Peace is not the absence of conflict. The Greek word translated as peace (εἰρήνη) literally means to join, which fits right into the larger context of eliminating the wall of division between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Peace comes when humanity pursues the same purpose. And this can only happen in Christ because it requires a bona fide miracle.
The existing history of the world has been contaminated by sin. It’s a dance that began on the wrong foot. Yes, Jesus has come to end sin and establish a new world. But this project has proven to be more difficult than traditionally expected, and is taking longer than anyone has expected. It is moving forward, but cannot be complete until this world is ready to let go of its history. What does this mean?
There are two religious forces in this world—revenge and forgiveness. The religions of the old world are driven by revenge. The old world adherents call it justice, but the justice they want is revenge for the wrongs done to them by others. They don’t want to live by God’s justice themselves because that would mean their own destruction and damnation apart from Christ. Their commitments to their old religions bar them from embracing Jesus Christ. Embracing Christ requires people to leave the old ways behind, to abandon the tit-for-tat “justice” that punishes those who harm or offend them. Christ offers forgiveness, but stipulates that God will “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In case that isn’t clear enough, Jesus elaborated,
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The solution to the cycle of offense and revenge is forgiveness. And God has taken the lead by sending His Son to provide forgiveness—not merely to offer forgiveness, but to provide everything that is needed to make it real. God promised that forgiveness would one day rule this world, and God’s promises are not empty or void. Christ, who is forgiveness personified, has been appointed the ruler of this world, and His kingdom is growing. Of course, it is not complete, but it is more complete than it used to be. While both the wheat and the tares are still growing, it is a field of wheat, not a field of tares.
And peace will come, not merely as the wall of division is removed, but as the whole world finds true meaning in the purpose of Christ, or as the whole world finds purpose in the true meaning of Christ. Christ is the destiny of the world, and one day that destiny will rest in the peace of Christ.
(from In Christ, the church at Ephesus, forthcoming)