“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men’.” (Luke 2:13-14 KJV)
Christmas remains a wonderful time for most Christians despite the materialism and hectic schedules, and even despite all those “politically correct” efforts to appease non-Christians so they can celebrate a Christian holiday without becoming Christians.
We gather with family and friends. We enjoy giving as well as receiving. Most important, we remember the incredibly inspiring story of the birth of Jesus: Son of God, Savior and Lord!
One of my favorite moments in this birth day story is when the glorious angels visit the humble shepherds. Heaven declares to earth how the arrival of the Christ child expresses God’s good will toward mankind and God’s desire that we live in peace with Him and each other.
Yet over two thousand years later, God’s desire remains largely unfulfilled. The majority of people on earth still do not know the Father and His Son. As to peace among men, both our nation and the world seem even farther away from that than we used to be.
All we hear on the world news are reports of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Gaza, North Korea, Somalia, the Ukraine, and other “hot spots” where men hate, terrorize and kill. Closer to home, we seem to have become a nation defined by our dissension and discord.
The tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner triggered both non-violent and violent protests over what some Americans believe was excessive force motivated by racism. Other Americans gathered to support law enforcement officers and the difficult job they have, particularly when people challenge their authority and resist arrest. Politicians and media rushed in on both sides to gain favor with their support base and ratings for their networks.
So where is the truth? Two NYPD patrolmen were murdered last Saturday by a man claiming to seek revenge against the police for the death of Eric Garner. It has become very important that our nation discover the truth.
The truth is Michael Brown and Officer Darren Wilson did not have good will toward each other. Eric Garner and the officer who choked him did not have good will toward each other. Maybe it was racism, one way or both ways. Maybe it was disrespect for legal authority and a reaction to that disrespect. Maybe it was to some degree a blend of all these. In any of those scenarios, men can be injured or killed because they do not have good will toward each other. Peace requires you to have good will toward each other.
The Greek word translated “good will” in Luke’s Christmas story is “eudokia”, which means “good will”, “kindly intent”, “benevolence”, or “a desire for good things to happen to someone”. Because a loving God feels that way toward us, He sent His Son to save us.
Likewise, if men and women feel that way toward each other, we seek to help each other, not hurt each other. We solve problems together rather than seeing each other as the problem. Because we care for each other, peace is a priority. When peace is a priority, rather than just getting your own way, then peace is obtainable.
I love to cite scripture, and there is plenty of scripture to cite here. We are called to love our neighbor and our enemies. (Luke 10:27; Matthew 5:44) Strife, rivalries, dissension and division are the work of our sinful flesh, not fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5:19-21) We are to do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us, and, in short, treat others the way we want to be treated. (Luke 6:27-31) We overcome evil with good, not more evil. (Romans 12:21)
These scriptures mean little or nothing to non-Christians, of course, because they do not believe in the Bible. I am never surprised when the lost act lost. They need Jesus!
These scriptures should, however, mean a great deal to every Christian in our nation, regardless of your political party, race or socio-economic background. We are at a time of crisis. The United States is not united. Our political parties and media conglomerates are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The only way we can restore unity is to restore our good will toward each other. The only way we can restore good will is for Christians throughout America to start acting like Christ.
We serve the God of Peace. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) We are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) My prayer for 2015 is that Christians will come together over racial, political and socio-economic lines to show this nation we are united under the banner of the Prince of Peace, and that God’s good will, and our good will, are for everyone. (Isaiah 9:6-7; Ephesians 4:1-6)
As Paul told the Christians in conflict-ridden Corinth: “Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13: 11)
God bless you, and God bless our community.