“Peace on Earth” - now there’s something I’m sure we’d all like to see more of, especially in an age of increasing conflict and tension. According to the Gospel of Luke that’s the message that the choir of angels gave when they announced the birth of Jesus Christ: “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill toward men!”
When you hear the word “peace” you think of things such as harmony, rest, tranquillity and quietness. The opposite of peace is hostility, tension, conflict or even war. God’s desire is that each one of us experiences peace in our lives – whether we’re young or old, men or women, black or white, rich or poor, single or married.
Firstly, we need to be at peace within ourselves. Let’s face it, life is not always easy. We all face our own struggles, problems and challenges. When life is tough, a whole variety of negative emotions tend to fill our inner world – things such as fear, worry, anger and even bitterness. These kinds of negative emotions can be very draining and they definitely rob us of inner peace. Have you ever tried to push a shopping trolley with one wheel not working? That’s what it feels like when even one negative emotion takes a hold inside of you. Everything you do becomes far more draining and the frustration gauge hits an all time high.
The good news of Christmas is that God sees what’s happening in our daily lives and he cares for us. The apostle Paul, a first century Christ-follower, tells us that we can bring our worries to God in prayer and He will help us. Not only that, He will fill us with His peace – a peace that transcends our human understanding. Right now you can have the peace of God in your heart - whatever you’re going through - if you simply call out to Him in prayer. Now that’s good news.
We also need to be at peace with other people - in our relationships with those around us at home, at school, in the workplace and in our local community. This is not as easy at is sounds because some people can be difficult to get along with and they can do things that annoy us and even hurt or offend us. Just when you’re having a good day, Mr. or Mrs. Sandpaper comes along and rubs you the wrong way.
When we’re hurt by other people we all respond differently. Some people are like teddy bears who try to keep the peace at all costs, even if it means giving in and letting others have their way. Some people are more like sharks who respond to conflict by going on the attack seeking to win at all costs. Other people are like turtles who completely withdraw when conflict arises. Then there are the wise owls amongst us who respond to conflict calmly and firmly. They neither run from conflict nor go on the attack. They go for a ‘win-win’ solution – one that will satisfy their own goals and the goals of the other person. So what kind of animal are you most like?
We also all have a fallback position in addition to our primary style. It’s amazing to see a teddy bear under pressure morph into a shark! On the other hand, a shark that doesn’t get his or her way may quickly change into a turtle and withdraw inwards.
What’s the best way to handle conflict? Well there is another animal called the fox who is a very clever and skilful manager of conflict. They’ve discovered that always responding to conflict one particular way is not necessarily the best approach. A situational tactic works much better. Sometimes it is best to be a teddy bear and give in to save the relationship; sometimes it is advantageous to become a little bit shark-like and to appropriately assert yourself; sometimes it is best to be a turtle and sidestep an issue in order to avoid conflict; and sometimes being an owl who seeks for a mutual compromise is the best way.
The essential thing is that we to learn to handle conflict constructively. If we don’t, the resentment that builds up inside of us becomes like a toxic poison that drastically damages our relationships. Restoring peace in a broken relationship takes effort and wisdom. It’s important that we don’t allow things to fester. Once we’ve calmed our spirit we need to be willing to listen to the other person’s perspective as well as to lovingly share our own feelings. In most arguments, there are usually faults on both sides. It’s so easy to focus on what the other person has done wrong rather than take responsibility for our own attitudes, words and actions. Maybe the best Christmas gift you can give someone this year is to say those powerful two words – “I’m sorry”. These words, when spoken genuinely, can heal broken relationships and restore peace into our world. It’s amazing how a genuine apology can defuse a tense situation and unlock a person’s inner knots, usually resulting in them taking responsibility for what they’re done too.
The good news of Christmas is that there are things that you can do to be at peace with others. Yes, at times it takes courage and often lots of humility, but it sure is worth it. Remember, world peace begins with you and with me – it starts right where we live, living at peace with one another.
Finally, we all need peace with God. The primary reason that Jesus Christ came to earth was so that each one of us could find peace with God. God created us to have a relationship with him and to be friends. Unfortunately, we turned our back on God and in response he turned his back on us resulting in separation between us and God. In the person of Jesus Christ, God turns toward each one of us and reaches out his hand – wanting to be friends and to restore relationship with us so that we are at peace with him. He never forces us – it’s a choice we have to make. The good news of Christmas is that peace with God is available right now. You can get right with God and become his friend. You can have peace with God.
My prayer for you is that you will find true peace this Christmas – peace within yourself, peace with other people and peace with God.