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Welcoming the Prince of Peace

The ninth chapter of Isaiah contains this beautiful prophecy concerning the Messianic king:

 

The people who walked in darkness

    have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

    on them light has shined.

. . .

For a child has been born for us,

    a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

    and he is named

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

(Isaiah 9:2, 6)

 

What does it mean for us to welcome Jesus? Is it even possible for us to welcome the Prince of Peace in this world torn by violence and discord?

 

We are indeed called to welcome gladly the peace and love of Christ, so that his peace becomes our own. But the peace of Christ that is poured into our hearts, if it is truly Christ’s peace, is not just for us, and not just for the people most like us.  It is to flow from us into the world around us.

But what about this troubling saying of Jesus:  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).

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 one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. (10:35-36)

Is this contrary to the peace that otherwise seems to be promised and that we are called to embody? Does this justify wars and violence?

No, the Prince of Peace does not call for violence. He is speaking here metaphorically of what happens in practice: when people become followers of Christ, they risk alienating family and friends. (See the parallel passage in Luke 12:51-53, where the word “division” is used instead of “sword.”)

Even today, there may be people, perhaps in our own families, who will disagree with us or condemn us—or even cast us out—if we are true followers of the Prince of Peace. Like Jesus, we risk disapproval, alienation, or worse if we share his love and peace, particularly with those whose lives seem to indicate that they are unworthy of the love of Christ.

We must remember, however, that we ourselves are also unworthy. We are unworthy, but we are of infinite worth. And amazingly enough, we are to be Christ-bearers in the world. We are to be bearers of the love of God, not only to the peaceful and the loving, but also to those unwilling or unable to receive the gift.

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