Matthew 26:52: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”

Wer Feuer frißt, scheißt Funken. Literally – He who eats fire s**ts sparks. A masterpiece of German idiomatic art! It’s a warning – he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

If you can imagine a world not run by military power, then you can imagine God’s kingdom and what Jesus stands for. “But how else are we supposed to protect ourselves from a world infected by evil?” is the question of the day. Well, we’ve tried that approach ever since Adam left Eden, and it never intimidated evil or eliminated it. If anything, the cancer of evil has grown exponentially and infiltrated the entire fabric of human life. We’re hooked on the defense system, and it will take a revolution to change that, a revolution instigated by God Himself.

We all live in countries with a defense mechanism. We all witness violence, and we all are prone to use violence. The non-violent approach on the other hand is foreign to us. The way Jesus submitted to the Roman authorities set a precedent for all God’s children around the world. Jesus introduced us to a new chapter in the history of mankind, also illustrated in the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah described the future of mankind like this (Isaiah 2:4):

“He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.”

The non-violent approach in our day-to-day lives will eliminate our all-too-common anxieties of having to defend ourselves. What do we have to lose? We don’t have to prove anything, and we don’t have to be right. If we speak up, it doesn’t matter if people agree or disagree, listen to us or ignore us. We might have something to say, but actually, so does the person next to us. So, before speaking up it would behoove us to listen first. By doing so, we show some respect. Have you ever noticed that listening goes a long way towards developing empathy? It turns enemies into human beings. We also appear more credible in any dispute if we hear our opponents out before putting in our own two cents. Jesus always listened before He talked, and He touched many people that way.

Can you see that with this kind of attitude it’s pretty hard to imagine advancing any cause, even a good one, at gunpoint?

So what if the ultimate evil happens and our very lives are in danger?  – Even though it’s very counter-intuitive, weaponry is still not the answer. It never was. Jesus demonstrated it. So did His followers. The Jesus movement has been opposed ever since its inception by being ignored, openly ridiculed, violently cut down, all to imply that the way of Jesus has no future and neither have God’s children – and yet the opposite is true: God’s children carry our future. What is considered unrealistic and impossible will be a “dream-come-true” one day. There will be a world without weapons. There will be a world not built on blood-shed and power abuse; instead God’s world will be built entirely on love; fact of the matter is that love completely overrides evil and is much more efficient than all our sophisticated weaponry combined.

Instead of self-defense, all our capacities and resources are used for life and growth in God’s Kingdom. As soon as we live according to the principles of life and love, God’s Kingdom sprouts and spreads. Looking around us, we may detect the beginnings of God’s kingdom right here, in front of our doorsteps. We too can jump on that bandwagon and become part of His kingdom today. There’s only one catch: Yes, you’ve guessed it: We have to let go of that sword!

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth”      George Harrison

Psalm 118:5-6: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

What can people do to us? A whole lot! People can uplift us, encourage us, but they can also mislead us, shame us, and even destroy us if we let them. People influence people, and no one is immune to that.

On the other hand, however hard we try, we can’t be alone either. God created us a human society; so whether we like it or not, we need to learn how to live well with one another. The key is prayer. When everything is said and done, ultimately not our smart minds move the world; it’s our heartfelt prayers that move it. God is the heartbeat of human history. He’s the provider of peace in the middle of a crisis and redemption in the most unfavorable of circumstances.

“Deep peace of the running wave to you. Deep peace of the flowing air to you. Deep peace of the quiet earth to you. Deep peace of the shining stars to you. Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you.” (Irish Blessing)

Isaiah 9:6: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

The words of Prophet Isaiah ring in many people’s ears these days thanks to an oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, titled “Messiah”, with scriptural reference to Isaiah 9:6:

“Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”

Especially when going through troubled times, God’s peace will carry us through. Nevertheless – and this might come as a surprise – His peace can be quite controversial! Opposition was predicted to Mary and Joseph when Jesus was but a few days old.

