“Peace on earth, goodwill toward men,” is a common refrain we hear repeated during this time of year.
Of course, it’s part of the chorus of praise from the angelic heavenly host when they appeared to the shepherds in the field at Jesus’ birth (Lk. 2:1-14).
Peace and goodwill go together like peanut butter and jelly. Like salt and pepper. Like shoes and socks.
Apart from peace, goodwill is difficult to achieve. One sage quipped that if we began with peace, maybe there would be more goodwill.
Goodwill is often explained as our well wishes toward others. Doing good deeds. And giving gifts.
Interestingly, other versions offer a different rendering based on variant Greek texts, altering the thought and emphasis a bit.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (ESV).
“Praise God in heaven! Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God.” (CEV)
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)
Without getting into the theological weeds of manuscripts and translations we offer this conclusion by Luke Wayne who suggests that the rendering “with whom He is pleased” emphasizes “God’s peace and mercy are given specifically to those upon whom he has bestowed His favor.”
“Goodwill is rendered “favor” or “good pleasure” in other passages speaking of God’s graciousness in His plan for saving man from sin through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1;5, 9).
At any rate “goodwill” is the opposite of “ill-will.” God intends good for us. From the beginning, when He created the world, He looked at each day’s works and said, “It is good.” The blessings we enjoy in this world are the result of Divine goodwill.
The gift of God’s Son was the ultimate expression of goodwill to broken, fallen, sinful people. As a result, all spiritual blessings we receive through Jesus Christ speak to His continued goodwill. And the peace of God we experience is a further demonstration of His goodwill.
Like the shepherds who received the angelic revelation, sought Jesus, rendered worship to Him, and shared their joy with others, we today are recipients of God’s goodwill when we do the same.
Of all people, Christians ought to be God’s goodwill ambassadors. Having been blessed by His divine favor, it’s our privilege to share the love of God, joy of our faith, the hope of our salvation, and our peace that surpasses all understanding in Christ Jesus.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever we say and whatever we post on social media ought to leave behind goodwill toward others. Not ill-will.
Too often we find ourselves not only thinking and feeling ill-will toward others but acting in such a way. There’s a fleshly feeling of giving others “a taste of their own medicine.” Of rationalizing, “they had it comin’ to ‘em.” Of actually violating Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:17-19.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Let’s break the cycle of pejorative comments, cynical retorts, crude chants, ugly epithets, and harsh rhetoric that has become so pervasive in our culture today. Let’s replace ill-will with goodwill.
Goodwill. Let it begin with me. Today.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman