“For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups” (Ephesians 2:14-15, NLT).
I used to fight with my sister, my kids got into it occasionally and most people I’ve talked to have said their kids had trouble getting along, at least sometimes. Squabbling, bickering, fighting, feuding—it’s an unfortunate and at times, terrible part of life. Parents try to settle the arguments, but true peace between siblings often has to wait until they have matured and finally realize they love each other. At least we hope it comes to that.
As a father, God hurts when he sees his children fighting. But instead of wringing his hands and whining why can’t we all get along, he did something about it. He sent his son to end the system of laws and break down the walls that separate us. We’ve always been the family of humankind, but in Christ, God has created a new family. With his peace in us, we can grow to a place where we truly love each other as brothers and sisters and stop the fighting. The peace Jesus brought is not some ethereal ideal. It’s real, alive and working in the hearts of those who trust their Father to always know best. We can get along, with the grace and peace of Jesus.
“May grace (God’s unmerited favor) and spiritual peace [which means peace with God and harmony, unity, and undisturbedness] be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:2, AMP).
What the world needs now is—grace and peace. I changed the words to the familiar song and yes, the world does need love, but in his letters, Paul more often prayed for grace and peace. He didn’t pray for the uneasy truces we have in some parts of the world, or the temporary order imposed by a benevolent leader, which could end with the next election.
God’s grace and peace are different from anything we know in our human experience because they come from his heart, from who he is. The Amplified Bible expands on what Paul meant, giving more life to our inadequate words. His grace is unmerited, undeserved and wholly independent of anything we can do. It’s favor which comes from the character of a being far above our way of thinking and reasoning, and our ideas of what’s just and fair. The peace emanating from God’s heart reflects the perfect harmony and unity of the Father, Son and Spirit. His three-in-one nature knows no discord. In Christ, he has given us his grace and shares his peace. Jesus, who he is and what he gives us, is what we really need.
“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NLT).
Occasionally we hear about someone leaving a waitress or waiter a huge tip on a small bill. When it happens it makes the national news as it’s unusual for someone to be so generous, especially in hard economic times. Even in good times, the human tendency is to be selfish. Sharing just doesn’t come naturally.
People sometimes use the phrase “richer than God” when describing a person of tremendous wealth. But we have no idea just how rich God is. He does own everything in the universe, but his physical wealth, which means little to him, is nothing compared to the richness of his heavenly existence—Jesus was God, with all the glory that entails. Yet he was willing to give it all up to become a human being. He took on our poverty, in every sense of the word, to give us his riches. And that is the biggest tip ever.
“For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1, NLT).
No one wants to think about dying, yet the reality and reminders of this part of life are all around us. We know it’s going to happen, but for now, we put it away in a compartment of our brains labelled “later” or “someday” and continue to believe death is only happening to others. Because no one knows exactly what happens after death, we continue to think of that stage of life as a great unknown.
Paul takes away some of the sting of death and answers one big question as he tells us we will have new bodies, made by God himself. These bodies won’t just get a makeover, plastic surgery or a few nips and tucks. They will be spiritual bodies, the same as Jesus had when he appeared to the disciples after walking out of his tomb. God, whom we already know as the great gift giver, is preparing this last, wonderful gift for his children and it will be glorious. His love truly is unending and amazing.
“For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn” (Romans 11:29, NLT).
When we were children, most of us (girls, maybe boys too) played the little game of “he loves me, he loves me not” while pulling petals off a daisy. It didn’t mean anything of course, but for some reason, we insisted on destroying an innocent flower in a quest to determine if our current love interest returned the feelings.
Some play the game with God, wondering if his affections change as easily as ours, especially if they are under the impression he keeps a Santa Claus-type list of who’s being naughty and nice. In this section of Romans, Paul is addressing the Gentiles, who seem to have pulled the last petal off the daisy, ending with “he loves me.” Their conclusion was the Jews got the “he loves me not” petal. But God doesn’t play games. His gifts and his calling (which is to all humankind) are forever and unchanging and are not affected by our our whims and fickleness. God’s daisy still has all its petals and they all say he loves us!
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NLT).
If you’ve spent any time in church, you’ve heard many sermons based on this verse. Even if you haven’t been in church much, you’ve probably seen it on billboards. The first part has been painted on signs and carried around at protests and at the end of parades. It’s supposed to impress on people the seriousness of sin and scare everyone into repentance. Doesn’t seem to be working too well, does it?
The second part of the verse is the good news everyone needs to know: sin is serious but Christ already took care of it and it no longer has any power over us. Life in Christ is free! It’s a gift! No strings attached, just reach out and take it. The problem is some Christians still don’t quite get it and that’s why the first seven words of the verse keep appearing on signs and in sermons. All of human experience tells us nothing is free, there are always conditions and buyer beware. Everyone: God isn’t like that! When God gives a gift, it’s totally and unequivocally unconditional. Now that would make an eye catching billboard.
“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” (Romans 5:18, NLT).
Relationships are the most rewarding part of life but can also be the most traumatic and painful. Some are easy to get into and easily maintained. Some take real work and can be rocky. Some go sour no matter what we do. Countless books have been written and many people earn their living giving advice on getting along with others and relating well. It seems there are no easy answers to relationship problems.
Something most people don’t realize about God is he is all about relationship. Even though God hates sin and the horrible consequences, he’s not as interested in the rules as most believe. Laws are easily broken by us and generously forgiven by him, all taken care of by the blood of Christ. Because we are forgiven in Christ, we are free from the law, free from sin and death and free to be in right relationship with him. We are free to get to know him as he wants to be known—as a loving Father who gives good gifts to his children, especially love, which helps us be in right relationship with each other too.
What a relief to see God from this perspective and to know him this way!