It happened when Mary and Joseph brought their firstborn to the Jerusalem temple to be circumcised. Suddenly, a stranger approached them.  The stranger’s name was Simeon.  He asked Mary if he could hold the baby, and with Jesus in his arms he began to prophesy.  He exclaimed: “Now I can die a happy man because I have seen the One who saves, the light to reveal God to the nations!”  Before he handed the baby back to Mary he said (Luke 2:34):

“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise.  He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.”

Many years later, Jesus entered the same temple to cause quite an uproar. His follower Matthew wrote about the event in his gospel (Matthew 21:12):

“Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out all the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” 

When people began questioning Jesus’ behavior He simply stated (Matthew 21:13):

“The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”

The humble Messiah entering Jerusalem on a donkey is causing a ruckus in the temple!  How does this add up? I believe, it all goes back to the temple of our hearts.

If Peace was a coin it would have “Accept” on one side and “Reject” on the other. Taking this coin at face value means to accept peace.  Judging this coin to be a fake currency means to reject peace.  Opposition arises from these two opposing views.  The good news is that we can have tremendous peace if we accept Jesus’ peace terms.  The bad news is that we will experience a personal roller-coaster if we don’t.

Jesus’ parting words to His followers were (John 14:27):

“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.”

Having turned our affairs over to Jesus the Messiah, we have made peace with ourselves first before passing it on. Peace on earth is a revolution from within and begins in the temple of our hearts.

“Peace on Earth, peace in your heart; praise the Lord!”  Light of Christmas by Bill and Evelyn Snyder

Matthew 2:4-6: “He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

While King Herod seemed somewhat familiar with Bible prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah, he was not at all familiar with God who inspired these prophecies – and here is where the story turns tragic:  With feigned interest King Herod approached the spiritual leadership of his time to investigate the details surrounding the birth of the Messiah. He didn’t ask questions to satisfy his curiosity but to come up with an evil scheme, convinced that he could actually outwit God. He was mistaken. And in his insane attempt to kill Mary’s baby, countless mothers were bereaved of their little children. Heartbroken collective grief was wailing in the streets of Bethlehem. About this horrific event Matthew wrote in his gospel (Matthew 2:18):

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Why was the most wondrous thing the world has ever seen, the birth of the Messiah, followed by such horror? There is no easy answer to this question.  If anything, the two contrasting events reveal all the more how badly this broken world needs a Savior.

Isn’t this the old familiar tension we have dealt with throughout our lifetime?  We celebrate the beauty of Christmas while brutality assails this planet in countless wars, while in poverty-stricken areas of this world children are sold into prostitution, while God’s creation is subjected to torture and terror, while human dignity is blatantly disregarded, or, on a more personal level, while struggling with an untimely death of a loved one.  This tension we experience is called faith. In Henry Longfellow’s song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” we read:

“Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men! Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep’”

We have to trust God’s timing.  God is not dead, nor aloof and unconcerned.  He has been deeply involved in the fabric of human society when He turned a member of the Trinity over to us, and God’s Son became a human being. How much closer can God get into man’s business? Jesus, the Son of God became man to come alongside us and carry our burdens. Traveling through Israel with His disciples, Jesus compassionately reached out to the people around Him and said (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

2000 years later these words still ring true and resonate with generations of believers. Jesus is a member of the Trinity who can uniquely relate to us because He has literally walked in our shoes. Jesus is God’s gift to the world; He came to save us. It takes, however, two to save: God and you. God’s deal is to provide the help we need; yours and mine is to believe. Believing we will still go through many tough times, but we will experience God’s peace on the way.

“Peace be on Earth, announcing Jesus’ birth! The light of the Lord shines upon you.” The Angels’ Song by Bill & Evelyn Snyder

Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

If God’s peace is like a river, I want that river to take me wherever it leads, and in peace go wherever the Lord sends me.

Here is an aspect of God’s peace:  We are called to live in peace with one another as opposed to being divided in hatred and strife; we are called to respect and appreciate our differences as opposed to being hostile and resistant to anybody who’s different from us.

