Is Jesus REALLY the Prince of Peace?
The world is in turmoil. I don’t know that it is in a greater state of turmoil than other times – I suspect not. But I think there is a significant sense of fear and uncertainty about the events in the world just now. There are multiple examples of conflict, violence, injustice and oppression being committed in the name of greed, power, ego, religious and political ideology. You only need to have watched the scenes of jubilation in Zimbabwe over the last couple of weeks, as they celebrate the end of a dictator’s rule, to begin to understand how much suffering those people have endured over decades.
Within our own culture we have a different tyrant taking its toll on the population; there is an epidemic of depression and other mental health problems. There is a subculture of people growing up with little education, no skills, no hope and a shortage of worthy heroes to follow. Our young people are facing pressures that our generations cannot understand. And for the majority, there is no spiritual fulfilment for them; no church, no faith, no God. I can’t make a direct causal link, but it is noticeable that people seem to be searching for meaning and pleasure in acquiring stuff, in shallow relationships, drug and alcohol use and the worship of people who appear to have it all, and yet who are really just as shallow and needy as the rest of us.
Bearing all this in mind, it seems to me that with so little peace evident in the world right now that it is a risky thing to hang a banner outside the church proclaiming Jesus as Prince of Peace. What message does that send to the general, secular, public? I can hear their response now; ‘Prince of Peace? Huh! Some prince of peace – look at the trouble in the world. What kind of God would let all this happen? What kind of God would impose all this suffering on the world?’
I know that this is one of the first lines of defence when non-believing people have a conversation with Christians about why they don’t believe in God. I know that if the atheist me had walked past a church with that banner I would have had the same response.
Proclaiming to the current world that Jesus is the Prince of Peace is issuing a challenge. Before I ask John to put this banner up on the front of our church I have to ask you a question: Are you prepared to have those conversations with people who don’t share your faith? What might be your responses in a conversation with someone who finds the idea of Jesus as Prince of Peace problematic?
Certainly you could quote the 18 bible quotes about peace that I’ve shown you. Certainly you could tell them about the names for the Messiah given by Isaiah. You could talk about God’s character, you could talk about Shalom. But how do you help people to shift their opinion that God is a monster because he allows the violence, pain, suffering and oppression that is common place throughout the world? How do you help people to understand that Jesus being the Prince of Peace has meaning for our lives today, and an impact on what is happening throughout our world at this time of fear and violence?
I have read those bible verses, and reflected upon them. I think that what these multiple verses say to me is that God sent Jesus to come to his people – God as human. God, walking among us, living a human life, feeling our pain, our pleasure, our love and our hate. God among us, knowing us, being us, and then showing us how to be the best ‘us’ possible.
God’s purpose in giving us his Son was to educate us, through Jesus’s teaching to understand God’s love for us. To help us experience his love through the actions of Jesus’ love and care, his healing, his relationship building, his passion for what is right and good and loving and kind. To show us that we can be like that too.
And in miracles, and ultimately in his death and resurrection he showed us his power. God’s power demonstrated to us in grace and love.
And he left his spirit; with us and in us, and flowing from the creation of all things, to the recreation of heaven and earth at the end times. Through his spirit we are equipped to create and recreate the love and grace that we have been shown.
Through the lessons of Jesus, through the message of Jesus, through the sacrifice of Jesus and through the resurrection of Jesus we have been guided, and continue to be led by his spirit in the ways of God. These are the ways that inform us about coming closer in relationship to God. These are the ways that help us to understand that our purpose in life is to bring heaven to earth. Each one of us. No one has less power and influence than the other. We are called to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). We are called to make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy (Heb 12:14) We are called to run from evil and do what is good. (1 Peter 3:11)
A lot of these verses are summed up in Romans 12:17-21 – Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written; “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
To overcome evil with good was a concept never considered by any philosophy or faith prior to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is revolutionary. To feed the hungry and house the homeless, to visit the prisoner, regardless of whether they are our friend or our enemy; especially if they are our enemy, is the way we bring heaven to earth. That is what Jesus was telling us. If we feed our enemy it takes all the power out of evil and they can have no alternative but to recognise the power of kindness.
As Matthew Henry put it in his commentary: “what is not easily understood by the world; that in all strife and contention, those that revenge are conquered, and those that forgive are conquerors. Be not overcome of evil.”
Let me show you a little clip that demonstrates what I mean:
The world is in turmoil. And people will scoff at Jesus being the Prince of Peace because they don’t see any evidence of it. They blame God for the evil in the world, even though it is impossible for God to do evil when he is all good. They blame God because it is too hard for humanity to take the blame for all that is wrong, even though it is humanity that has created the inequality, the oppression and the suffering through its own selfishness and greed and lust. To take the blame would mean taking responsibility, and let’s face it, taking responsibility for the turmoil we race today is daunting. But imagine what the world would look like if we overcame evil with goodness and kindness and love?
‘Too simplistic’ I hear you cry? Of course, I recognise the complexity of the problems we face. But I swear to you that God has given us the answer through Jesus Christ, and if we were brave enough to follow his teaching – if we could help more people see the beauty of God and join his way, together we could undoubtedly put an end to the evil by tackling it with good. Undoubtedly.
We may not have the power as individuals to topple dictators, or change the ideology of Isis, but we can tell everyone we meet about God’s love. We can help more and more people to come to Jesus and know God’s love. It takes courage, and a true understanding in our own hearts of what it is we believe and why. But we can. And the more people who understand it, the bigger the army of good and the wider the influence we have.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace; he showed us how to overcome hate and greed and ego and selfishness. He gave us his spirit and the fruits of the spirit are
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we choose to reject those fruits it will result in evil doing. If we embrace them, evil doesn’t stand a chance.
So before I ask John to put our banner on the wall, I would ask you to think carefully about what your response will be to anyone who questions us about it. The answer – as I was taught at college is always ‘Jesus’.