January 4, 2009

My ‘winter break’ is almost over.  I was planning to get a lot of rest, and do a lot of nothing.  While I was successful in this regard, I don’t feel at peace at all. Why is that?

I remember this old poem from the recess of my mind…. It described a serene, calm setting of rolling, green hills, and birds happily chirping in the bright blue sky above.  The title of the poem was something like ‘Inside the DMZ.’  If you were to read this pastoral description without knowing the title, you would get a sense of calm and even peace.  But knowing the title, you would realize that this poem isn’t about rest, calm, or peace at all.  It is about conflict, war, and unending tension.  The juxtaposition of this peaceful scene and the whole history of the war-torn Korea symbolized by the DMZ, sheds light on what peace actually is.

What then is peace?  From the poem we realize that it is more than the absence of conflict.  The two Koreas have not been at war for over fifty years, yet we cannot say that there is peace.  The idyllic scene only highlights the fact that while there may be natural harmony, there is yet political unrest.  Peace requires reconciliation.  Peace requires more than forgetfulness – it requires remembrance and real forgiveness.

The teachers of this age tell us that we must free ourselves from our conscious, that guilt is the primary thing that holds us back.  But we cannot find peace this way.  We may learn to come to terms with ourselves, with our deficiencies, even our sins, but we cannot be reconciled to God this way.  Christians, no matter how far along in their walk, must always and by utter necessity, come back to the foot of the cross.  Here alone is the key to peace; when we remember our sins before God, He tells us it is forgiven and then forgotten.  Here then is where God reconciles us to Himself.

This is what Jesus says in Matthew 11: 28~30

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What does He say to those who are tired? Come, I will give you rest.  So far so good.  Then what? ‘Take my yoke upon you’!  The last thing someone who is overworked and weary needs is another yoke, another burden.  But this is exactly what we need to find true, lasting peace.  Merely throwing off our old burdens is not enough – we must also take on His burden.

We teach our kids the ‘Jesus prayer’.  “If you truly believe in Jesus pray this prayer after me and you’ll be saved.”  Then we tell them to live righteous lives.  These two things are presented as two independent, even unrelated processes.  But this attitude only highlights the fact that we have not understood what the Gospel is about.  Yes, we are saved from our lives of sin.  But do we realize what we are saved towards?

But I digress.  It is not surprising that we must take on His burden to find true rest.  For He is the Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12).  He is the one who saw that everything was good, and rested.  The act of creation did not exhaust Him, yet He rested.   By coming to Him, we can taste this Sabbath, this Shalom, that is more than just recharging from our physical, material weariness.  We can be more than ‘at peace’, and have peace itself.


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