Peace. Peace with God, peace with our conscience and peace with our neighbour. These three things are all necessary for lasting joy and contentment in life’s suffering. Man is able to compromise regarding the third and for a time drown out the second. But he is powerless to do the first.
And so God came into the world as one of us to accomplish all three.
To this end, the arrival of Jesus as the Son of God and the Prince of Peace was announced by angelic choirs singing,
Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those on whom his favour rests (Luke 2:14)
In his book, Eternity in their Hearts, Don Richardson recalls his missionary days in Papua New Guinea with his wife Carol. In 1962 Don and his wife took their 8-month-old son Stephen to Papua New Guinea to live among the Sawi people.
The Sawi people were one of five or six tribes in the world who practised both cannibalism and headhunting. They sought heads as trophies and saw people in general as a potential meal.
The early attempts by Don to communicate the gospel to these people were frustrated by the tribe’s admiration for treachery.
The particular brand of treachery most admirable to the Sawi was to befriend others over a period of months, inviting them to meals and celebrations while slowly fattening them for an unsuspecting day of slaughter.
The Sawi people worshipped this kind of hero, one who was able to successfully deceive and then later eat his companion.
As a result, early attempts to share the gospel left the tribe with the perception that Judas Iscariot was the hero of the story and that Jesus was simply the one to be laughed at—the one on whom others would feast.
John and his wife Carol found themselves struggling with two weighty problems.
The first problem was, how could they make the real meaning of the gospel clear to a people whose value system seem so opposite to the New Testament ethic? And, secondly, how could they be sure that these people were not fattening them up with friendship for an unsuspecting day of slaughter?
The couple prayed daily for wisdom and a way for the gospel to reach these hard-hearted people.
Over time they noticed that the Sawi people had a unique way of making peace and forstalling outbreaks of inter-tribal violence. If a Sawi father offered his son to another group as a “peace child” not only was the current grievance considered settled but also future grievances would also be forgiven—so long as the peace child remained alive.
This cultural quirk of the Sawi people proved to be an opening through which Don and his wife could present Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the ultimate Peace Child.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And He will be their peace. (Micah 5:4-5).
On hearing Jesus described as the Peace Child who brought forgiveness and rest, their eyes were opened and they began to see Judas in a new light.
There was only one thing more disgraceful or shameful than being the victim of their treachery and that was to do harm to the peace child.
Judas had betrayed the Peace Child. As a result of God’s wonder-working power in their hearts, the Sawi people turned from their old ways and laid their hands on the Peace Child as the one who alone could bring salvation to the village.
You and I are invited to do the same each day. When trouble stirs between our neighbour, we lay our hand on the Peace Child.
When shame troubles the conscience, we lay our hand on the Peace Child. And when we stumble and fall, we look again to God and lay our hands on the Peace Child.