Jesus - Our Peace
Fr. Thomas Hopko · February 13, 2010
Peace is not simply the absence of conflict but rather a virtue reflecting the character of God Himself.
We are continuing now our reflection on the various names and titles for our Lord Jesus in the Holy Scripture. And today we want to meditate a bit, think about, the fact that the New Testament, very particularly the letter to the Ephesians specifically says that Christ is our peace. And we know that peace, Christ as the peace, the peace of God, that that is a very, very important title for Jesus in the Holy Scripture. Peace in general in the Holy Scripture is a very important reality. The very kingdom of God is identified with peace, the shalom, the shalom of God, when everything will be at peace, when all of creation will be at peace with God, that all of creation will be at peace with all of the other creatures. Every creature will be at peace with every creature. Also every creature will be at peace with himself or herself, that there will be inner peace, peace within a person, harmony within the human person of mind and soul and heart and body and passions and emotions and feelings and actions: that there will be a total peace, kind of a rest.
And this concept of peace is not—simply should not be understood simply as a kind of absence of conflict or certainly not simply an absence of war or military activity, but it is a virtue, you might say that it is a content of Divine life itself. Our God is the God of peace, and the Holy Scripture speaks that way a lot of times about not only the peace of God, but the God of peace, the lord of peace. Then it speaks about the peace of Jerusalem, and then you have all these teachings about peace, the gospel of peace, the way of peace, the covenant of peace, the man of peace, the peacemakers, the makers of peace, the children of peace. Shalom is a very central. And even the greeting among the people at the time of Christ was “peace be to you”. “Shalom halehikim”, peace be to you. When people would meet each other, they would say, peace to this house, may peace come upon this house. And it’s not just the absence of strife, it’s a presence. It’s a very divine presence.
In fact, the Apostle Paul defines the kingdom or the kingship of God as the peace and the joy and the righteousness in the Holy Spirit. Now for Christians, Christ is peace. Christ is God’s peace. Christ is the God of peace. Christ is the Lord of peace. Christ brings to the world peace. When he is born, the angels sing Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth Peace, Goodwill Among Men. Eudokian, God’s benevolence among men and to the world in the person of Christ and every human being who really wants to be human has to want to be at peace and want to be in peace and to have an inner peace, a personal peace, a social peace, a cosmic peace, even a celestial peace, even that there would be peace in heaven, that the bodiless would not be struggling, Michael against the devil, the fallen angels and so on, but that peace would be pervading the whole of God’s creation.
Now, in the Holy Scripture where you have exactly that sentence, he is our peace, that’s just a quotation of the second chapter of the letter to the Ephesians. There the context is very specific, but we begin with it because that’s the place where Jesus is simply called our peace. He is our peace. And in that context, what it is speaking about, is the peace between the Jews and the Gentiles, between God’s elect chosen people Israel, chosen to suffer for him, to produce the Messiah for the salvation of the nations, and then peace with all the nations. That there would be peace on earth and that he is the content of that peace. So, let’s just read it. This is what the letter says: He, Christ, Jesus Christ, is our peace. He has made us both, that is Jews and Gentiles, one. He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances that he might create in himself one new human, one new man, “keinos anthropos”, a new human being in place of the two old humanities, Jew and Gentile, thus or thereby making peace, and might reconcile us both for God that is both Jews and Greeks and reconciliation is a huge issue again in Holy Scripture, a huge teaching. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, reconciling people to one another, bringing peace among people. So it says, he might reconcile us both Jews and Gentiles to God in one body through the Cross.
So through the cross of Christ, all humanity becomes what it was created to be in the beginning, one body, one humanity. And then it says, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. So all the hostility is brought to an end, and then it says, it continues, and he came and he preached peace to you who were far off, that means the Gentiles, and peace to those who were near, that means the Jews, for through him, we both, Jew and Gentile have access in one Spirit to the Father. So he makes us one body of the one Christ through the one Spirit to the one God and Father. Therefore, you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, so everyone becomes fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the spirit.
