[I will not be posting on Wednesday, Christmas Eve. I trust that the Lord gives each of you a blessed Christmas.]
It must be because we have the message of the angels and the Christmas cards to prove it. “Peace on Earth, good will toward men.” Jesus came to bring peace: to eliminate hostility, to bring people together, and create good will among them. These sentiments add warmth and joy to the Christmas season.
However, Matthew 10:34-36 serves as a pesky passage that disturbs these cozy Christmas feelings:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.
Here we find Christ Himself pronouncing that He did not come to bring peace. In case we miss this message in Matthew, Luke 12:15ff repeats it for us.
One serious problem with this passage is that it just would not work on a Christmas card, especially one sent to family members.
But an even more serious concern with this passage resides in its seeming conflict with the message from the angels. What happened to “peace on earth, good will toward men”? That is the King James and New King James version of the phrase in Luke 2:14. Most of the other translations probably more correctly read something like the New American Standard Bible: “And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” The ESV has exactly the same wording.
Therefore, the message of peace announced by the angels was not pronouncing peace to all men but only those with whom God is pleased.
And who might those be? We find the answer in Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” God is pleased with those who have entered the Kingdom of heaven by faith and whose lives reflect that faith—life in that kingdom.
However, as Matthew 10:34-36 warns, people living in the spiritual realm, reflecting its values and lifestyle, will find themselves at odds with those totally committed to earthly life and values, especially those closest to them such as family.
Christ came to bring peace, but not at the expense of righteousness. His peace is with those who have been granted positional righteousness through saving faith and who display behavioral righteousness through walking according to that faith.
We find this truth expressed in Hebrews 7:1-2
For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,”
I agree with many commentators who believe that Melchizedek was in fact Jesus Christ, making one of His several pre-incarnate appearances. In that role He appears as “King of Righteousness” and “King of Peace.” Notice how these two roles are inseparable. Without righteousness there can be no peace.
There seems to be an attitude among believers today that if hostility exists they must have done something wrong. Of course, that may be the case. All of us have created bad feelings through wrong behaviors or even right behaviors done in the wrong spirit. However, the verse above tells us that righteous living will engender hostility. Likewise, the church often feels that if there is a conflict between them and certain groups such as the homosexual community, they must be in error. But as Paul warned in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
The message of Christmas is not peace to all, which constitutes peace at any price including the price of righteousness, but rather it is a message of peace to those who have received God’s righteousness by faith and reflect a pattern of righteousness through a walk of faith—people with whom He is pleased.