Good will hunting



You know it well. It is probably the most famous greeting of Christmas — on more Christmas cards than any other — “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Or the shorter version: Peace on earth; good will to men. That’s what we’ve heard. Well, there’s only one problem: it’s wrong. That is based on the King James Version of the Bible which has stood since 1611 as the standard for the English-speaking world, but of all the translations that now exist, it is the only one that reads that way, proving that it is not the most accurate rendering of the most early manuscripts from which all the newer versions are taken. What it really should be is: “Peace on earth among men of good will.” Big difference.

It’s not a blanket peace and good will over the whole world, which leads to a kind of general mushy good feeling toward everybody at Christmastime; instead, it is a statement directed to the whole world, but fulfilled specifically by certain people — people of good will. Yes, Christ brought peace and good will to the world, but He brought it to be exhibited through His followers.

Does that mean that we get the peace because we’re exceptionally good people? No. It means that we get the peace because we have put our faith in Christ, and as a result, the Holy Spirit has been born in us, and we have received the power to become sons and daughters of the living God. He is changing us and creating a heart of good will in us. So that, yes, we do become people of good will; but solely through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

And here’s the exciting part: none of this would have been possible had not Christ been born in Bethlehem that night. His birth started a chain of events which ends in you and me being the fulfillment of the angelic announcement! We become the people of peace and good will in the world because Christ came and left His Holy Spirit behind to live in us and empower us to that end. 

And believe me, at no time in history has that peace and good will been more needed in the world than now. We live in a time of mean-spirited ill-will from anybody who disagrees with us. That’s just expected now. Everyone’s taking sides.

Good will is openness to anyone and everyone. It is the gospel of welcome — welcome to all. It is refusing to take sides. Good will is loving your enemies, empathizing with those who are different, building bridges, lifting up (not tearing down), creating respect for all, resisting the temptation to find fault even when you’re among people who all agree, choosing not to take part in criminalizing anyone, speaking well of people who are not in your presence, giving everyone a second chance — then a third, and a fourth — up to 7 X 70 (Matthew 18:22), in fact, it is about being a catalyst, a peacemaker, a healer. Being a person of good will means standing in the gap, embracing people on all sides. This is what it will look like with the Holy Spirit living inside you. God’s grace to you, and God’s grace through you. It’s surely grace turned outward.

Did you ever realize that when the angel declared peace on earth among people of good will on that starry, angelic night, that he was talking about you?

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5 Responses to Good will hunting

  1. John A Fagliano says:

    I suspect that both the King James and the more modern translations are getting this wrong. The literal translation reads: “Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will.” (YLT). Peace to men of good will would be nothing new. Even before Christ came God’s people had inner peace. True, the New Testament out pouring of the Spirit had not yet happened, but I believe God still blessed those whom He favored with inner peace. The promise was clearly peace on Earth and that is prophetic. The earth has not seen this peace yet. It will be accompanied by men of good will. They will fill the earth. This is a view of His Kingdom and how it will be. What else could be “good news of great joy, that shall be to all the people ”

    This is the promise printed on the greeting cards. It also is in the Christmas songs, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” Though those songs use the King James version of Luke 2:14 they come to the right conclusion.
    “God is not dead nor does He sleep, the wrong shall fail the right prevail.”
    “And the whole world sends back a song which now the angels sing”

  2. I beg to differ with your statement above, John, that “at no time in history has that peace and good will been more needed in the world than now.”
    To be sure, we’re living in deplorable, deceptive, and desperate times but we can only assume that these are “the worst of times” because we’re here in our now.
    Of course the world seems irreversibly despicable because everything is happening to us – it’s our reality, not our grandparents nor our grandchildren’s reality… we own these days and we’re accountable as to how we respond to them.
    Let us not forget, however, that these times are the times God has designated as the right times for us and our generation.

    The fact that God literally intervened in biblically-recorded human events – from the expelling of Adam and Eve from the Garden to the birth of Christ to the building of His Church – indicates (to me) that there were comparably damnable (yet still salvageable) days like ours that re-awoke the faithful and rustled them to confront and address the downward spiral of civilization as they knew it – or else, be treated like the lukewarm water they were becoming.

    And then, there are the non-Scriptural events recorded in mans historical record (after the times of Peter, Paul, and John) when God interceded during equally tumultuous times for the benefit of a
    world populace bent toward self-satisfaction and/or self-destruction.