So Christ is the peace. He is our peace. He has made peace, and he, of course is the one who is referred to in Isaiah, in the prophet Isaiah, which is sung here at Christmastime: that canticle of Isaiah where it says that the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them the light has shined, and then you have these lines, very familiar to Christians especially during the Christmas seasons which is now behind us, and it says “for unto to us a child is born.” Unto us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders and his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. In the Hebrew text, it says Everlasting Father. That doesn’t exist, by the way, in the Greek translation of the Holy Scripture, but what we want to see here is Prince of Peace. And of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end. Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore, the zeal of the Lord will do this.
Now, Christians read those words of Isaiah and apply them to Jesus. In fact, it also calls him the father of the age to come, meaning he’s the one who gives birth, not gives birth, but rather begets the coming age. He is the generator, so to speak, of the coming age which is the age of the kingdom of God, which is the age of cosmic peace, when the lion and the lamb lie down together, and eat straw together, and the people beat their swords into plowshares, and just peace reigns upon earth. Now this expression Prince of Peace, it means that he is not only the king whose kingship of peace will endure forever, but that word prince means that he’s kind of the source of all peace. He is the fountain of peace. He is the one from whom the peace comes, and he is the very peace itself and that’s what we are saying very strictly and straightforwardly right now. He is the peace. He is the content of the peace. The source of the peace, the maker of peace, the bringer of peace, the content of the peace, he is the peace itself.
And here in Orthodox tradition, it’s important to understand or we can just remember this now, that in the capital city in the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople, there were several churches dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ in that city, the great large one, the great church of the city was Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, which was the Holy Wisdom Church dedicated to Christ as Holy Wisdom. But there was also in the city a church called Hagia Anastasia, Holy Resurrection, and that was a church dedicated to Christ as The Resurrection. It wasn’t St. Anastasia, just like Holy Wisdom was not St. Sophia as a woman saint, but it was wisdom and resurrection, but there was also a wonderful church in that city called Hagia Ireni, Holy Peace, and that was not a church dedicated to St Irene, Ireni in Greek is the word for peace. It was a church dedicated to Christ as our peace.
Now, when we think of Christ as our peace, we also have to think and can think obviously immediately of the fact that in the Holy Scripture, he is identified with Melchizedek. He is the one who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. And that comes mainly in the Old Testament, not only from the Genesis account when Abraham is coming back from the slaughter of the kings as it says in the letter to Hebrews, and Abraham is victorious over the adversaries, then there appears to him, there comes to see him, this very strange figure who is called Melchizedek and Melchizedek comes to Abraham when Abraham is on his way from the victory. And this Melchizedek is called the melchi-zedek - the word means king of righteousness as it says in Hebrews 7 commenting on this text, but it also says that he is the king of Salem and Salem is peace. He is the king of peace. So this is exactly what it says in Genesis. After Abraham’s return from the defeat of the kings Chedor, Laomer, and the kings who were with them, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the valley of Shachbeth, that is the king’s valley, and Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High , and he blessed it and said blessed be Abram, by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth and blessed be the God Most High who has delivered your enemies into your hands, and then it says that Abraham gave him tithes of everything that he possessed. And in the letter to the Hebrews, it will say that this Melchizedek is the prefiguration of Christ himself.
Now, in the New Testament, the most repeated of the entire Old Testament, if you just counted them up, the most repeated line in the New Testament of the Old Testament is the first verse of the Psalm 110, “the Lord says to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool” and that is repeated again and again. It’s repeated by Jesus in the Synoptic gospels when he says, when the Messiah comes, whose son will he be? When they say Son of David, he says why then did David inspired by the Spirit, say the Lord says to my Lord sit at my right hand, until all the enemies are put under your feet, and the putting all of the enemies under the feet of Jesus exalting him in the resurrection is the very gospel itself. We know that Peter actually quoted this very text on the very first Christian sermon in Christian history on Pentecost in Jerusalem. The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, and that Lord who is sitting at the right hand with all the enemies under his feet. And as the Apostle Paul says, all of the enemies of God have to be put under the feet of Jesus. The last enemy is death itself and then Christ will offer all things to the Father, and then God will be all in all, and the peace of God will reign throughout the whole of creation. That comes at the parousia. That comes at the end of the age.
But in this Psalm that begins, “the Lord says to my Lord sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”, it continues: the Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your foes. Your people will offer themselves freely on the day you leave your host upon the holy mountain. And then you have: out of the womb before the morning star have I begotten you. The Lord has sworn will not change his mind, and then you have that line. You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.
Now, let’s hear now how this is referred to in the Letter to the Hebrews. The reference to Melchizedek is all over the place in the Letter to the Hebrews. And we’re going to enter Great Lent pretty soon, and all the readings during the Great Lenten season are from the letter to the Hebrews, and you will be hearing this Melchizedek mentioned again and again, just like he was mentioned on the liturgy of the Nativity of Christ on Christmas. That was the entrance hymn at the liturgy. The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand. You are a priest forever. Out of the womb before the morning star have I begotten you. You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. This was at the very center of the services for the birth of Christ. Then we’re going to hear it again through Lent, and we’re going to hear it again at the death of Christ, the passion of Christ, that he is this king. And of course, Melchizedek’s offering with Abraham in Genesis was bread and wine. He offers bread and wine, and the bread and wine will become the broken body and spilled blood of Jesus the Messiah himself.
Now, in the Letter to the Hebrews its says, for this Melchizedek king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, this Melchizedek. By translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the son of God, he continues a priest forever. And then it says that Jesus becomes a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek: not Aaron, not Levi, not the Old Testament priesthood, a new priesthood. The priesthood of his own self-offering, and this new priest who arises in the likeness of Melchizedek has become, according to St. Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews, a priest forever by the power of his indestructible life witnessed to by that line: you are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek, appointed not by men, and not by biology, and not by blood, but permanently and forever by God himself to make the perfect self-offering that brings peace to the world and then brings also the peace of God to all creation at the end in his second coming.
And that’s why when Orthodox Christians, ancient Christians, celebrate the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Eucharist, we are constantly saying through the whole service, peace be to you. We begin the service, in peace let us pray to the Lord, for the peace from above, from the salvation of our souls, for the peace of the whole world, for the welfare of God’s holy Churches, for the union of all nations, let us pray to the Lord. And then we say peace be to you, and to your spirit the people say to the bishop or the presbyter who is serving. And then when we actually offer the bread and the wine, which is what Jesus offered at the supper, which is prefigured in Melchizedek, the king of peace and the king of righteousness. How do we begin? We say a mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise. That’s the kind of strange expression, but it seems what it means is this is the offering for mercy. This is the offering for peace. This is the offering for praise, and today we’re focusing on that peace because in the Levitical codes there were all those offerings. There were thank offerings, praise offerings, peace offerings, guilt offerings, offerings for forgiveness of sins, redemption offerings, all kinds of offerings. And Christ fulfills them all, and they are all an offering of peace. They are for the peace of the whole world. They are the peace that was proclaimed at Christmas, the peace that will reign in the coming age.
So, theoretically, allegedly, hopefully, really, when we are in church, we are in that peace. We live in that peace. We taste that peace. We experience that peace which in the Holy Scripture is called the peace that passes all understanding. That’s what Jesus said in the speech and prayer in John. Peace I leave to you, my peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. And he gives the peace that passes all understanding. The peace of God himself, and the peace that God himself is, and that peace that God himself is, is Christ himself. Christ himself. And he makes peace through the blood of the Cross. That’s how he makes peace. That’s how the peace is enacted. That’s how the peace is given, the peace that he, himself, is.
