This is a season of hoping for peace on earth and goodwill among men. And why should we not hope? The angels announced it to be so at the birth of Jesus. Yet, where do we find ourselves two thousand years later? In our nation, the anxiety levels are on the rise as one killing event after another is thrust into the 24-hour news cycle leaving one to wonder, “Will it ever stop?” 2015 will not go down in the annals of history as a year of peace.
The New York Times ran a story today, “Fear in the Air, Americans Look over Their Shoulder,” which explores the increasing anxiety, fueled by tragedies like the most recent attacks in California and Paris. No place seems safe anymore — going to school, eating in a restaurant, watching a movie at the theater, attending a concert, shopping in the mall, going to a Bible study at church, and going to work are all killing grounds. The author of the article wonders, if there’s no safety in those places, is safety even a realistic expectation any more? A 62-year old grandmother in Austin, Texas was exasperated that her country can’t solve this problem. A 23-year old Cleveland girl said it all makes her “hate this world.” The tangled emotions leave some desensitized, while others are bewildered, angry, and asking, “Why must I feel so helpless? What kind of world must my children live in? Why won’t it stop already?”
Talk of peace lends itself to pious platitudes so often disconnected from reality. But I’d like to venture a theological explanation for the absence of peace on our streets, in our homes, and in other ordinary venues of life.
The fact is humans simply cannot build the kind of world they want to build. The human race wants a world of peace, pleasure, and prosperity, but their starting point is all wrong because it is Self: “I want peace, pleasure, and prosperity first and if I get it then I’ll think about getting it for you, too. But if I don’t get it neither should you.” The world wants what it wants, but it wants it without God. Without God as the cohesive center, every individual and every group are left to themselves to figure out how to achieve this dream. Without God, it leaves Self or a collection of Selves at the center. As long as that is true, this world will not experience the peace, pleasure, and prosperity it so desperately longs for. Seven billion people will never unite on their own for the universal good of mankind to the glory of God.
As all pretense of honoring God evaporates from our culture under the constant heat of godlessness, peace vanishes with it. Thousands of years ago, the prophet Jeremiah spoke to his nation which had known the gracious hand of God, but had turned away from Him. They were experiencing the consequences of their decision and longing for peace. Our nation needs to take to heart his timely words.
To whom can I speak and give warning?
Who will listen to me?
Their ears are closed
so they cannot hear.
The word of the Lord is offensive to them;
they find no pleasure in it.
But I am full of the wrath of the Lord,
and I cannot hold it in.
“Pour it out on the children in the street
and on the young men gathered together;
both husband and wife will be caught in it,
and the old, those weighed down with years.
Their houses will be turned over to others,
together with their fields and their wives,
when I stretch out my hand
against those who live in the land,”
declares the Lord.
“From the least to the greatest,
all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike,
all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people
as though it were not serious.
‘Peace, peace,’ they say,
when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them,”
says the Lord. (Jeremiah 6:10-15)
Where there is no godly shame, there can be no peace. Where the Word of God is resisted, there can be no peace. Where preachers give false hope through feel-good sermons, there will be no peace. I guess that’s as good a theological answer I can give to the mournful question, “why won’t it stop?” As long as we (Self) are the center there will be no peace.
The hope for peace inspired by this season does not rest in any of us, but in the birth of a child whose name shall be called “The Prince of Peace.” O that our world would receive Him!