In April of 1992, after four Los Angeles Police Officers were acquitted of any criminal act in the apprehension, beating, and arrest of Rodney Ki ng, the city of Los Angeles burst into some of the worst riots in its history. After three days of fatalities, injuries, looting, and vandalism, King appeared before the microphones and cameras and asked the now-famous question: “Can’t we all get along?” It seems an innocuous question, the kind I have asked my children a time or two. And yet, in the midst of race and class riots in the streets, it was a profound question of peace and tolerance.
“Can’t we all get along?” is the question the religious world is fond of asking. The vast majority of the religious world wants us to believe that all beliefs and assertions of truth are equally true and valid for the purposes of knowing God and loving our fellow humanity. No matter how contradictory these beliefs and convictions may be, the world believes that this is the way to peace. In a world of religious pluralism, the world’s answer to King’s question is, “Yes, Mr. King, we can all get along if we would live and let live and find that peace comes only by accepting everyone’s opinion as equally valid, no matter how contradictory or divergent these opinions may be.”
To be accurate, the Bible reminds us that as Christians we are to be at peace with all people, if possible (Rom. 12:18). We are to be known as easy to get along with, pursuers of peace and equanimity with our neighbors. The church should not be known for violence or hate-mongering, but as a people of peace, indeed peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). Nevertheless, this peace is not to be had at the expense of the truth. In fact, the Christian knows that there is no real peace without truth, and the truth is that real, lasting peace comes only by and through the blood of Jesus.
In Colossians 1:19–20, we are told that the divine revelation of God in Christ was done so that He might “reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” The peace that reconciles — that brings all things into true unity and says, “Yes, we can get along” — is the peace that comes by way of the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. The blood of Christ not only says we can get along with each other; more importantly, it says we can get along with God.
Our world is fond of talking about peace. We hold peace summits and rallies. We establish peace accords and treaties. We even hand out peace prizes. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to 118 recipients such as Theodore Roosevelt, Albert Schweitzer, the Red Cross, Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, and Barack Obama, to name a few. Yet, for all of its summits, accords, and prizes, the world ha s not accomplished peace. Wars and rumors of wars continue. This is because there is no peace so long as sin remains.
Peace is the absence of hostility and the establishment of prosperity and tranquility. It is what the Bible calls shalom — a wholeness and integrity of life established in righteous relationship with God and others. Peace is what was lost in the garden of Eden because of sin. And peace is what is established once again in Christ Jesus through His blood. The only way to bring an end to hostility and enmity in the world is to bring an end to the source of hostility and enmity, namely, sin.
As Christ came to bring an end to our sin (1 John 3:5), so Christ came to bring peace. When Christ was born, He came as God to “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). And on the night of our Savior’s birth, the angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (Luke 2:14). And yet, the peace was not without a cost. Christ brought peace to us, but with a price — His own blood (Col. 1:20).
Why does the blood of Christ make peace? Because without it there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the forgiveness of sin, hostility and enmity remain. The difference between the world and the church is not that one wants peace and the other does not. We all desire peace. The difference is that the church wants the One who has brought peace through His blood and the world does not. The difference is the blood of Jesus, which cleanses us from sin and establishes our peace with God.
The world around us is every day echoing the words of Rodney King: “Can’t we all get along?” The church’s answer to this question is the gospel of peace. We can get along in and through Jesus Christ, who by His blood is our peace and provides for us the only way to get along with God and each other.