On Sunday morning at First Pres our preacher, Rev. Dr. Jennifer McNutt (one of our all-star Parish Associates), taught us about living in peace with one another. As we studied Romans 12:9-21 she brought us into the over-arching narrative of Paul’s letter to Rome and the theme of peace that permeates the epistle. If you missed the sermon on Sunday, I would invite and encourage you to listen to it here.
Paul portrays peace as an impossibility early in the book of Romans due to the reality and pervasiveness of sin. As enemies of God, you and I, and our fellow humans, have made selfish decisions, built corrupt systems, and turned from God’s desires for us to such a degree that living in peace with one another and with God is simply not achievable of own accord. But God, who is rich in mercy, entered into the mess of human brokenness in the person of Jesus Christ to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves.
The Christmas event is God’s initiation of bringing peace to us and making peace with us. And, as Paul instructs us in Romans, we now have the responsibility to be imitators of Jesus Christ in making peace with others in the same way God has made peace with us; by responding to evil with good. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil,” Paul writes, calling us to live as Jesus lived, and “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Jennifer mentioned on Sunday the story of Louie Zamperini, a story made famous by the fabulous book Unbroken and the very mediocre movie by the same name. After being held and tortured in a Japanese prison camp during World War II, Zamperini struggled to overcome his ordeal and turned to alcohol to drown out his ongoing nightmares and forget his experiences as a POW.
In 1949, at the invitation of his wife, Zamperini attended a Billy Graham crusade and gave his life to Jesus Christ. As a result of coming to faith, Zamperini began to live like Jesus lived and he decided to forgive his Japanese captors. In October of 1950, Zamperini visited Sugamo Prison in Tokyo where many war criminals were held, including some of the men who had tortured him during the war. Zamperini expressed his forgiveness to those who had done evil to him and shared his faith in Jesus as his reason for seeking to live at peace with those who had done him incredible harm. Some of the men who had tortured prisoners actually became Christians themselves because of Louie’s forgiveness and his witness to Jesus Christ.
What was once impossible, has become not only possible but also God’s mandate for us. The Christmas event teaches us that God has responded to our evil with His good. Now we are called to live in the same manner as we relate to one another.
Grateful to be discovering the peace of Christmas alongside you,