“There is no peace,” says the LORD, “for the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22 ESV) What… no peace? But why? In recent years, Americans were promised hope and change. We even heard of a “fundamental transformation of America.” How are you enjoying the changes and fundamental transformations? Do you hope for more of the same? Is it working out?
Do we have “peace in our time”? Do websites blaze headlines of peace? Racism has ended. All lives matter (even babies’ lives still in the womb), right? All worldviews are equal, right? We can, as the sentimental bumper stickers tout, coexist, right? No peace for the wicked.
In the 19th century, liberal heterodox theologian Adolf von Harnack wrote of the universal fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He died in 1930. I wonder how he’d rate the 85 years of man’s brotherhood since he died. By every history book I’ve read on the last 3,000 years, the 20th century was the bloodiest since the genesis of written history. No peace for the wicked.
And yet Christ came for the ungodly. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). He came for those with ears to hear the gospel of…peace.
I was reading through lyrics to Longfellow’s “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” which read:
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day/Their old familiar carols play,/And wild and sweet the words repeat/Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I grew up amidst the singing of this song each Christmas season but never thought through the words. Introverted as I was, especially as an adolescent, I loved my family deeply but saw through the rubber band smiles we all flashed during the holiday gatherings. We acted as if we were this joyful all the time. But we all knew otherwise. I didn’t want to state the obvious because it might shatter the facades.
My mother had a beautiful voice and we were never far from a song. Each year, we gathered at my grandparents’ home in middle GA Christmas afternoons, Granddaddy would have Mom lead us all in singing Christmas carols before opening some gifts we’d placed under the Christmas tree in the living room. The refrain that ran through yuletide carols? Peace. For a brief moment of time, we sang and fellowshipped with one another, and we broke bread around the table, and it seemed as if there were peace outside. But there wasn’t. And there isn’t.
Longfellow’s poem acknowledges the same truth:
And in despair I bowed my head:/”There is no peace on earth,” I said,/“For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good will to men.”
Do we dare to be honest? There never will be true peace until we wicked are reconciled to God and each other through Christ. Because our sin justly merits God’s wrath, we’re naturally at enmity with God. But for those who are redeemed via repentance and faith in Christ alone, their status is forever changed. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5). The result? Peace. Supernatural, not natural, peace. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).
If we celebrate Christmas this year, will we have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge the historical record of Jesus–the Christ? Secularists want to rename Christmas trees “holiday trees.” Secularists have renamed Christmas holidays “Winter break.” Secularists have renamed Easter holidays “Spring break.” These are symptoms of humanistic efforts to establish peace on earth. And they fail—always.
Secular and humanistic worldviews want the redeemed to be quiet and to go away nicely. Wouldn’t it be nicer for the redeemed to be like tasteless salt—harmless, ineffective, irrelevant, and good to trample underfoot? That poses no threat to secularists’ political power. Yet Christ calls those who are His to something very different—namely, to proclaim this message: “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [God the Son/Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). The result? Peace.
It’s not Christians who are renaming history in efforts to erase people’s history. Secularists are doing that…with vitriol and through gritted teeth. What does that tell you about the “peace” they talk about?
What if, instead, some people had ears receptive to the good news of Christ the Lord, about God incarnate in Jesus? That would be cause for celebration, such that even the stones might be made to shout, would it not?
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Pr 1:7). Instead of trying to remove any vestiges of Christ, the gospel, Christianity, or holy days (now holidays), might we dare to recognize and even proclaim truth?
Peace is possible, but not through any means except Christ’s work. Secularism won’t do it; manmade treaties won’t do it; acquiescence won’t do it; pietism won’t do it.
Longfellow’s poem ends with these lines:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
Cowards abound and fair-weather prophets have larger crowds, but truth is worth it.