Now, when we think further about this, there are several things that we have to say. First of all, we must say that a Christian, a believer, must become himself or herself, peace. We who believe must be in this world the presence of God’s peace. Made according to the image and likeness of God, made to be by grace and faith that everything that Christ himself is, we are supposed to bring to the world an embodied, an actualized, realized, in our own life, the peace of God. So that’s the first task that we must accomplish, so to speak, or we could even say it’s the fundamental task that is on-going. All our whole life we are striving to be at peace: to be in peace, to be peace, to be peaceful, full of peace, witnesses to the covenant of peace, the way of peace, the gospel of peace, to be men of peace, to be children of peace, to be makers of peace. Now, Jesus in the Sermon on the Mountain said blessed the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God, the children of God.
Actually it says sons in there because even the women have the status of sons in the final covenant. In Christ, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, female, Gentiles, slaves are everything free Jewish men are, and they are all to be peace. And of course, we can add here, to remember, we are supposed to be everything that Christ is. We’re supposed to be the presence of mercy, the presence of kindness, the presence of God’s love, the presence of truth, the presence of wisdom, the presence of knowledge. We are supposed to embody in our own flesh as Jesus Christ did all of the virtues and splendors and powers and qualities and characteristics and properties of God himself, and the heart of them all is peace, this sophianic peace. Wisdom and peace, by the way, kind of go very close together in Holy Scripture because you can’t be at peace unless you are a wise person. If you’re a fool, you’re not at peace. And so, Sophia, hokmah in Hebrew, it has this kind of connotation of everything being in harmonious and at peace. Everything being what it is, how it is, in proper relation to everything else forming a whole total communion of divine reality whose content is peace. No strife, no hostility, no aggression, no quarreling, no enmity, no envy, no provoking one another as the Apostle Paul keeps repeating in his epistles, no angering one another, not jealous of one another, not envying one another. And here there is also a connection of peace with poverty because when you are full and full of yourself, then you are not at peace. But when you become completely empty and are filled just totally with the grace of God and become a vessel of God’s gracious presence, then you are a person of peace.
Now, the teaching of ancient Christianity, certainly the teaching of Orthodox Christian saints would be, if we are not people of peace, we’re just part of the trouble. We have to be people of peace. We have to be presences of peace, makers of peace, and we can only do that if we are at peace within ourselves. In the gospels, Jesus, when he was accused of casting out demons by demons and by Beelzebub, Jesus said the house divided against itself cannot stand. I can’t resist saying that. So many people think that Abraham Lincoln made up those words to apply to the federation of the states in the United States of America because he used that line in one of his speeches, Abraham Lincoln, a house divided against itself cannot stand and all this house divided, but in the original context, that was a word of Jesus spoken about a person. When he speaks about a house divided itself, he means an individual person. An individual person cannot be a house divided against himself.
We cannot be divided interiorally, we have to be united interiorally and therefore be at peace. All the elements of our humanity as I already mentioned, mind, soul, will, heart, speech, body, feelings, passion, emotions, must all be at peace, must be at peace. And if we are not peaceful persons, we are just part of the trouble. We’re part of the hostility, enmity, competition, envy, struggle that we see so much belonging to corrupted human beings. And even in the Old Covenant, we hear how the prophets who prophesy against the false prophets who say peace, peace, where there is no peace. We proclaim that there’s peace, but there really isn’t any peace. But the peace according to the Christian teaching comes from within a person. All evil comes from within the person, and as Jesus says, we’re not defiled by what goes into our mouth like foods and things, we should remember that during Lent, but we’re defiled by what comes out of heart, all angerness, bitterness, envy, strife, striving, Jesus says that in the gospels.
So the first task when we think of Jesus as peace, our peace, is that we must be peace also. Each one of us individually as a person has to be at peace. Peace with God. Peace with one’s self, peace with nature. Peace with other human beings. We have to be bearers of peace, and by God’s grace and by faith in God, we can be peaceful persons. Now St. Seraphim of Sarov, as we know, the great Russian saint, referring to Macarius of Egypt, actually, he said “the whole meaning of life is to acquire “the peaceful spirit” or the spirit of peace. If you speak Hebrew, it would be “the spirit of peace.” That’s the meaning of life: to acquire the spirit of peace. The Holy Spirit is the spirit of peace. That’s the auto bon, that’s the guarantee, the foretaste, the earnest, the pledge of the coming kingdom of God which will be the kingdom of peace.
