“Peace on earth.” We hear it frequently at this time of year in carols, on Christmas cards, and elsewhere. This was part of the angels’ message to the shepherds in Luke 2. But how about Jesus’ words ten chapters later (Luke 12:51-52) where he says, “Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.”
So what’s going on? Maybe it has something to do with the meaning of “peace.” As a Bible translator, I’ve observed several different senses of this word.
–Sometimes it refers to cessation of hostility, as in “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
–In some places it refers to smooth interpersonal relationships, such as “Be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50)
–It can also mean freedom from worry, as in “…my peace I give to you… Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” (John 14:27)
–But in yet other places, “peace” might be better understood through the Hebrew perspective of “shalom.” One of the resources I use regularly says, “It is connected with the messianic salvation and concerns the whole social order, referring to well being, prosperity, security, and harmony. It refers to all the blessings resulting from the coming of the Messiah.”
Now, which sense of “peace” do you think is meant by the angels in their announcement to the shepherds?
And which sense is meant in Luke 12?