Actually, if it makes sense to not put God in a box, neither do people belong in one.  Let’s rather celebrate our differences instead of getting upset.  This is a good rule of thumb that can be applied to any situation where we don’t have the same outlook on life.  What if we don’t share the same political opinion? Praise the Lord for a wide variety of viewpoints!  How boring would the world be if we agreed on everything?  Praise the Lord for open-mindedness!  Could you imagine where we would be without curious and exploring people questioning the status quo?  Let’s be thankful for those questions, thankful for conflict arising out of these questions and thankful to God who guides us through the mystery and gives us peace in the midst of the unknown.

“Mystery in the mess is God’s faithfulness; He didn’t make the mess but sees us through. As we get swept away by the waves of His love we might as well enjoy the rocky ride” (Tides of Change by Bill & Evelyn Snyder)

Philippians 2:1-2: “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”

We recognize an auto immune disease when a body’s immune system goes bonkers and starts attacking and damaging its own tissues. We also recognize a family is in deep trouble when family members won’t stop hurting each other. We all need unity and peace. Our bodies can’t function without it. Societies can’t function without it.

The source of all peace, Jesus, aka the Prince of Peace, will help us pursue unity and turn us into peacemakers. Speaking of making peace: what about ending war? Wouldn’t it behoove the Prince of Peace to eliminate global warfare? Curiously, ending military conflicts have never been first on His agenda – His peace movement will eventually lead to that, but first and foremost Jesus is interested in bringing peace to the human soul. Wherever we are, whoever we are, His peace offer stands – if He finds you knocking on Heaven’s door, He will open it wide and let you in.

In the 66 books of the Bible peace is mentioned 249 times. Today’s world is riddled with friction, and this is probably the reason why the Bible emphasizes our need for peace. A disciple whom Jesus nicknamed Peter wrote in one of his letters (1 Peter 3:8):

“Finally all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.”

Believe it or not, there is such a thing as a recipe for peace! According to Peter’s recommendations, here are its listed ingredients:

  • Be of one mind – to be on the same page with another person requires a lot of communication. Do not take anything for granted. Ask questions to clarify, and explain your own thought process.
  • Sympathize – walking in someone else’s shoes is generally an eye opener.
  • Love – treat every person with respect.
  • Be tenderhearted – empathy goes a long way and is a blessing for anybody facing life’s rough patches.
  • Be humble – Remain curious what others have to say, validate people’s input.

Agreement, consensus, and harmony by no means come easy; we need a lot of help! But even if we end up agreeing to disagree, at least we show some respect for the difference in point of view without ridiculing each other. That’s what peacemakers do. We’re golden in God’s eyes if we live by those standards. So, as the coming days unfold, above all: let’s all stay gold!

Life is but a twinkling of an eye
Yet filled with sorrow and compassion
Though not imagined, all things that happen
Will age to old, though gold!  
                                (Stevie Wonder)

1 Peter 4:8: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”

Nobody is perfect. Everybody knows that. Thankfully, we believe in a gracious God who is willing to forgive if we ask Him to. He will not only forgive He will forget about it. On one hand He forgets what we have done wrong, but on the other hand He never forgets what we have done right. Isn’t that good news? It goes to show that God highly treasures all our actions motivated by love. Because God is love, He cherishes love, so much so, that He is willing to work with our flawed attempts to live a godly life. Our lifestyle of love makes up for a fair amount of personal shortcomings.

So, in the face of adversity, let’s not give up on loving people. Always seek the high road! If running out of patience, God is more than happy to help. As we work through our conflicts let’s not forget that God does not take sides, is for everybody, and loves all the parties involved. With that in mind it is easy to see that pursuing peace in controversy is what matters to God. Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, stresses the point in one of his letters (1 Peter 3:11):

“Search for peace and work to maintain it.”

This is the same Peter who attacked the people arresting Jesus with a sword to defend Him. Jesus’ reaction (Matthew 26:52): “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword.”

Using the sword and dying by the sword also holds true in the realm of verbal abuse. Like swords, words spoken in anger have a devastating effect; we can throw darts at each other during an unfriendly conversation. Throwing verbal darts at one another on a regular basis ultimately leads to the death of a relationship. So, whatever comes out of our mouth during heated discussions will set the tone in our relationships – or the lack thereof.

Pursuing peace at all costs should always be our priority. We save ourselves a lot of heartaches if we do!

Numbers 6:24-26: “May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”