Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Luke 2.14 (KJV)
When Jesus Comes
The NIV translates the song the angels sang to the shepherds like this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Its drive for accuracy is admirable yet it totally strips the happiest melody ever sung of all its music. And I detect an overly stern grammarian in the cockeyed phrase “on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” That may convert Luke’s text word for word. But I can’t imagine it captures what he wanted us to hear the angels sing. It puts a lid on what the King James Version’s less fastidious translation conveys as an uncontained eruption of joy for all. Peace for all. Good will for all.
Isaiah 9.6 prophesies when Jesus comes, “the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” In short, a New Order goes into effect. The old standards that doled out God’s love and favor as rewards for good behavior are replaced by a lavish peace and good will for humankind. When the Prince of Peace reigns, good will to men is His modus operandi. This Monarch is not above the law—He is the law. As His loyal subjects, we are people of peace who obey His commandment to convey His good will through love for others.
Two Halves of a Whole
Peace and good will are two halves of a whole. Lose one and the other disappears. This is so obvious we should be baffled by how easily we forget it. When conflict supplants peace, everything goes up for grabs and all that matters is getting more than the other guy—territory, money, respect, status, and so on. When self-interest overwhelms good will, nothing is sacred—freedom, equality, tolerance, etc. Good will calls for understanding and understanding creates peace. Peace places the comfort of all over the desires of one or a few, which produces good will. Can it be any simpler? No.
Once Adam and Eve bit into the knowledge of good and evil, they developed an insatiable appetite to judge right from wrong for themselves. Regrettably, their craving has passed from generation to generation. Not one conflict, from the most terrible war to the most trivial spat, starts for any reason other than one person’s compulsion to prove another wrong. On the other side of the peace/good will equation, no conflict ends until one side wakes up and realizes the value of denying itself for everyone’s benefit. We describe such acts of self-sacrifice as “the Christian thing to do.” The description couldn’t be more apt, as the first proclamation on Jesus’s arrival was peace on earth, good will to men.
Conflict resolution experts and peace negotiators can invent all the highfalutin’ jargon they think we need to appreciate what they do. But, in the end, it still comes down to convincing one side to love its neighbor as itself. Anyone can do it and of all people, as Jesus’s followers, we’ve got no excuse for not managing conflict in our lives. If we’re entangled in tumultuous relationships and situations, we restore peace by offering good will. And we protect peace we enjoy by maintaining good will to the men and women with whom we share it. It’s so basic, if we think it’s easier said than done, we need to think again.
We may think that conflict management is as complicated as all this, but it isn't.
(Tomorrow: Serve Him Without Fear)