You are at war with God. Well, you are if you don’t know Jesus. Admit it, Christian, there are times when even you feel like you are at war with God. This is a harsh yet Biblical reality. It’s an uncomfy reality which is why you don’t hear it preached on very often. It sounds especially awkward when you consider that the verse we hear quoted at Christmas time couldn’t be more misquoted and misapplied. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” (Luke 2:14) Here’s the deal; it’s not about peace and goodwill between us humans. It’s about peace between God and humanity, It’s about goodwill from God toward mankind.
Christmas; we’re doing it wrong.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for peace between people on earth. Having goodwill toward one another is a good thing to promote and practice. But that isn’t what the angel is trying to communicate to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. How many modern Christmas songs use this verse as a launching pad for social justice? There is nothing wrong with social justice. God is way into it. I think He invented it because its all throughout the Mosaic Law. But that isn’t what the message was about.
Vertical vs Horizontal
The way we tend to use this verse is horizontally. It’s person to person, or people-group to people-group. That couldn’t be more out of context. In fact, this is a bi-directional vertical verse. The full verse in Luke 2:14 reads like this:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
The first vertical direction is upward; from mankind to God. Christmas is about giving glory to God who is in the highest place, which means He is above all things literally and figuratively. Is God the highest priority in your life? Is He at the top of the heap of things that make up your life? God wants to be first in your life. More than that, God doesn’t want to be first on a list of 10. He wants to be first on a list of one.
God doesn’t want to be first on a list of 10. He wants to be first on a list of one.
— Corby Stephens (@corbystephens) January 6, 2015
Above of else, there is The Lord.
The second, and only remaining vertical direction, is downward. “Peace on earth” is the pronouncement of a blessing from God to mankind concerning God’s Shalom, His peace. This is God imparting His peace, His security, and His provision toward you and I. God is declaring the means of a peaceful relationship between Himself and humanity.
“Goodwill toward men” is God’s goodwill toward us, not our goodwill toward one another in context. What goodwill? Thousands of years before this first Christmas, all the way back in Genesis 3:15, God made a promise. Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. Jesus is the manifestation of God’s goodwill toward mankind! Jesus is embodiment of God’s peace treaty between Himself and humanity.
Jesus is the gift of God’s peace and goodwill
The thing about this gift, the thing about this message from the angel, is that it isn’t just a one-time-a-year thing. It’s a gift that anyone can receive at any time. It’s a gift that we can experience on a daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment basis. Plus, and here’s the bonus, the more people that are in God’s peace and goodwill in Jesus, the more there will be peace on earth and goodwill between people! It is only as we are unified in one thing, in Jesus, that we will experience world peace and goodwill.
How do we experience this peace and goodwill?
Remember the first part of the verse? “Glory to God in the highest.” God’s shalom and goodwill are the motivation for and the result of our glory to God in the highest. Have you ever neglected a relationship with another person? The less important they are in your life, the less influence they will have, and the less you will experience life with them no matter how much you mean to love them, or how important you say that they are to you. The same is true when it comes to Jesus. He is already in the highest place at the right hand of the Father making intercession for you and I. Is He the highest priority in your life? Is you relationship with Him the most important relationship you have? The more that this is the case, the more of His peace and goodwill you will experience. Plus, that peace and goodwill will overflow into your other relationships and parts of your life, making them even better.
If you are still at war with God, understand that you can’t win. You need to surrender. Not only do you need to surrender, you need to switch sides from your own side to His. You need to submit. As you are surrendered and submitted you will be surprised and the superiority of living life for the Savior instead of for self (alliteration!).
As you are surrendered and submitted to Jesus you will be surprised and the superiority of living life for the Savior instead of for self.
— Corby Stephens (@corbystephens) January 6, 2015
It’s one of the only times when you lose that you actually come out ahead.
Make every day Christmas.