Isaiah 9:6-7 —
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
This passage introduces us to some of the many names of God in this verse of Isaiah 9. The name we are focusing on today is the Prince of Peace.
The concept of Peace is not just an absence of conflict, or a cease fire in war. The idea of peace as meant by Isaiah is Shalom. It refers to a state of profound wholeness, openness, and harmony. It is relating with our self, others and the earth in the way God created us to relate. The Prince of Peace is the Prince of Shalom.
Jesus came to bring harmony and wholeness to this world. But he did not just bring it about — he is peace. Shalom is his character.
He does this in a way the world does not expect — he does it not by crushing his enemies, but by being willing to die at hands of his enemies. The reason for this is that the ends cannot be different from the means. You can’t obtain peace by means of violence. This is what the broken record of history tries to teach us, that violence always eventually begets more violence.
“The means and the ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means, and ultimately, destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”
-Dr Martin Luther King, from “A Christmas Sermon on Peace”
Some people think the imagery in Revelation means that Jesus, covered with blood, slaughters all his enemies like a kind of divine vengeance.
We had a sermon series a couple of years ago called Rescuing Revelation which goes into much more detail on this, check that out here: http://whchurch.org/rescuing-revelation/
For now, suffice it to say that it is not a correct or biblical understanding to believe that Jesus came to slaughter his enemies. For one, this leaves you with a massive contradiction: Jesus’ whole ministry was to turn the other cheek and “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword”, so what happened? Revelation 13 says God is the same and does not change. This is a pretty huge change that needs to be explained. Second, the sword was not a physical sword that he swings with his hands, the sword is coming out of mouth. It means he slaughters with his words. You can’t take this imagery literally.
In fact, part of the point is that the author John takes many well known examples of traditional symbolic imagery, and turns them on their head. The traditional symbol of the triumphant warrior returning from battle covered in the blood of his enemies is referenced because Jesus is covered in blood — not as he returns from battle, but as he goes into battle. It is his own blood! John is saying Jesus is a mighty warrior, but he does not fight by shedding other people’s blood, he sheds his own blood. That is the victory!
To learn more about the non-violent readings of Revelation, go to Greg’s website (reknew.org) and check out Greg’s Library of Recommended Books. On the page about the New Testament, he has a whole section about Revelation.
Unfortunately in this fallen world, living in shalom often means you will suffer. The way of the world is Herod in the Christmas story, demanding the killing of all baby boys under the age of 2, to preserve his own power. The only road to shalom is by way of cross-like love. The cross is the power of God:
Colossians 1:19-20 —
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
Paul is not talking about the actual blood of course, but about the willingness to sacrifice and even die.
So what does this willingness to bleed look like in practice? For one, it looks like the church. People who are open for cross-like love to pour into us and bring shalom into our life and flow out to others.
Ephesians 5:1-2 —
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We are to be imitators of Jesus. Be willing to imitate the one to went to the furthest extreme possible for others. Then he says go out and do likewise.
God is always other-oriented. He wants to bless you, but it is not just for your sake. Ultimately he wants you to be filled up to the point to where you cannot help but to share it with others, to become a conduit for it to flow through you!
A few years ago another pastor came and saw all the programs we run here like the food shelf, shelter, and daycare, he was surprised and said, with mixed feelings, “most churches preach on salvation” (inferring these programs were distractions from a more important priority). This is not how we see it here! Saying the point of church is to preach salvation is like saying the point in being healthy is so that you don’t die. That is just a fringe benefit. The point of being healthy is to be fully alive and have a greater quality of life, and share it with others. So also, Salvation is not just a state of being that will come in handy later, it is the life of God NOW. It is not a pie in the sky, it is right here right now.
Shalom looks different in different circumstances. If one is lonely, letting shalom flow through you is for them to be welcomed in. If someone is hungry, it is having a full stomach. If they are homeless, it’s having shelter, clothing and a hot, soothing shower. It is always about other-oriented attention and manifesting self-sacrificial love for them.
This is how we glorify God! Some people think God’s glory is exemplified by a very self-absorbed narcissistic being who is obsessed with showcasing his power — my glory, my power, all mine. But Jesus shows us the opposite. Jesus shows us that the nature of God’s glory is going into battle covered with your OWN blood, and shedding it willingly for others. It is all about a display of other oriented, self-sacrificial love.
John 17:22 —
“I’ve given them the glory you gave me.”
Two points to leave with today:
1- Live by sword, die by sword. Violence is contrary to God’s nature. Any nation founded on violence, ultimately falls apart by violence. This is woven into fabric of the world. The only thing that has any hope of escaping this cycle of endless violence is the power of shalom, which always looks like Calvary — being willing to bleed instead of making others bleed.
2- Coercive power — the only thing that coercive power can address is behavior. All politics is is ultimately just people arguing over different behavior modification systems. But all of these ideas simply shoot at symptoms, which makes them ultimately useless where it matters. They cannot change the heart. They can try to deter bad behavior, or try to facilitate more constructive behavior, but human behavior is never the problem. It is the heart that is at issue.
James 4:1-2 —
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.
When humble, self-sacrificial love gets inside of a person, it loves the hate out of the hater, and makes them a lover. It loves the violence out of a fighter, making them peaceful. It transforms us into Christ-like love from the inside out.
The way to live this out is perhaps counterintuitive — you can’t simply try harder to sacrifice if your heart is not in it. We can only be conduits of love to the degree that we let God’s shalom reach deep into our hearts and transform us.
If you don’t know where to start, then start here: Become aware of the chatter in your mind. Commit to come against everything in your heart that is not consistent with the other-oriented love spilled out for us on Calvary. Notice and change your autopilot. Rather than judging and cursing others during difficult moments, become an intentional blessing machine. Think of people as starving for the love that you have to offer. Look at every person you encounter as a new creation.
God’s shalom never looks like the sword. His power and glory is in the form of his willingness to bleed for others. It isn’t just that his behavior is consistent with shalom, shalom is his entire internal essence. Becoming like him and manifesting shalom ourselves toward others (and our self and God’s creation) is our goal, and it starts by contemplating shalom and letting it into our heart.
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