Colossians 3:15“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
The peace of Christ is one of the more popular Christmas themes. “Peace on earth” the angels sang. But this is not the popular idea of peace. It’s not about getting our soldiers out of harm’s way overseas or getting our politicians to get along. In writing about “Peace on earth,” columnist Austin Bay recently told about a U.S. Marine Colonel serving in East Africa in 2005. He described his mission this way: “We’re involved in waging peace.” Conflict still troubles the region.
Fifteen years earlier, just after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a hippie retread challenged this same columnist on a college campus, “You write about wars, don’t you? With the end of the Cold War and so many people waging peace, you will have to write about something else, eh?” But her optimism for an end to war was short-lived. Within six months the Persian Gulf War began. The U.S. Marines’ approach to waging peace is still needed. We might share the hippie activist’s disappointment over the war and bloodshed, but it is not peace from such things the angels were singing about Christmas Eve.
It’s not what Paul was writing about in his letter to the Colossians, either. This is peace for the heart. This is peace between God and man. This is peace in knowing God loves me, he doesn’t hate me. This is peace in knowing God forgives me, he doesn’t condemn me. This peace is the relief of knowing that with God on my side, nothing can truly harm me, even if I am stuck in the middle of a war, or in the grip of poverty, or in the clutches of death itself.
When God’s grace in Christ has made our hearts so new, and given us such peace, then we are enabled to live at peace with others who share that peace, “since as members of one body you were called to peace.” Once this peace lives in our hearts, it rules them. The word Paul uses for “rules” is a sports term. It is the work of an umpire or a referee. Such officials keep the game from getting out of control, and God’s peace in our hearts has the same effect on us. It settles us and calms us and in a gentle way. It keeps us under control so that we can live at peace with others.
God’s love and peace naturally lead us to the next of Paul’s encouragements: “And be thankful.” Regardless of how many gifts were under your tree, or how plump your Christmas goose was, you and I have countless reasons to be thankful. The spiritual and eternal blessings of the Savior born in Bethlehem defy enumeration. Their value can’t be measured. Even an honest inventory of our earthly blessings reveals that the good things God has given us in our bodies, our possessions, and our world, far outweigh the bad. All the Lord’s goodness makes it possible for us to be thankful.
And doesn’t such a thankful attitude change our lives for the better? Isn’t hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are praising God for his gifts and graces? Isn’t it hard to be depressed when the Lord has opened our eyes to all the ways in which he has blessed us? Doesn’t he fill us with contentment when we take time to thank him for the many good things we enjoy? In yet another way we see God’s peace ruling our hearts by transforming the lives of those who have discovered his grace.
Jesus came to wage God’s peace on earth. Let his peace with you rule your heart.