It was Christmastime at London’s Garrick Club, and British writer and producer Frederick Lonsdale was asked by actor Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had fought in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a Merry Christmas.” So, Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a Merry Christmas,” he said, “but only one.”
That is not reconciliation.
All of us can relate to the sentiment Seymour Hicks was trying to convey. Everyone feels the pressure of being a little bit more charitable at Christmas. Perhaps it is the festive occasion or the fact that everyone is looking forward to eating well and opening gifts, but we all feel a need to be more joyful.
For Christians, though, it isn’t enough to be more peaceful out of obligation, or because of the fact that it is just what you do at Christmas. We are called to be at peace all of the time with all men because of the very fact that we have experience peace with God.
If you’re a Christian you know what it means to be unreconciled.
The song that the angels sing before the shepherds is telling. They sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
This peace is not for everyone, it is only with those with whom God is pleased. But this statement also implies that there is a war, and this war began many, many years ago in the garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to usurp God’s authority and disobey Him for the purpose of becoming like God (Gen 3:5).
The fact of the matter is that this war that goes on in our hearts against God is more hostile than any war this world has ever seen, and the consequences are terrible. The Bible tells us that this hostility is because of our sinful flesh. Romans 8:7 says, “Because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so.” And we all remember that the wages of sin is death (Rom 3:23), and that no one can face God and live (Exodus 33:20). It’s a lost cause.
Yet despite these truths, man continues to fight against God–a war that they cannot win. But, God in His incredible grace, not only gives us sight to see the impossibility of beating Him in a war, but He also shows us just how wonderful He is, how great it is to make Him our Lord and how delightful it is to fight on His side of the war.
We understand peace like no one else. We have experienced the greatest reconciliation this world has ever seen and it happened in our very own hearts.
So, we must be known as peacemakers.
Sometimes we think that reconciliation with people we have fought with is impossible, but God has enabled us through our experience of reconciliation to be able to do the impossible. We must remember that no matter how badly we have been wronged we haven’t been wronged as badly or as seriously as we have wronged the Lord. Our sin against an infinite and perfectly holy God has eternal ramifications. Since we have been forgiven an eternal debt that we couldn’t repay we must forgive, and we must ask forgiveness as well.
The mandate is clear, Paul says in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
But why should we? Philippians 2:1-3 has the answer.
The example for peace-making is Jesus. He says in Phil 2:1, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion. the motivation is To be like Jesus Christ. His humiliation for the very purpose of making peace with his enemy is the clear example.
If you’ve experienced this peace in Christ, then there is much to be encouraged about! Consolation abounds! We are no longer at enmity with God but now call Him Father.
The goal of peace-making is unity. “make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Phil 2:2
We have been made one with Christ. If we are unreconciled with a brother or sister in Christ, then we are forgetting how much we have in common with them. We share the same love, we both have the Holy Spirit residing within us, and we share the same ultimate purpose, and that is to glorify Christ. If those things are not true about us, then that would mean we are not believers.
The attitude for peace-making is selflessness. Paul says in Phil 2:3, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”
We must have the same attitude as Christ who humbled Himself and became a man in order to save humanity. A self-centered attitude, an attitude where our happiness is all that matters, will not lead to a desire to be at peace with all men. It will minimize our sin and maximize the sins of others: suddenly, reconciliation will seem impossible and we will forget just how much Christ had to forgive us.
Perhaps you have been wronged in a very serious way and you can’t bear the thought of having to reconcile with this person. Let me encourage you, as hard as it may sound, to consider this incredible reconciliation you have experienced and let it propel you to attempt to make peace with everyone in your life. I believe that every Christmas we get a powerful reminder that Jesus offers an eternal peace that ought to affect our relationships in this life by being peacemakers ourself.