So we have to be people of peace in the midst of all kinds of strife and difficulty and terror and war and calamities, to be at peace. And St. Seraphim says, if we acquire the Holy Spirit of peace, God’s spirit of peace, he said thousands around us will be saved, will be healed, will be saved. But if we don’t acquire the spirit of peace, then we’re just contributing to all the madness of hell that is around us. So the first thing is our personal peace, to be peaceful persons. And this is only possible by the Spirit of peace. It’s only possible by God, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, just like everything. You know, we always remember how when the Apostle Peter said to Jesus, Lord who can do, who can do what you teach? Who can actually be poor, pure in heart, who can be peacemaking, who can be suffering for righteousness’ sake, who can be merciful, who can do those things? Who can bless those curse and pray for those who abuse and love their enemies and let them strike them on one cheek and strike them on the other cheek and when they ask them for their coat, they give them their shirt too, and they share everything and they love with the love of God. Who can love with the love of God, which is a peaceful love? Who can do it? Jesus didn’t say try harder and by willpower you can make it and go to the proper spiritual guide or psychiatrist or something, and you’ll make it. He said no, with human beings this is impossible, just impossible. But with God everything becomes possible, even to be a peaceful person in this corrupted world, and we might even add a peaceful person in our very troubled churches because boy, our churches are not at peace. They are not. The people in them are not at peace. The leaders are not at peace.
Now, Jesus gives us that peace. He is that peace. He gives us the spirit of peace. And then once, or to the measure that if we’re more modest, if to the measure that we are at peace, we bring peace to others, we bring peace to our churches, we bring peace to our world, we bring peace to our nations. We can be icons of peace. We can be martyria martyrs for peace. And all the martyrs were peaceful. No martyrs were ever upset or angry at the person who killed them. And in the earliest stories of the martyrs that we have, the accounts of martyrs, they peacefully forgave even the people who killed them. I can’t lie, I have to tell you that in later lives of saints and more towards the Middle Ages, you have martyrs telling those who killed them, you’re going to burn in hell and God’s going to destroy you and you’re going to be eaten up by worms and all that. But in the early Christian martyria, that wasn’t the case. Stephen says, Father, do not lay this sin at their charge. Jesus himself on the cross says Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do. And all of the early Christian martyrs, martyria, was not only that they died, but that they died in peace. They died in peace, and we continue to pray in our great litany at the Divine Liturgy for a peaceful ending to our life. A Christian ending to our life: painless, blameless, and peaceful, peaceful. And a good defense before the judgment seat of Christ.
So we’re supposed to be peaceful even facing our own death even when other people are killing us, we are supposed to be at peace because we trust God. And we trust that kingdom of peace that is coming at the end of the age. The kingdom of peace is only coming at the end of the age. The kingdom of peace is actualized on earth only in saints. It is not given to the world as a whole yet. Yeah, Jesus, the Savior, the Prince of Peace brings peace to the world, but that peace only comes at the end.
So, we have to be peacemakers and people of peace, and preach the gospel of peace, and exercise the actualities of peace in our actual everyday behavior, and then we will be with Christ who is our peace. But there’s one more point that must be mentioned and that is this: that that peace comes only at the end. And Jesus himself, even when he was brought to the temple as a little child, Simeon said to his mother, your son is going to be a sign of contradiction. Your son is going to be for the rising and falling of many in Israel. He is going to be a sign that is spoken against. He’s going to be a scandal. Jesus is going to cause people to be at enmity with each other. They’re going to argue and fight about him. And some are going to accept him and some are going to reject him and then they’re going to be at war with each other and so, and so we should not be so incorrect, not only naïve, but we should not be so wrong. It’s just plain wrong to think as you hear on radio and TV during Christmastime, around Christmastime, you always hear the commentators say or the newscasters, today the Christians are celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace, but even still in the Holy Land, they just blew up 14 people and Bethlehem was just, you know, attacked by the soldiers of I don’t know who, which side is now attacking, etc, and they’ll say where is this peace that Christ said that he was going to bring to the world and all that kind of thing.