    I believe the reason we would presume that these days are the most catastrophic in history is because we have a much larger view of what’s going on around our planet right now than anyone ever had before.
    Plus, we have those nefarious opportunists (who have always been around) who are more capable of pouncing on our fears and dissatisfactions than they’ve ever had before.
    Unlike our forebears, we have much less time to process everything entering through our eyes and ears, and it is staggeringly overwhelming. Who can possibly sift through all the information grabbing for our attention?
    But it’s not insurmountable – especially when we turn those eyes and ears to Jesus.

    One thing we often need reminding of is that God has been here every day and night through the thick and thin of everything happening everywhere in the world but we often lose sight of Him and forget the still small voice of His Spirit because we fixate on the cacophony of haters, doomsayers, and preachers of polarization.
    Regardless, God is still here.

    There has never been a day in a Christians life or in Christ’s Church when we weren’t called to action, when we weren’t called to be people of good will, to be Jesus’ reflection, hands, and feet to all of the souls in our spheres of influence – and I mean ALL the souls whom God has placed in our lives (despite our differences).

    Just as in times past when the weary world fell into times of darkness and despair, of sorrowful moaning and fear, of almost succumbing to evil and the final death… the Holy Spirit moved among us and raised our own spirits with the thrill of hope and rejoicing.
    And, as in times past, He is stirring up His people in our day and age to be His agents of good will and Peace.

    Be a blessing. Be blessed.
    Be of good will. Be cheerful.
    Be courageous. Be encouraged.
    Be honest. Be True.
    Be faith-filled and faithful.
    Be Holy because He is Holy.

    Shalom, Peace to you…

  3. jwfisch says:

    Okay. I’ll grant you that everyone probably has their own “worst of times,” and who can compare? It’s just that this is as bad as I can remember experiencing.

    • I empathize, John.
      But, as in ages past, we cannot permit the gloom of negativity to snuff out the flicker of goodness and light that was ignited two thousand years ago in a dark stable at Bethlehem… and has illumined countless lives ever since.

      I’m watching the sun rise right now, on this the day of my birth, and I am filled with hope. Rarely is it not cloudy in Puget Sound on the first day of winter (and the longest night of the year) but this morning I am witnessing newness and rebirth. It’s actually very exciting!
      I am compelled to think of the shepherds who watched that same sun rise over their flocks and fields after a night unlike any other in history; those same shepherds – gruff, brusque, uneducated, hard men – who left the stable filled with joy, praise, wonderment, and hope.

      Are these days unlike any other in history?
      Yes, these are our days.
      Not our fathers nor our childrens.
      But the same God who gave us His Son two millennia ago is the same God who is with us today.
      There is no need for despair or reminders of what is wrong with the world.
      Unless we’re living in caves or have separated ourselves from the world for whatever reasons, we’re all pretty much aware that things seem pretty dire right now.

      It serves no useful purpose to rehash the obviously dismal state of our world. But most everyone pays attention when something fresh, new, and exciting challenges the status quo and provides the promise of meaningful hope to our existence.
      We are that something fresh, new, and exciting – or, we ought to be.
      We need to be His Light in todays gloom and be the bearers of love, life, hope, joy, good will, and peace.

      As the angels broke through the darkness of that special Holy Night, and as the voices of ones crying in the wilderness through the centuries – from John the Baptist to John Newton to John the Fischer – helped reveal the Light and the Truth, it is our duty to refocus peoples’ gaze toward the Creator of Light and the Author of Life. Not by reminding them of what they already know but by extending to them the love, peace, hope, joy, and vision they have not yet fully understood or encountered.
      We need to be fresh-smelling life-inspiring bouquets in this stinky old world, not corpse-flowers.

      Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
      Look full in His wonderful face,
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
      In the light of His glory and grace…

      Be a blessing. Be blessed.
      Be of good will. Be cheerful.
      Be courageous. Be encouraged.
      Be honest. Be True.
      Be faith-filled and faithful.
      Be Holy because He is Holy.

      Shalom, Peace to you and Happy Birthday to me!


  4. Toni Petrella says:

    No matter what some of the wording is or should be in the New Testament I cannot imagine our lives without that special event that happened so long ago a Savior who came for all of us to teach about peace, love, and bringing folks together. Our lives would be kind of empty without our Savior. I am glad for each year we celebrate that special event that brought hope to all of us and more when we walk with him daily.

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