Dear friend in Christ, May the peace of God through the God of peace be in you today and always, Amen.
Why do we do the things that we do in our church? Namely, what is behind the greeting of God’s Peace which we say to one another? Is it something unique to ourselves, or is it a greeting that belongs to all Christians? Do we say it to only those who we know have the peace of God or do we say it to everyone we greet? Let us think on this today and may we come to the right conviction concerning this.
When I was a youngster I remember hearing people say these words when they greeted one another by shaking hands, saying Jumalan Terve and when they left they would say Jumalan Rauha. In my early years I had no idea what they were saying in the Finnish language. Eventually I came to understand that when they met they said God’s Greetings and when they departed they said God’s Peace. Growing up I became one who was taught and learned to greet others with the same greeting regardless of whether it was meeting another or leaving another, by saying God’s Peace.
It has taken me many years to come to appreciate the depth of the meaning of that greeting which is grounded in the events of God’s great peacemaking and peace keeping mission to and on earth.
May I suggest that there are three aspects to the greeting of God’s Peace:
The greeting of God’s Peace is a powerful testimony of that which God has done in Christ for the whole world,
it is a testimony of that which God has done in us and is doing in us through His Word and Spirit through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
It gives us the privilege and opportunity to be a peace maker in this world. We are the children of God of whom Jesus, the Ultimate Peace Maker, refers to in the first reading today, from the Sermon on the Mount.
KJV Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
What is this peace that we are talking about? Between nations, between people, or between God and man? Which comes first, or which must come first? It is not too difficult to realize that the enmity and hostility that came into the world because of our disobedience to God that the relationship between God and mankind must first be restored.
In our second reading from John 20:19-22, on the afternoon of His resurrection from the dead, Jesus comes to the quaking in fear disciples to quiet their fearful hearts and to begin their transition to being peace makers through Him. In other words, Jesus is saying that I have bridged the chasm that was between God and mankind, receive that peace and go out to tell others that God has forgiven them through the cross.
John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord.
21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.
22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:
23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
He speaks peace into their hearts, then empowers them by breathing into them the Holy Spirit and commissions them to go out to tell the world that their sins are forgiven through His redemptive work on the cross. The Apostle Paul later wrote to the Corinthian congregation concerning how this works as he by the Holy Spirit explained.
2 Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
KJV 2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.
May we not miss the monumental meaning that is being made in these verses. Verse 18-19 speaks of God now being at peace with the us through Jesus Christ, and as a result of faith, we are now peacemakers sent out to tell others that their sins are forgiven, and to strongly encourage them to believe that reality.
We cannot be peacemakers until we have come to live in peace with God through the cross, and therefore the true rejoicing in the Lord is only through this knowledge and experience by faith. Therefore we can understand how we are able to truly rejoice because our sins are forgiven, our life is eternal and therefore it is lived for the sake of others. And because it is lived for the sake of our neighbor, we watch over both our outward witness and our inward witness. For the enemy wants nothing greater than to take us away from the peace of God and from the God of peace through trials and temptations.
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5 Let your moderation (mildness, gentleness) be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; (Don’t worry about anything) but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep (guard) your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
In verse 7 it is written that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus and in verse 9 it is written as a result of not only believing the Gospel but by also living in the promises of the Gospel and by demonstrating the Gospel outwardly, that the God of peace shall be with us. Jesus earlier had taught His disciples of how it was living in the promises of the Gospel as well as living our lives in response to the Gospel, that they live in the blessing of peace. After demonstrating his humility by washing their feet, he applied the lesson to them with these words.
John 13:5 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
In conclusion, may we reiterate the meaning of God’s Peace!
The greeting of God’s Peace is a powerful testimony of that which God has done in Christ for the whole world.
it is a testimony of that which God has done in us and is doing in us through His Word and Spirit.
It offers us the privilege and opportunity to be a peace maker in this world. We are the children of God of whom Jesus, the Ultimate Peace Maker, we see all others as redeemed by His blood and have the privilege to tell them about real peace.
So when we greet any other person on earth with God’s Peace, we are telling them that their sins are forgiven through the cross, we are giving testimony that we know the God of peace who has given us His peace, and we are encouraging them and calling upon them to believe that it is for them that Jesus died and arose again. That is what is meant when we say God’s Peace!
We know the God of Peace and we have the peace of God. Happy/blessed will we be when speak peace through the cross to our neighbor.
God’ Peace to you!
Pastor Orval Wirkkala