Advent Reading Day 22 – Selam, No?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

Within Ethiopian culture, Peace has a major role.  It is spoken constantly from one person to another in a greeting that has become standard – Selam No?  In other words, “Is it peaceful?” or “Are you at peace?”  While peace is part of our language here, there still is much that is not peaceful.  While we live within a culture that at times can be quite passive, that does not mean that peace rules, but rather it just means that discontent gets pushed deeper.  A surface peace resides that does not bring glory to God.

We read of the angels proclaiming at Jesus’ birth – “Peace on Earth! Goodwill to Men!”  We read of the prophets who proclaimed that with The Messiah’s coming there would be peace.  Yet, we look around us and we see that war and violence rages on.   What happened?  Did Jesus truly change everything?   The easy answer that we come up with is that if everyone would just get “saved” then everyone would get along and peace would reign.  There is problem with that approach, though.  You see, Christians at times have been some of the most violent people causing great destruction.

Take for instance the 1994 civil war that left 800,000 Rwandans dead.   At the time of the civil war 80% of Rwandans claimed to be Christians.  How could this kind of destruction occur within a country that has a Christian majority?   Here’s the answer according to James Engle and William Dyrness in “Changing The Mind of Missions, Where Have We Gone Wrong” (as cited by Corbett & Fikkert in “When Helping Hurts”) “For most Rwandans, Christianity was little more than a superficial, privatized veneer on a secular lifestyle characterized by animistic values and long standing tribal hatred and warfare…The church was silent on such critical life-and-death issues as the dignity and worth of each person made in the image of God.”

These people had prayed a prayer, but had never experienced radical transformation.  Evangelism was paramount to the Gospel that they responded to, yet discipleship was lacking. They had acknowledged Jesus, but they never had let His Kingdom invade their hearts and minds.  They declared His name, but they had not been gripped by following Him into radical transformation.  Perhaps it is this same issue that leads churches to consider burning the Quran or to protest soldier’s funerals or to keep deep dark secrets while sitting in a pew?  Peace requires a radical transformation of us from the inside out by Jesus.

True Peace, Shalom (Wholeness) begins with you and I allowing Jesus in to the deepest and darkest places of our hearts.  True shalom means a wholeness in which Jesus invades every part of me and brings me peace through and through.  True shalom not only invades my Sunday morning exercise, but also invades every minute of the week.  True shalom requires a decision on my part to surrender myself fully – every last little corner and crevice – to Jesus.  Only then can I know Peace and also act in peace toward those around me.

To truly be at peace takes a radical view of discipleship in which we allow Jesus to transform the deepest parts of our heart, our mind and our brokenness.  It means that we allow Him into our hurts and our quest for justice and release to Him that which we so desperately long to hold onto.   It takes a repositioning of ourselves like James suggested when he wrote, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?”  James 4:1-4.  Ouch.  James calls it what it is.  The root of the absence of peace is the raging desires with Me.  James words come right after he talks about how “Peacemakers  who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” James 3:18.

The problem is not whether Jesus makes Peace possible, but the problem is rather whether I will allow Him to transform my desires.   The root of wholeness is bringing my desires in under the rule of God’s Kingdom.   True Peace comes when I step down off of the throne and I allow God His right and true position.   This is the hard work of peace and peacemaking as it starts with Me.

This Christmas may we know the True Peace that comes from Jesus.  The prophets foretold it and the angels broadcast it…and now you and I get to be transformed by it from the inside out.  Jesus extends this wholeness to you and I…may we (and our desires) be radically changed by Him.

Prayer: Jesus, you are the True Source of Peace.  The prophets and the angels both made that very clear.  We pray for peace in our world and that you would start in my heart.  Invade my life with your wholeness and challenge those places in me where My desires remain strong.  Bring me under your Lordship fully.  I welcome your transformation into all areas of my life.  Amen.

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