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The story of the Bible is one of a great cosmic conflict between man and God, which means it is also a story of conflict among all mankind. The story of Christmas is the reversal of all conflict and enmity through the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Because the vertical relationship between God and man was severed, conflict within horizontal relationships exists and persists. In light of our naturally prideful hearts that indulge in conflict, we need to see that peace cannot come easy. Peace comes at a price. Peace is costly. The way to peace is through war. Peace in the macro situations of life and in the micro, everyday relationships comes through the cosmic war waged on sin and death in the cross of Christ.
There are three things I see in Colossians 1:15-20 that help us grasp a vision for peacemaking with others in our everyday lives.
The first reason peace is possible with God and others is that Jesus is the perfect image of God. As we have seen, our relationships with others are filled with so much conflict primarily because of the conflict that exists between God and us. In Colossians 1:15-20, Paul offers a hymn of praise to and for the eternal glory of Jesus Christ. Paul writes, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation….For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:15, 19).
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. He is before all things (v. 17). He is the beginning, and all things were created by him and for him (v. 16, 18). This second person of the Godhead has always existed in perfect harmony and peace with the Father. There has never been a moment of enmity or conflict between the Father and Son. In the fullness of time, the eternal Logos, Jesus Christ, came to earth. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, Mary.
In his humanity the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man, perfectly glorified God in all that he did. He truly is the perfect image of God. His relationship with his Father remained flawlessly peaceful. Pride never arose in his heart. Because he perfectly revealed the glory of God by perfectly imaging him, Jesus is continuously at peace with his Father. As the perfect image of God, Jesus can be the great peacemaker by offering himself as a sacrifice for sin.
The second reason peace is possible with God and others is that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for sin. Paul reminds the Colossians that they were once at enmity with God. “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death” (Col. 1:21-22). Here we have Paul explaining what we have been saying here. Sin has created conflicted between God and us.
We are separated from him. And this separation has bled into our daily relationships. We argue over inconsequential things with our spouses. Mothers take pleasure in grilling their children’s teachers at conferences. We relish in the latest Twitter controversy. Remnants of the innate sinful nature continue to plague us as the conflict between spirit and flesh rages on within the Christian.
But in the cross, we have a unique solution to the enmity between God and man. Paul says the hostility that exists in our vertical relationship, which bleeds into our horizontal relationships, is “reconciled” in the body of Christ by his death. How did we receive this reconciliation? How did peace with God become a reality? Because though Jesus humbly trusted his Father in all things, he made peace “by the blood of his cross” (Col. 1:20).
Here we have the scandal of the cross. Though Jesus lived at peace with God, he stood at enmity with God by bearing the weight of the curse of sin. Though he was never at conflict with his Father, he stood rejected and smitten by God. By bearing the wrath of God against our sin, Jesus brought peace to us. Peace is made possible between God and man because Jesus was crushed by the wrath of God. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
This is what Christmas is all about. The Prince of Peace declares war on what brings us enmity. He comes to bring peace by fighting sin and Satan. And by willingly falling under the sword of his Father’s wrath, he reconciles us to the one we have all offended. Our vertical relationship is healed by the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice on our behalf brings peace to us with God. The enmity that was inherited from the Fall is vanquished as the seed of the woman crushes the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). Christmas is about a heavenly crusade against all conflict.
All of our pride that separates us from God is hammered out by the humility of Christ on the cross. Peace is possible with God and others because Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. It is by the blood of his cross that we have peace with God and can work for peace with others.
Mathew Gilbert (B.A. Boyce College) is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Erica. Mathew and Erica live in Tupelo with their son, Jude. You can follow him on Twitter @mat_gilbert.