Well, one thing is for absolutely certain. The Gospel never said that there would be peace on earth before the second coming of Christ. Just the opposite. There will be wars and rumors of wars and people will kill each other, and Jesus said they’ll kill each other even in the name of God, and there will be strife, and at the end it will be so horrible that you hope it doesn’t happen in winter if you’re pregnant and all those kind of things that Jesus said. Read the Gospel. Read what it actually says about the enmity, the strife, and the battles particularly against those who are children of peace. They’re just going to be attacked. So, yes. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Yes, he is our priest. Yes, he has made us all one by his blood on the cross. But that peace that passes human understanding which we can have already now before the end of the world, only comes in power universally throughout the whole of creation at the end of the world.
So, it’s important to also hear these words of Christ. This is—I’m reading the Matthew version, and I’ll read you the Luke version too. This is what it says in Matthew: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on 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 man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. He who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life or his soul will lose it, but he who loses his soul or life for my sake, will find it.”
So Jesus says, yeah, I’m the Prince of Peace, and I’ve come to bring peace on earth, but that peace is only going to come at the end when the gospel will be preached throughout all the world, and the children of peace will be martyrs and will suffer together with me because I the Prince of Peace am going to be killed in this world. I’m going to undergo crucifixion. I’m going to be rejected by both Jews and Gentiles. I am the peace between the Jews and the Gentiles. But both Jews and Gentiles are first going to reject me and kill me and spit on me and beat me and mock me and kill me and put me in the tomb. But I will rise from the dead and forgive them all and unite them all and bring them into the kingdom of peace which I myself am by the Spirit of peace of God himself, if they want it.
In Luke, you have the same teaching. I’ll read it now in Luke. I came to cast fire upon the earth, Jesus says, and I would that it were already kindled. I have a baptism to be baptized with and how I am constrained until it accomplished. The baptism to be baptized with is his passion and death. Then he says, do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No. I tell you. No, but rather division for henceforth, in one house, there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided father against son and son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. He also said to the multitudes, when you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, a shower is coming and so it happens. And you see the south wind blowing, you say there will be scorching heat and it happens. You hypocrites. You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not how to interpret this present time? And the present time is that the Prince of Peace is on earth, and they’re going to murder him. And then people are going to fight over him and households are going to be divided because of him.
And if you continue reading Luke’s gospel, you could go to the next chapter, the fourteenth chapter, and you can hear words that are probably among the most terrifying words that Jesus ever spoke. You can hear these words, I mean they are awful even to read, but I’ll read them to you now. He says, if anyone comes to me and does not hate, and the word in Greek is hate. Miseo means hate, there’s no doubt about it. If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes and even his own life, even his own soul, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. So he says count the cost if you’re going to be my disciple. That’s how he continues.
Now, what’s the meaning of that text? Is it a violation of peace? No. But what it means is it’s a hyperbolic sentence. This is how it’s normally interpreted. Nothing can stand in the way of serving Christ, the Prince of Peace. And we have to be his disciple and take up our cross and suffer with him, in peace, in peace, with peace. Not with enmity, not with hostility, not with aggression, not with retaliation, not with warfare, but with love and truth and joy and kindness and mercy. These are our weapons according to the Apostle Paul. Those are the weapons of peace, and we are fighting the war of the Lamb of God and the Lamb of God is the lamb of peace. That’s the Lamb’s war that it says in the Apocalypse that we’re fighting, and our only weapon is truth and love. All the saints say this: truth and love. Kindness, mercy, forgiveness, reality, wisdom, that’s what we fight with.
