Summary: Forgiveness brings peace - both peace with God and peace with others. But it’s not easy...
The Gift of Forgiveness
Dec. 7/8, 2002
Earlier in our service, our children came and lit the second candle of Advent – the candle of peace. It’s purpose it to guide us in our preparation for celebrating the birth of our Lord by focusing our thoughts on the peace that Jesus came to bring.
For a season where we light a candle representing peace, our culture has done a pretty good job of making it as hectic as possible. Most of us run through December at full pace, franticly trying to do all the things we need to or want to do, get all the preparations ready, make everything just perfect.
As I reflected on peace, the question came: what is true peace? What does the Bible mean when it speaks of peace? When the angels appear to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Christ child in Bethlehem, saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests,” (Lk 2:14), what do they mean by this wish of peace? What are they announcing?
Let me make the question more personal: what would it mean for you to find peace? Some of you are thinking, “take my kids for three days, then maybe I’ll find some peace…” Or maybe you’re thinking, “take my spouse for three days…” Maybe you’re a teenager thinking, “take my parents for three months…”
I know that for many of you gathered here today, you are not at peace. You are full of turmoil, of conflict, of a running battle. And the season makes a lot of that worse – everyone expects the world to be full of happiness and joy, expect you to have a smile on your face: “come on! Cheer up, it’s Christmas!” As if that somehow lessened the pain of a loved one lost this year, as if that would make the credit card bill mysteriously pay itself off, as if that would lessen the strife and anger that you feel in your home every time you walk through the front door.
It’s a good bet that some of you had a fight before you even made it out of the door to come to church. It’s safe to assume that as many of you look back over the previous week you see a complete absence of peace – work is a place of conflict, your family hasn’t been getting along, a friend disappointed you. Your soul feels more like a violent storm than a peaceful lake. And now hear you sit, in God’s house, looking fine on the outside, but inside there are some parts of your life that are tearing you apart. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit of God would speak to those parts of you today.
The Root of Turmoil:
As I reflected on the absence of peace in our lives and in our world, I came to the conclusion that the root of all the turmoil is this: a lack of forgiveness. We are filled with anxiety and turmoil internally when we know we have done things that are wrong – we recognize that we have done things that come between us and God and those things sit in our soul and erode us and fill us with fear and dread. We’ve been bad and we fear God’s judgment. The same connection between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of peace is evident externally also: our world and our relationships are filled with conflict and turmoil because a wrong has been done, and the response has been something that causes more harm, the response to that more harm still, and the cycle goes on and on and on. We see that in individual relationships, in families and friends, and we see that in global relationships between ethnic and religious groups.
This past week, Marshall White shared with me Zechariah 3:8-10, which prophecies ahead to Jesus. God says, “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. (this “Branch” is an OT Messianic title) 9 See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, (this “stone” is most likely another Messianic image, the eyes being symbolic of seeing everything) and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the LORD Almighty, ’and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. (note there the promise of forgiveness – the removal of sin in a single day. Now, vs. 10 tells us the result of that removal of sin: 10 " ’In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty." (this final picture is an OT image of peace – people sitting together, without conflict.