Peace is something I often take for granted. On days like today, I’m reminded of those who died protecting us – and I’m thankful. Imagine it – your dad or brother or husband, packed off to war. Rumours of front-line atrocities you can’t even contemplate. Waiting, without a phone or email, to hear if they’re okay. Wanting desperately to believe the media reports of glorious victory. Knowing in your heart that there’s nothing glorious about war.
Thank goodness it’s over.
Except that, it’s not.
Drug wars in Mexico. Syria, torn apart by ISIS. Iraq. Civil war in the Sudan.The list goes on. And it will continue, as long as our hearts keep beating. Because of course, that’s where it starts. Not in council chambers or baking deserts. Not in bunkers or international debates. In here; in us:
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. James 4:1-3.
There are times when we must act to defend others and ourselves. Times when it’s appropriate to stand up for justice and for freedom. But it’s not like TV, where the bad guys wear black and speak in an English accent. Ask those fighting and both sides will say they are right. Both argue they’re defending their nation and loved ones. Often both purport to have God on their side. And both lay claim to a “righteous anger” that allows them to execute justice for themselves.
The problem is, that human anger cannot bring about peace. At its best, it can remove unjust structures. But it cannot establish righteousness in their place, (James 1:20). Justice cannot be achieved through force. It requires something stronger and more costly; sacrifice and compassion, mercy and grace.
An army to conquer hearts as well as countries. A Spirit who brings internal as well as external peace. A Conqueror who crushes His enemies, but allies Himself with the weak. A King who fights for a kingdom that no man can see.
The Cross shows us that real glory is birthed in shame. Real strength wears the robes of weakness. And real power is given to the One who gives it away. The one war that matters has already been fought. And as Christians we can know His peace, even as our world blows itself apart.
(It is God, who)… makes wars to cease to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear.
He burns the chariots with fire.
Be still and know that I am God.
I am exalted among the nations. I am exalted in the earth.
There won’t be “peace in our time.” But there will be peace in His time. And while we wait, we pray for the war-torn and the oppressed and we say “Come Lord Jesus.”
(Praying for the persecuted church: Barnabas)