Wait, what did Jesus say about peace?

Oceans in early morning seem remarkably content. If you’ve ever risen early to  watch the waves coming in—sometimes high and with an audible roll, other times nothing but the tiniest split of the waves—it’s nothing if not peaceful, as though all night long there was a battle in the depths of the sea, and every ripple, big or small, is a flag of surrender. 

I think John 21 is one of the most beautiful passages in scripture. Peter walking on the beach with Jesus, the charcoal fire in the early morning. It’s such a visceral scene: the early light, the smell of charcoal and fish, Peter’s wrung out conscience in need of peace.

So, peace, a concept that arguably wouldn’t exist if we didn’t know so well it’s antonyms: agitation, distress, noise, war. In the dictionary these are the antonyms listed under peace. When I think about the lack of peace in the world right now, I wonder if it’s any different than other times in history. It seems there’s always something big actively disrupting peace, if not locally then globally, if not a physical disruption, then an emotional or intellectual one.

In the Old Testament it says that Christ will speak peace to the nations (Zec 9:10), but then flip ahead in your Bible only 10 pages or so and Jesus himself says Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (Matt 10:34). This confuses me.

But then it kind of doesn’t confuse me. If good exists, and evil exists, then there’s gonna be a fight; there should be a fight. A very complicated fight, which you can watch at any moment on any day on CNN. This war we’re in takes on many forms, and if I’m not actively in prayer and in scripture, it messes with my brain.

Jesus also says I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly. In many ways, with Christ, life here is abundant, a relationship, healing, but what is most abundant—especially as we suffer inevitable injustices and pain—is our hope, which is the assurance of future peace: final, eternal, abundant life and abundant peace.

The New Testament is saturated with Peace. The first ‘Peace’ like with Peter on the beach with Jesus, begins in our hearts when we are forgiven for denying him in so many ways. Our relationship with God begins and we become his child. This is a beautiful thing. But also like Peter, we enter into a new sort of suffering that has a lot to do with the fact that Jesus has not come to bring peace, but a sword. Remember, in the end Peter was killed for the very peace that he had—for choosing the Prince of Peace over the world. We long for the nations to praise him, and for this reason we persevere and look forward to the day of God and speed its coming (2 Peter 3:12). It can feel like we’re only halfway there, which is sort of true but also not true. We’re all in, and in light of this we have an abundance to offer others.

Peace on earth, good will toward men.