But that fight is, within our life, beginning with the first fight against our own self. Our first enemy is our own self that has to be defeated. We have to bring our own self into peace, be peaceful persons our self, with our self, with our own mind, heart, soul and strength and passions and all the things that we have, our money and everything, to be at peace, and then to be at peace in our families, to be at peace with our neighbors, to be at peace with our enemies, to be at peace with everyone and everything. And even to bring to the cosmos. You know, some of our great saints even brought peace to the animal world. You know they’re at peace with lions and bears. St. Seraphim, St Gerasima, St. Mary of Egypt and so on. There was a cosmic peace. Peace with peace on earth. The peace of heaven is peace on earth. This is what the Christians have to be now and witness to until the end.
So, the teaching is pretty clear, that until the end of the world comes, there is going to be strife. There is. There is going to be war. There’s going to be rumor of war, there’s going to be madness, there’s going to be catastrophes, injustices of all kinds, but in the midst of that, there’s supposed to be who are called Christians and who really are, and they are people of peace. They are people of peace. Peace within themselves, peace with each other, peace with nature, peace with God, and they can be this way because of Jesus Christ who brings this peace by the blood, and Christians by this peace also, by their blood. They give their bodies to be broken, their blood to be spilled so that peace could reign, but then the ultimate peace of God, it comes only at the end of the ages. It comes only at the end of the world when Christ comes in glory as the Son of Man who was crucified and sits upon his throne and all the people are gathered in front of him and he separates from the goats from the sheep.
Well, the sheep are the children of peace, of love, of mercy, and kindness, and God forbid, you know, who finds themselves among the goats, with the goats, at the Father’s left hand. But there will be that final coming. There will be the judgment. Before Great Lent begins, we have this whole Meatfare Sunday which is nothing but contemplating the judgment, rich and poor, young and old, Jew and Gentile, everyone will stand before God and give an answer for their life. And they will answer for how they have lived in this un-peaceful world, The world that’s filled with strife and enmity and jealousy and envy and anger and war and party spirit and ideologies and all that kind of thing. We will give an answer, and only the children of peace will enter into the unending peace of God. The others, according to Scripture, are cast out. They go into the outer darkness where they can torture each other forever and be tortured by the demons too. That is the hard teaching of the New Testament.
So Christ is our peace. Every possible kind of peace that there is, Christ is. Inner peace, social peace, political peace, cosmic peace, economic peace, every possible peace that there can be, he is the prince of it. He is it. And this is what he wants to reign on earth. As we say in the Lord’s Prayer, as in heaven so also on earth. On earth as it is in heaven. His name would be sanctified, his will would be done. His kingdom would come and there would be peace, and we Christians believe that he is our peace. We believe that an age is coming where peace will reign. Christ will reign, but we believe now on earth that we are to be people of peace, and our churches should be people of peace. As the beautiful line of Metropolitan Tryphon in the Akathist “Glory to God for All Things:” glory to you oh God who has given us your Church as a refuge of peace in a hostile world, in a dark world. May our churches really be communities of peace. May it really happen that when we are in Church, we can say, in peace let us pray to the Lord, the peace from above, the peace of the whole world. Let it be here. Let us say peace be to all and to your Spirit, again and again, let us be people of peace. Let our churches be communities of peace, and let us martyrs of peace in this world in which there is no peace, and in which, according to Scripture, will become less and less peaceful as time goes on, and not only less and less peaceful by wars between human beings and nations, but that individual people will be less and less peaceful.
We’ll have fill ourselves with pills and drugs just to stay at peace. We’ll have to sedate ourselves so that we can be at peace because as the world progresses, even the individual people become more and more decomposed, more and more at enmity, more and more at strife with their own selves, not to speak of with their own flesh and their own body and their own will and their own mind, not to speak about peace with their neighbors and peace with other nations. But Christ is our peace. The kingdom of peace will come. Let’s beg God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, oh peace, oh Christ who is our peace, let us also be peace with you. Let us be children of peace. Let us be presences of peace, let us be realizations of peace, ourselves, individually and together as communities witnessing to you who is the peace. The peace and all its forms, Christ is our peace.