A great misnomer persists that biblical peace somehow equates to a cultural utopia generating a harmonious existence within society.
While many define peace by that very notion, further investigation reveals that biblical peace is not absent conflict.
Instead, biblical peace promotes divine justice in an attempt to bring wholeness and egalitarianism to broken systems.
Jesus declared as much when he said, “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).
The Lord quoted from Micah (7:6), echoing the prophet’s disdain for corrupt and unjust systems. “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.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:35-39).
Does this description of familial discord sound strikingly familiar?
We are not that far removed from Thanksgiving conversations filled with ideological disparities, theological differences and political disagreements. And with Christmas right around the corner, Jesus’ words echo in our ears even more.
It appears that the Prince of Peace can be both celebrated and feared at the same time.
Isaiah spoke highly of the coming Messiah when he proclaimed, “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 9:6).
However, Isaiah also notified his listeners that the Prince of Peace would uphold “justice and righteousness” during his reign (Isaiah 9:7).
Thus, divine peace has been, and forever will be, associated with justice and righteousness. And when the Prince of Peace acts upon this conviction, then the tension will naturally follow.
Jesus did not come to this world to create a society absent of conflict. He came to establish a kingdom where the first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Luke 13:30).
The very idea of such cultural contradiction could not help being divisive, especially when powerful people had more to lose under the Lord’s message and ministry.
Jesus came for the afflicted, outcasts and oppressed of society. He came to seek peace for those abandoned and forgotten by the religious and political elite of the day.
Jesus was not crucified for preaching that we should all get along. He was nailed to a cross because he confronted the powerful, upending and usurping corrupt systems attempting to maintain the status quo.
Jesus advocated for a peace that caused deep divisions but promoted solidarity with the poor and marginalized.
Even within the inspiring remarks of Martin Luther King Jr.’s attempt to promote a nonviolent response to racism, we cannot deny the presence of direct conflict in his search for peace.
Light cannot overcome darkness and love cannot conquer hate without a confrontation between the two.
In other words, for true biblical peace to be achieved, the clash between light and dark must unfold.
Therefore, the questions that follow are natural and vital to that confrontation. What is light? What is dark? Can a thoughtful person of faith decipher between the two? Can we genuinely understand the type of peace that brings both division and solidarity?
The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes.”
However, we must exert caution at this juncture. Instead of listening to populist preachers, theologians and politicians who are more concerned about acquiring and maintaining power and control, we need to carefully and thoroughly examine the Scriptures for ourselves.
We need to study the words of the prophets as they declared an end to unjust systems.
We need to fully embrace the teachings of Jesus who came “to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recover sight to the blind and to let the oppressed go free” (Luke 4).
Searching and advocating for this type of peace will not be easy. It will cause division and discord. However, in the end, we will find ourselves in solidarity with Jesus and the people he came to liberate.