(Image courtesy of http://libertychat.com.)

After spending a good Thanksgiving in Wisconsin with my family this year, I had to abruptly turn around and drive ten hours south to Tennessee.  On my lonely driving trips, I usually go through a few phases.

Phase 1: Logical and Reasonable - During this phase, I'll drive comfortably, either in silence or with a little music playing.  I don't really say anything either, at least for the first few hours.
Phase 2: Butt Ache and Starting to Lose It - When I hit the three or four hour mark, I usually start to squirm a bit more in my seat because my butt is starting to hurt.  Around this time, I start to sing songs a little more loudly, only showing beginning signs of craziness (i.e., talking to myself in strange voices).
Phase 3: Talking to Cars and Making Faces in the Mirror - By now, I'm so ready to get out of the car.  But I can't; I have to keep driving.  So I start talking to other cars, sometimes in other accents.  I also make faces in the rear view mirror to keep myself entertained.
Phase 4: Speed No Matter What and Slap Myself to Stay Awake - The final couple hours are torturous, but there is hope just around the corner!  I usually end up picking up the speed, trying to get home faster.  Depending on the time of day, I might literally be found slapping myself in the face trying to stay awake.
Needless to say, by the time I get back, I feel like I've been through a washing machine.

On my way back to Tennessee last week (I can't remember what phase I was fighting through), I noticed a couple bumper stickers quite frequently.  You can see them below:

(Image courtesy of http://northersun.com.)
(Image courtesy of http://sunshinedaydream.com.)

My first reaction was, "Oh look.  Neat!"  But as I got closer and saw all the little symbols representing all of the major world religions and ideas, I realized this was not neat; instead, it was sickening.

"So what's wrong with peace?" some of you might be thinking.

I'm glad you asked.

There is nothing wrong with peace.  In fact, peace is exactly why Jesus came into this world.  But here's where we might disagree.  Jesus did not come to bring peace on this earth; He came to bring peace between God and Man, to appease the wrath of God against Man's sins.  Now, if all people believed in God and were obedient to Him, then certainly we would have peace also on this earth, as it is in Heaven.  But we know that will not happen from reading the Bible.

What is noteworthy about these bumper stickers is that they are not simply nice, little bumper sticker sayings; they represent today's worldview shared by non-Christians.

And very sadly, many "Christians" as well.  (To these Christians, I say, "Keep reading!")

I'll come right out and say it: There will never be peace among religions and beliefs.  Jesus is the only way!  Jesus is the only truth!  Jesus is the only life!  (See John 14:6.)  If you don't believe that, then you will be in for a surprise one day, when your knee bows to Him even when you try to fight against it (Philippians 2:9-11).

That is certainly not what you expected me to say, I'm sure.  Many would say I'm being harsh and intolerant, that I'm not being "nice."  Well, call it what you want.  I call it telling the truth.

But I'm just a messenger.  Let's look at the source Himself.

In Matthew 10:34, Jesus says, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Whoa, whoa, whoa!  What's up with that?!  In the Christmas songs we sing about "peace on earth and good will toward men" and "silent nights" and other peaceful scenes.

Assuredly, Jesus did bring peace.  As I said before, He brought peace between God and Man, that if any should believe in His name, they will be saved and have peace made with God (Romans 10:9-10, Romans 10:13).  Romans 5:1 says, "Therefore, being justified with faith [in Jesus], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

So what is Jesus saying in Matthew 10:34?

First of all, it's important to note the context.  Jesus is talking to His disciples right before He sends them out on a brief missionary journey to practice what they have learned.  His disciples believed what many Christians today believe: Jesus came to bring peace on earth in the forms of temporary peace and abundant blessings.  More specifically, His disciples believed He would put an end to the reign of the Romans in their area and bring peace to the nation of Israel by giving them worldly wealth and earthly power (Matthew Henry).  But He didn't come to give us wealth and power on this earth.  (Sorry Joel Osteen, you're wrong.)  He came to give us peace with His Father.

Joel Osteen believes what many of the Jews believed in Jesus' day: That Jesus came to give us wealth and power on this earth.  On the contrary, Jesus came to make peace with His Father for Mankind.  That's worth far more than gold coins or fancy cars.  (Image courtesy of http://crosswalk.com.)
Secondly, Jesus says He brought a sword.  A sword?  That doesn't seem very peaceful.  Ah, but remember: Jesus came to bring peace between God and Man in the spiritual world.  He needed a sword (His Word; see Hebrews 4:12) to defeat the devil and buy humanity back from the pits of hell, created out of God's hatred toward sin.  The beautiful thing is that Jesus left us His Sword - His Word - in the form of His Spirit and Bible to be instruments to bring peace between God and more Men.

This is why there can be no peace and unity among Christians and other religions or beliefs.  God is singular and He does not share His throne with anyone - not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Atheism, not anyone.  If you want true peace, then know God.

Allow me to close with this final story.

When people ask me if I think homosexuality is okay, they are surprised to hear someone as "nice" as me say no.  And here is the simple reason I cannot agree with the practice of homosexuality: God says it is wrong (along with many other sins as well, many of which I was guilty of; I am just using homosexuality as an example).  Their response to me saying, "Homosexuality is wrong," usually goes something along these lines: "But they're not bothering you.  Just let them do what they want."  Of course, this is exactly the definition of tolerance - "to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference" (Google).

I refuse to be tolerant.  As soon as I say, "You're right; you're not bothering me, so do what you want," I am opening wide the door to hell and pushing them inside.  The reason I must speak up is because God has implanted in me a desire to care for people.  Indeed, if I didn't speak up for what is right and take a stance for truth, I would be saying I didn't care.

But I do care.  And more importantly, God cares.  That's why He sent His Son Jesus to bring peace!

Many people would say I'm being intolerant right now.  Many are undoubtedly angry with me for sounding so "conceited" and "harsh."  Some are probably wondering, "What is wrong with this guy?  They were just bumper stickers."

I suppose the reason I am so passionate about this is because I believe and know the Word of God to be true.  And this is the desire God has for all people everywhere: To know Jesus' redeeming love.  I have tried Jesus - and in my twenty-five years of living, I have never been in need or want of anything or anyone else (Psalm 23:1).

Please at least do this: Try Jesus.  I promise you that if you try Him, you will indeed love Him.  Jesus offers you complete freedom and infinite hope, something that no other religion or belief can offer you.  Trying Jesus means to surrender to His love, accept His grace, and follow Him in obedience, embracing His commands laid out for everyone in the Bible.

But the choice of choosing Jesus remains - as it always will - yours and yours alone.

I have told you the truth because the Holy Spirit has revealed His truth to me.  I pray He reveals it to you, too.  Until that day, I will continue to stand for the truth and love the sinner, but not the sin.

If you are a Christian saved by grace, then you have the same call to spread this truth that I do.  But tread carefully!  Don't forget we are called to speak this truth in love, not in judgment (Ephesians 4:15).

No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.