In the Apostles today St Paul makes it quite clear that Christ is our peace. Notice that he says that he that is our Lord is our peace, not that he gives peace, which is true enough, but that He is our peace. In Christ then is no internal conflict, no self will, no egotism, no fear of “the other,” no alienation from the Father or the Spirit. All are one in Christ who brings everything into perfect harmony and unity.
With us, however, there is an enmity born out of the realisation that under the law we stand condemned. We struggle against this truth and become conflicted within, even unleashing our frustrations and our problems on others. Sometimes through bitter experience we need to come to that point where we realise that we cannot become virtuous simply by trying to obey the Commandments for these laws themselves judge us as being unequal to the task. We don’t need a knowledge transplant, we need a heart transplant; we need a new life within us which is not our own but God’s. For this to happen, Christ must deal with the enmity within which poisons our relationships with God and with each other. He does this by his death on the cross for all.
In this most bitter place Christ draws the poison out of our human nature by subjecting himself to it in his Passion. This is why he voluntarily embraces death that the ancient enmity might be undone. The devil must have thought that when Christ died he had won whereas in fact in Christ’s death and resurrection he was overthrown. This then is why Christ is our peace because he has made us friends again with God and with each other; he has reconciled all by healing our crucifying divisions in his own flesh. This is a new creation of which St Paul speaks in verse 15. In himself there is unity where there was once division. This applies also to our relationship with God because in Christ we have access to the Father by the Spirit, the dividing wall of separation having been torn down.
It can be a very difficult lesson for us to learn that we cannot save ourselves. We can and must repent; we can and must work out our salvation with fear and trembling as St Paul teaches in another place… but salvation? That belongs to God alone and by virtue of what he has done for us in the death and resurrection of Christ. With a great act of humility and trust we surrender ourselves to this truth and implore God to keep on saving us by his grace, that with endurance to the end we shall indeed finally be saved.
St Paul goes on to explain what happens in our hearts, lives and communities when we turn our lives over to Christ for our salvation. Being in Him, who is our Peace, even our enemies become dislocated friends. In the love of God, which again is Christ, all relationships of enmity and ill feeling can be progressively overcome if we strive by God’s grace to have the mind of Christ, to be renewed in the inner man. This can only happen when there are the little deaths inside us as our inner conflicts, self will, egotism, fears and alienation shrivel by the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit and our ceaseless repentance. Thus overcoming our alienation from God and each other it becomes possible to build up all the members of the household of God into a holy and living Temple in the Lord. Christ is and remains the Chief Cornerstone who holds the whole building together and the foundation of this building is the faith and prayers and love and communion of the apostles, the prophets and all the righteous who are friends with God and who make intercession for us. Thus we become chief not only a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit as individual persons but also as the body of Christ which is the Church.
Sometimes Christians ponder why it is in certain places and times that the progress of the gospel seems to be hindered. How this can be because people’s hearts have been hardened by cynicism, decadence or open rebellion against God. However, true though that might be, it must not be our first thought when we consider these things. Judgement starts with the household of God and we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves in addressing the question first responded to at our baptism: “Do we believe and trust in Christ? Do we maintain with love and diligence the seal of the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Do we pour out ourselves as a living sacrifice before God? Do we maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? I’m sure that we all do our best to do these things by God’s grace but it is a fitting and holy thing always to keep these questions in our mind. They can be fertile soil for our growth in confession and they can bring the verdure of the life of Christ to a parched and barren world.
God has set before is a good and holy task - that we should be his people in the world, a holy priesthood, a royal nation. To this end let us take Christ as our Peace, let us receive the Holy Spirit day by day freshly out poured and let us do the Father’s will on Earth as it is in heaven.