For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit; he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. — Romans 14:17-19
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. — Luke 6:36-37
When announcing the Nativity, the heavenly host declared peace on earth. With Christ in our hearts, we rejoice in the forgiveness of our sins. As we anticipate Jesus’ second coming, we hope for the final cessation of mourning, crying, and pain. Let us celebrate in reverence the work of Christ because He has given us freedom from sin. Let us consider with what He comes.
Peace and forgiveness are intimately connected. This is no secret; spiritual gurus and psychologists alike agree that forgiveness generates peace. Fury and peace are, of course, quite incompatible. When the wronged choose rage and not reconciliation, they choose tumult and not tranquility. Less obvious is the circularity of forgiveness and peace. It takes a heart full of, perhaps overflowing with, peace to forgive. Hence, the circle. Forgiveness brings peace—both to the forgiver and to the relationship—and yet, how could one truly forgive without inner peace already? After all, forgiveness is tremendously impractical. Fear and hatred are self-preserving, forgiveness is self-sacrificing. It refuses to accept that which one may rightfully demand. Furthermore, to forgive, one must first acknowledge and validate pain. Forgiving is not excusing, tolerating, or ignoring. Forgiveness beholds the offense eye-to-eye. Why turn the other cheek? How could one bear to forgive without already having peace, and enough to share?
The circular relationship of peace and forgiveness seems to be without breach or beginning. Its walls are too high to climb and too thick to break. But, therein lies the impregnable Kingdom of God.
Forgiveness from the God of Peace Himself creates a door into this state of tranquility—that is, His kingdom. God demonstrated His perfect love on the cross. Moments before His death, Jesus requested forgiveness for His crucifiers. “Peace be with you,” and “go in peace,” were common phrases from His lips. Jesus’ initial and transformative work compels imitation. When He stills the tempest in the hearts of his followers, He enables them to forgive, as they have been forgiven, to love, as they have been loved. Jesus is our peace. He is our door! Only God, the fountain of all goodness, can initiate—by forgiving—the cycle of peace in His conflicted creation. This is the nature of citizenship in the kingdom of the Prince of Peace. In this kingdom, pride and possession are of no value; all things belong to God. Christians are called to cast their anxieties upon their King. Thus, when properly oriented, their souls enjoy a degree of tranquility and contentment independent of circumstance. The people of God may be disenfranchised, marginalized, or oppressed, but they can experience and perpetuate a sense of peace that comes from a filial bond to an unimaginably powerful and kind being. Out of this peace, we forgive.
Though the walls of the kingdom of God are high indeed, the drawbridge has been brought low. The King himself stands at the door with open arms, ready to run out and meet the prostitute, the tax collector, and prodigals of every sort—welcoming them into the feast of love, joy, peace, and righteousness. Thank God for Christ our door!
Meditate on the verses above. Think especially about righteousness, peace, and joy as building blocks of the kingdom of God. Recall the specific ways God has forgiven you. Consider the offences you have yet to pardon. Seek to release the hateful image of your offender from your heart. Finally, if you are able, plan on ways to reconcile with that person, that you too may pray with the saints: forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.