Lynn Cohick: On God's Peace and the Nobel Peace Prize
The news that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace prize caused quite a stir among pundits and commentators. The announcement got me thinking about peace itself, God’s peace and the world’s view of peace. Whereas at the human level we seek to make peace, scripture indicates that God is peace. The difference is significant. In our world today, many make important efforts to curb aggression and violence, to seek reconciliation and justice, and create environments where hostilities cannot flourish. We rightly honor those who have laid the foundation for peaceful co-existence between groups, or who have rejected revenge for the sake of peace. These men and women are honored precisely because attaining peace is so difficult. But this takes us only so far.
Paul declares that Christ is our peace (Eph 2:14). Peace is not a thing gained at the negotiating table, peace is a Person. In 2 Thess 3:16 we find Christ described as the "Lord of peace." Peace is an aspect of God’s character; it is one way of describing who God is. In Ephesians, "Christ our peace" is not a title that honors him so much as the role he plays in building his church. The context of Eph 2:14 is Paul’s declaration that Jew and Gentile are one people in Christ. Not merely co-existing side by side, not merely a cessation of hostilities, but one together being built into God’s temple (Eph 2:21-22). This peace signals the ultimate end of the present age and its striving to make peace. Christ’s peace is revolutionary in its new creation capabilities. Christ our peace is one way of saying that the new age has broken into the present, and a new entity has been formed. Jesus speaks similarly in John 14:25-27, that he will send an Advocate (the Holy Spirit), and that he will leave his peace with his disciples. Jesus specifically notes that his peace will remain with the disciples, for he does not give as the world gives. And he adds that his disciples need not be afraid. Why this note of comfort? Christ’s peace challenges the status quo, which is wedded to the present age. Christ’s peace promotes a freedom from the old way of looking at ethnicity, race, gender, politics, economics – in short – life as it is lived out in this present evil age (Gal 1:4).
Living in peace is not naturally easy for the believer. Paul indicates that Christians are to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:16) and an identifying characteristic of that walk is peace. Being filled with and led by the Spirit, displaying the fruit of the Spirit includes walking in peace. To the Philippians Paul assures them that the God of peace will guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7). Those who are in Christ are new creatures who are one with all other faithful followers. Believers won’t all win a Nobel Peace prize, but they will all gain their reward from Christ our peace.
Lynn H. Cohick (PhD in New Testament/Christian Origins, University of Pennsylvania) is associate professor of New Testament in the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies at Wheaton College and Graduate School, Wheaton, IL. Lynn has written on early Jewish/Christian relations in her book, Melito of Sardis: Setting, Purpose, and Sources (Brown Judaic Studies, 2000), and several articles on women in Early Judaism and earliest Christianity. She is also co-author of The New Testament in Antiquity with Gary Burge and Gene Green.
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