Swedish industrialist, Alfred Nobel, rocketed to fame and fortune by inventing dynamite. He envisioned its use as a boon for mining and construction, not as a gruesome weapon of war. Nevertheless, it was his military clientele that made him incredibly rich, a serendipity which he serenely accepted.
But in 1888 Alfred Nobel had an experience that would change his life. Thumbing through a French newspaper he came across his own obituary.
It was the day after his brother had died, and the journalist had evidently been a sloppy fact-checker. The obituary declared: ‘Le marchand de la mort est mort’ (The merchant of death is dead).
It went on to state coldly: ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’
You can imagine the mix of emotion Nobel must have felt—distress that the world viewed him this way, but relief that he was still alive to change how his real obituary would read.
That very day he decided to start a trust that would reward and honor those who strove to end war and promote peace, and for those who would ameliorate life on earth by striving for excellence in science, chemistry, economics, and literature. His misreported death was the birth of the iconic Nobel prize.
Of these prizes, awarded annually in Oslo, the most controversial and incendiary is the peace prize.
It differs from the other prizes in that it is never awarded posthumously, has no objective criteria, and can be awarded to those who haven’t yet attained what they are striving for. For example, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and Yitzhak Rabin all received the prize without achieving their goal of peace in the Middle East.
The subjectivity of the award was also highlighted when it became known that Mahatma Gandhi, whose pacifism was successful in bringing about a non-violent peace settlement in India, was nominated three times, but passed over each time. One close call that could have proved embarrassing had he won, was the nomination of Adolf Hitler.
Nobel Committee members have publicly objected, protested, and even resigned in disgust at some of the decisions. Each time the debacle explodes in a fiery media blaze of dispute, disagreement, and discord. With unmistakable irony, the Nobel Peace prize has spawned bitter conflict, dramatic clashes, and petty squabbling on an international scale.
Unfortunately Christians, who are the champions of and recipients of God’s peace, can occasionally be accused of a similar hypocrisy. Disciples of the Prince of Peace are sometimes guilty of the disunity and infighting found in the world. It is this problem Paul tries to prevent with a simple command found in his letter to the Colossian church.
Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts …
The word peace is a translation of the Greek irene. It means general well-being, calm, absence of mental, emotional, or interpersonal conflict or disturbance. It is the opposite of hostility with God and man, the opposite of turmoil, strife, quarrelling, and rivalry.
Christians are at peace with God, through the atoning work of Jesus. Christians are therefore to be at peace with one another. Our responsibility is to let that peace rule. Literally: ‘be your judge or arbiter’.
Do you know what robs peace in a congregation? When people get uptight and stressed and worked up about their own personal preferences. Maybe it’s a doctrinal nuance at stake, like rapture timing. Perhaps it’s a Christian liberty disagreement, like tattoos. Or perhaps it’s a style of ministry issue like drums in worship.
(I’m not talking about the necessary division over truth or compromising God’s clearly revealed word in order to preserve shallow “unity.” The goal isn’t peace at all costs. I’m referring to the topics that leadership deem to be conscience issues and not distinctives of the church’s doctrine.)
But we have a specific mandate in the church. Peace is a higher priority to Christ than your preference and your comfort.
Heb 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone…
Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Stop letting your personal issues get to you, rather make them submit to the knowledge that you have peace with God and his people. Turn down the volume of your own selfish desires and turn up the volume of the peace of Christ, as long as this peace is based on your unity in Christ.
The result is an abiding sense of thankfulness.
Col 3:15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
You might ask ‘How do I know if I am letting the peace of Christ rule in my heart?’ Answer: are you thankful or complaining? Discontent, ungrateful Christians are the bane of any congregation. They view everything as an offence and they voice their opinions loudly like squawking birds.
You show me someone who is squawking and quacking like a duck about how their needs aren’t met, about how everyone else is offending them, and I’ll show you an ingrate who has no thankfulness toward God who called them into his family.
The world offers a Nobel Prize for striving for political peace and harmony in the world. But there is a prize so much more valuable than that. The prize of a relationship with God and his saints thorough Jesus. And if you are at peace with God, then remember what he has done for you, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart to preserve harmony in the body into which you were called, and then… be thankful.