Reading Time: 2 mins

Peace through A God Who Dies for His Enemies

Reading Time: 2 mins

The relationship with God through Christ and renewal in his image in Christ cannot be taken away or compromised through suffering.

How can Paul speak of peace and suffering together? Isn’t suffering the absence of peace? Isn’t that why suffering is the great evil – especially in our day – and avoiding suffering is the great goal of life? And to a degree unparalleled in human history, we can avoid suffering, or if we can’t entirely escape it, we can numb ourselves to it. But perhaps our war on suffering has only increased it, as war tends to do with suffering. We have no framework for processing it when it arrives. We’re anxious at the prospect of it, and imagining suffering is often worse than suffering itself. We cut ourselves off from what might cause suffering, which is often the very stuff of life that gives the most meaning, and so we end up alone, numb, or fake.

We tend to think of peace in the negative. Peace means no conflict. But God’s peace is much more than that, and it’s not really that at all in this world. The Hebrews did not only say “peace” to each other but “shalom.” The peace St. Paul talks about is wholeness, a renewal of our intended relationship with God as creatures created in his image. This relationship with God through Christ and renewal in his image in Christ cannot be taken away or compromised through suffering. Rather, through suffering, we’re conformed to the image of the Suffering Servant, who is the very image of God, who made us whole by emptying himself, who identified with our suffering by experiencing it.

We not only have peace, but “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This peace brings us somewhere new: into God’s grace, granted access through faith. We stand in this grace like sumo wrestlers in Christ, our feet set in concrete. We stand because we have been rooted. We stand with legs buoyed by pierced feet.

Imagine two scenarios. First, a little child runs out in the road. A car is driving straight at the child. Would you risk your life to save the child? Second, instead of a child, it’s someone who hurt you deeply in the past, perhaps hurt you more than anyone else, someone who has never seemed to change in the least, either. Would you risk your life to save him or her? The scenarios are different in our minds, aren’t they? Our willingness to risk our lives for one or the other is guided by the value we place on them and by how well they meet our standards.

Christ died for sinners. Christ died for us. We’ve sinned against him in countless ways directly, and we’ve sinned against our neighbors, which is also sinning against Christ. Yet Christ not only risked his life to save us, he gave his life. There’s a reason that so much of the art, music, and cinema that resonates with us draws on this theme, whether they recognize they are doing it or not.

From an early age, human beings learn the value of strength. We learn that the strong win and the weak lose. Thus, the strong boy bullies the weak one. The strong nation conquers the weak one. The strong team trounces the weak team. Even in our familial relationships, we use our strength to our advantage, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Yet Christ did not use his strength that way. Christ was strong for the weak and became weak to make them strong.

Through this, you have reconciliation with God, and that changes everything. That brings peace, real peace, even in suffering. That brings endurance, character, and hope because that brings Christ. Did you come here as a sinner today? Excellent. Christ is for you, then, and that in every way. You are justified. You are saved. You are reconciled. We come ungodly, but we leave in God’s peace, again and again, through thick and thin, with Christ.