Christ's Gift of Peace

Isa. 9:6.---' The Prince of Peace.'

What is Christ's gift of peace? What did the angels promise on Christmas morning, and what did our Lord mean when he bequeathed His peace as a legacy to His Church? He warned us that it is not the world's peace, and that it is not given as the world giveth. The world's peace is a precarious and transistory equilibrium of jarring and antagonistic elements. Christ's peace is a real harmony among God's children, immortal spirits who are undergoing probation in a world which is not their final home. The manner of giving it is also different. The world gives nothing for nothing; Christ gives all for love.

Let us determine first, what Christ's peace is not. It is not stagnation or inactivity. It is not repose. The only rest that we can hope for is unimpeded activity, the best kind of rest. The Apostle who speaks of 'the peace of God which passeth all understanding' was he who labored more abundantly than them all. Nor is it any spiritual narcotic which absolves us from the duty of reasoning and learning and climbing 'on stepping stones pf our dead selves to higher things.' The physician speaks of arrested development when a child never grows up to manhood, but retains the characteristics of childhood in mature life. Arrested development is much more common in the spiritual life. The world arrests most of us. The Church---do not let us forget it---arrests some of us, those who crave for peace before they have earned it, and who in consequence find not the true peace that passeth understanding, but the spurious peace that passeth by understanding.

Nor is it freedom from internal war---war against the law in our members, the law of sin and death. The Christian is an armed warrior. His life is a warfare. But his enemies are not his fellow-men; they are those spiritual powers of evil which are so terribly active in the world. It is most important to remember that evil can only be combated on its own field. We cannot cure moral sickness by improving our drains. We cannot cure greed and envy by redistributing our wealth. We cannot make men good citizens by giving them good education. War against evil, moral and spiritual, must be carried on, directly and primarily, by crucifying the old man in ourselves. The true Christian is the best missionary and the best reformer, and it matters little whether he talks much---he makes the world purer by living in it.

Again, Christ's peace has nothing to do with freedom from external trials and sufferings. 'In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' Christ not only does not promise us immunity from injustice, calamity, hatred. and all other wrongs that man inflicts on his fellows, He warns us to expect them. The Christian is always in a small minority. His standards are quite different from those of the world, and our Lord's words remain true for all time: 'If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have taken you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.'

We have seen what Christ's peace is not. What, then, is it? First, it is one of the fruits of the Spirit, one of the Christian cardinal virtues. It goes hand in hand with love and joy. Christian love is the expression in feeling and in action of our belief that we are God's children and members one of another. It is not the truth that we are independent units, brought together only by accident. Sympathy is natural and right because we are members of a spiritual body, and the practical, selfish man who divides all that he encounters, inanimate or animate, into instruments and obstacles for his private gain is the most unpractical of men, for he has completely mistaken the real facts about human life. It is because love is the recognition of the most fundamental fact about human nature---our community with God and our fellow men---that love is said to be the fulfilling of the law.

Joy, which no one before Christianity had thought of regarding as a moral virtue, is the reflection of love back upon our own consciousness. We rejoice when we find the external world no longer external, but full of common life and common sympathies. And since love is as St Paul says, the activity or the energy of faith, so joy is the inner activity or experience of hope. The happiness of the early Christians was evident even to their enemies, and the best Christians in all ages seem to have a never-failing spring of gladness within them. They are happy because they are living as God meant us all to live, in harmony with the spiritual laws of the world. Happiness is poisoned by faculties unused, still more by faculties misused, by the pursuit of aims which, when they are attained, can give us no satisfaction, and perhaps above all by the haunting sense of insecurity which besets those who have robbed themselves of the quietness which God gives.

Joy is the emotional experience which our kind Father in heaven has attached to the discharge of the most fundamental of all the higher activities---namely, those of inner growth and outer creativeness. Joy is the triumph of life; it is the sign that we are living our true life as spiritual beings. We are sent into the world to become something and to make something. The two are in practice so closely connected as to be almost inseparable. Our personality expands by creativeness, and creates spontaneously as it expands. Joy is the signal that we are spiritually alive and active. Wherever joy is, creation has been; and the richer the creation the deeper the joy.

My joy, in what I am doing, and love to do, is to do my utmost to help to heal the open sore of this world's misery. Affections are set on things above. 'Your joy no man taketh from you.' But it is only spiritual joy that no man can take from us. Of all other possessions we know that moth and rust corrupt them, and thieves break through and steal. 'Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he hopes in thee.' The possession of such a secret involves no retirement from the world, no breaking of ties, no ecclesiastical exercises, no renunciation. Its renunciation will be what it does, not what it abstains from doing. Such will be true of him who has found Christ's gift of peace. His inner life will be known to God alone, but we may be assured that its influence will radiate from wherever he goes. And from these three great virtues---love, joy, and peace---flow the rest of St Paul's list---longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.

Could war and civic strife exist in such an atmosphere? Now that every attempt to drive out this scourge and curse of humanity by attacking it from below will fail, it is high time that we take ourselves to the manger at Bethlehem and all that it promises to bring us, and tried at last to discover whether a truly Christian society could not and must not live in peace with itself and its neighbor. Do not listen to those who say that Christianity has failed. It has never been tried except by a small minority of individuals. It is too high for the majority, too high indeed for all of us, but nothing short of it must content us, and nothing short of it can bring peace on earth.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha