By Roland Clarke
One of the precious themes Christians enjoy meditating on is shalom or peace. If I were to ask a congregation, “What Bible verse comes to mind when you think of peace, I would collect quite an assortment – a beautiful bouquet – of familiar quotes including some of the following:
Colossians 1:20 explains that the foundation for peace is Jesus, the one through whom “God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.” In John 14:27 Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Matthew 5:9 comes from Christ’s sermon on the mount, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Romans 12:16-18 tells us to, “Live in harmony with each other. … Never pay back evil with more evil. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Jesus instructed his followers in Luke 10:5, “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’”
Notice how this collection includes verses that comfort and reassure us whenever we face the inevitable trials and storms of life. But there are also instructions to live peaceably with others. This bouquet wouldn’t be complete, however, without Isaiah 52:7 which inspired that well known song, “Go tell it on the mountains.” It reads,“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!”
Those of you who know me, won’t be surprised that I have chosen to emphasize the latter aspect, i.e. telling or spreading the Good News of peace. There is a time and place for focusing on the other aspects, but since I’ve been called to be an evangelist I must do as the Lord has instructed in Ephesians 4:12, “equip his people for works of service.” (NIV) The NLT puts it this way, “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
War and Peace
Sadly the opposite of peace is war. And we are seeing plenty of that today. Of course, God foreknew this, in fact, the Bible predicts there will be terrible wars in the last days, but eventually peace will prevail across the whole world. My aim is to unfold God’s plan, showing how peace will come through God’s Messiah, the Prince of Peace.
Since 9/11 when Al Qaeda attacked America there has been a continuous barrage of Jihadist attacks not just against Americans but increasingly against anyone who is non-Muslim. Among the Middle Eastern extremist groups perpetrating these attacks are ISIS, Hamas, Taliban and Hezbollah. This latter group is supported by the radical Iranian regime. However, Africa has also seen a resurgence of extremists in Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Libya. All these areas have seen an escalation of persecution against Christians as well as atrocities against many thousands of fellow Muslims who don’t toe the line. And let’s not forget the longstanding war by the PLO sharing the same objective as Iran – the extermination of Israel – albeit using peace negotiations as a stepping-stone. Make no mistake about it: all these jihadist groups are united by a common hatred and determination to annihilate Israel.
We may think these conflicts hardly affect us because we live so far away, but they do. Consider how prone people are to take sides: Muslims – even moderates – sympathize with the Palestinians and many Christians tend to support Israel. However, in spite of these polarizing trends, God wants us to stand in the gap and be peacemakers. This means we should love even our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44-46)
In fact, this situation affords us an opportunity to share the Good News of peace, as it is written, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings…” (Isaiah 52:7, NIV) Notice the word feet. What do we use feet for? Going to places! This brings to mind the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel … go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) This, in turn, reminds us of Ephesians 6:15, which says that as part of our armour we need shoes for our feet, “having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” (ESV) Click here to keep reading.