25 September, 2022

THROWBACK THURSDAY: ‘There Is Peace on Earth’ (1941)

by | 9 December, 2021

Here is a front-page Christmas editorial that appeared two weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II.

_ _ _

There Is Peace on Earth

December 20, 1941; p. 1

There is, in the face of the outbreak of this greatest of all world wars, a defeatism that characterizes much of modern Christianity. Christians refer to the song of the angels over Bethlehem and then to the present condition of the world and, in contrasting the two, express amazement if not despair. They evidently assume that the one is canceled by the other. Thus Christians are contributing to what is not only a misunderstanding of the Christian message, but also a discrediting of that message. People are thus encouraged to believe that the Christian gospel is futile, impotent, impractical.

As a matter of fact, the present terrible condition of the world is in large measure a corroboration of the Christian message.

WHAT EVERY true Christian knows is that there is peace on earth. There is peace on earth right now.

Some explanation of the message of the angels is to be found in the phrase, “the peace of God,” in Phil. 4:7. Still further is it to be understood by the phrase in the same context, “the God of peace” (Phil. 4:9). But perhaps the most enlightening statement is in the great benediction near the end of the Book of Hebrews (13:20, 21) in which “the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of the eternal covenant” is called upon to perfect the Christian in every good thing. Another benediction (1 Thess. 5:23) expresses the same idea differently: “The God of peace sanctify you wholly.”

In the long dissertation of Jesus with the twelve at the end of John’s Gospel, He clearly indicates that they are entering into trouble and then explains His words by saying that He has spoken “that in me ye may have peace.”

Manifestly, Jesus is not talking of peace in environment or in society generally. It is something inward, something possessed because men belong to Jesus and possessed in spite of persecution.

What is of even more importance, it is something possessed in spite of our own sins and mistakes. Paul says (Rom. 5:1) that “being justified by faith, we have peace with God.” This statement of Paul’s is immediately related to Jesus’ death and resurrection; “delivered up for our trespasses,” he “was raised for our justification.” This makes more clear the significance of the great benediction in Hebrews; He is “the God of peace” because He brought again from the dead “the great shepherd of the sheep.”

Manifestly, this peace is consequence and a manifestation of our salvation. It is not, therefore, a peace of isolationists or of appeasers. The Christian does not secure his peace by taking himself out of the responsibilities of life in this world. Much less does he get it by some sort of compromise or adjustment with the forces of evil in the world. Whatever was the “my peace” of which Jesus spoke it was neither that of one who ignored evil nor that of one who would compromise with it.

PAUL SAYS that the peace of God “passeth understanding” (Phil. 4:7). It is not, therefore, within our power to define and explain it. All who have it know that they can not explain it. They can only say that it roots in the fact that they are uniquely related to God through Jesus Christ, that they are anchored to the Rock that is immovable, that they are in fundamental relationship with the kingdom that can not be shaken, whatever may happen to all the rest of the kingdoms.

They know that these wars are awful. They know that all of us are to blame for them. They are eager to do everything possible to prevent them. They are distressed at the defeat of all the efforts we have made to create peace. If they had to depend on their own spiritual strength they would be driven to distraction by all of this guilt, all of this apparent futility, all of this slaughter and all of this increasing ill will. Let the worst come, we can still be sane because we are in touch with God.

THAT MEN do not recognize the existence of peace on earth—even men of Christian spirit—must be attributed to their obsession with circumstances and environment and with social reform. We think that that is peace which is social condition devoid of warfare. But what, after all, is the real harm of war? Is it not the injury it does to the human spirit? That harm is done to the individual. It makes him hate. It makes him brutal and selfish. It injures or destroys his contact with his God and his fellows. In the last analysis the wrongfulness of war is in the damage it does to individual men.

And the glory of the gospel is that it makes possible the protection of that individual spirit even amidst the environment of a world that is really always at war.

“My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you.”

Christian Standard

Contact us at cs@christianstandardmedia.com

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