulness to God’s Word is false peace, and it ends in anything but peace.

These two kinds of false peace are closely related. Often we peddle false peace with God in order to maintain false peace with our neighbors. Believe me, I have been tempted, and continue to be tempted, to seek peace with other people by proclaiming peace with God lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. I am thinking right now of specific instances in which I agonized over my duty to tell an impenitent sinner the truth about his relationship with God, or to confess what God has given me to confess even when it is sure to result in conflict. To my shame, I am also thinking right now of times when I gave in and told someone what he wanted to hear rather than what God commanded me to preach. God forgive me, and God make up for my faithlessness and bring His elect to repentance despite my failure to preach His Word aright.

The dangers of false peace are clear enough, but where does genuine peace come from? Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). Real peace comes from Jesus. Not from the fictitious Jesus manufactured by sinful hearts, but from the real, flesh and blood Jesus, who walked among the disciples, who taught in the synagogues and in the countryside, whose bold preaching of God’s unadulterated Word led to His own brutal execution. Real peace comes from the real Jesus who rose from the dead, who blessed His people with peace in the forgiveness of their sins. The world gives peace through deception, by papering over differences and healing wounds lightly. Jesus gives peace by confronting the reality of our sin head on, suffering for it, dying for it, and calling sinners to repentance. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding, the peace that comes from knowing that God is reconciled to us in Christ Jesus through His death on our behalf, the peace that comes from being certain that even if the world rages against us, God is still for us, and at the last He will bring us into His kingdom, where real peace will reign eternally. God grant us this peace, real peace, in His Son Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Pastor Neuendorf

 

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