Chasing Peace

Peace on earth is elusive.  Maybe if we pursued (chased) peace as hard as we do other things that are important to us peace would come easier.  We have to want it.  Then, we have to actually try to make it happen.  Do we believe the Bible, or just the parts of it we like?  Listen to this part:

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Who is the man who desires life,
And loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
(Psalms 34:11-16 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

Note the reference to chasing (pursuing) peace in line eight. I have indicated it with bold type. A large part of this passage is quoted in the New Testament:

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For “He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil.” And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.… (1 Peter 3:8-14 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

Verse 13-14, beginning “and who is he…,” is of particular interest. It seems that Peter is saying, “If always seeking peace causes you to suffer, what can another human really do to you? They cannot cause you ultimate harm. Therefore, you don’t have to worry. You can pursue peace, and leave the consequences to God.” Now, it takes faith to take Peter at his word. We are reminded of Jesus’ statement:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 NKJV)

Which reminds us of the apostles’ statement:

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Luke 17:5 NKJV)

Yes Lord, we need more faith to accept Your word. We look at those about us, and let them form our attitudes, instead of looking only to You. Forgive us, and please mercifully help us.

In this context of pursuing peace, likely the passage that comes the most readily to mind is the seventh Beatitude:

Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9 NKJV)

I understand that “sons of God” can not only mean “children of God,” but can also mean “like God.” Thus, we are like God when we are peacemakers. Surely, we all desire to be like God. So, while we are constantly at war with the devil, we should just as constantly pursue/make peace with God and with one another.

I can think of at least three areas in which the position of “peacemaker” is open and begging to be filled.

Peace with God. The Peacemaker par excellence is Jesus. He bought peace, not with the blood of others, but with His own blood.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, … so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, (Ephesians 2:13-15 NKJV, emphasis mine, JB)

I wish we could learn from Jesus to produce peace by giving instead of attempting to produce peace by fighting. Give yourself to God and to your neighbor. It is the only way you will ever have peace. It is not the way of man, but it is the way of God. It takes a strong person with a healthy self-image to seek peace in this manner. Are you up to it?

Personal Peace with Others. Peacemaking involves friendmaking. How do you make a friend? Usually, by meeting some need they have. You meet their need to be taken seriously, to have a trusted someone they can talk to, to have a physical need provided, or something else that is important to them. In a word – you serve them.

… through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14 NKJV)

If you are trying to help someone, you may be less aware of any perceived hurt they have directed toward you. If you are helping someone, it should be obvious that they would be less likely to try and hurt you. Of course there will be exceptions, but surely that is generally true. The more you are looking outward the less you are looking inward. The less you are looking inward, the less likely you are to be offended/hurt. The less you feel hurt, the more likely you are to look outward – and serve. So, the cycle is complete, and it spins around giving/serving – like, guess who, Jesus.

Collective Peace with Others. This section involves the Christian and civil government. Most Christians vote and most Christians pray for the civil government. Some Christians even serve in the civil government. I have two sons who do so. We are not isolated from the civil government.

I feel it would be absurd to argue that the scriptures I have cited and the points that I have made above would apply only to individuals and not to the civil government. If a Christian is to pursue peace by being a peacemaker, should not the civil government do the same? I would certainly think so.

I am a strong supporter of our military. I believe, along with our brothers the British, that we have the best military in the world – and I am glad that we do. However, we must keep in mind that our military does not make foreign policy, they enforce it (when ordered to do so by their civilian political handlers, that is, the civil government). Thus, one may be an opponent of a foreign war, while at the same time continuing strong support for our military forces.

If you will look back through history and examine human warfare, I believe you will find few wars that can be Biblically justified. I think there may be some justifiable, but that they would be in the minority. As you know the Bible gives the reason for war:

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3 NKJV)

Most wars are caused by two things: greed and arrogance. I am a lay student of the American Civil War. I have an ancestor who fought in it (43rd Mississippi Infantry CSA). It was caused by greed and arrogance on both sides. Are we Christians or not? Let us not encourage greed and arrogance.

Let us “seek peace and pursue it” thus becoming blessed peacemakers. The weak cannot do this. They will Zombie-like bow down at the altar of the opinions of others. You must be an independent thinker, by letting Christ control your thoughts. Your decisions must not be driven by the thoughts and actions of others.

Let us pray privately and publically for our men and women in the armed forces.  Let us continue to pray fervently for them. May we pray for their physical safety, for their emotional health, and that they may soon be able to return to their families.  May I suggest that using phrases like “fighting for our freedom” in our public prayers could be taken as an endorsement of the political decision to wage a particular war. I suggest that we keep politics out of the church by praying for peace and the safety of our soldiers, and leave it at that. Let us not endorse every action of the civil government, with phrases we use in holy worship, simply because they are the civil government. If I were writing this about abortion or homosexuality, I would probably get numerous “amen’s” here. I hope our feelings are as strong about the seventh Beatitude as they are about those two issues. Prayfully consider your feelings, as I shall mine. May God bless the U.S.A. May we all believe and obey all the commands of the Lord Jesus Christ.

My soul has dwelt too long With one who hates peace.
I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.
(Psalms 120:6-7 NKJV)

(This article has been moved here from my old Blogger blog … John)

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10 Responses to “Chasing Peace”

  1. Bobby Valentine Says:

    John I sent u a private message on fb … I commend you on your blog. There are things i would nuance differently for sure but I think you are moving closer the heartbeat of shalom in Scripture … of both Testaments. I would cite Micah 4.3 and Isa 2.4 as images of the messianic age. Zechariah’s radical vision in 9.9-10. I would point to the Ephesians txt quoted, not only does God make shalom but he does so by destroying the old world demarcations of ethnicity by creating a new race. Fighting is a mark of the FALLEN age. I would also suggest that turning the other cheek is “pursuing shalom.” I agree with ur call for prophetic eyes (see Kingdom Come, pp. 157-159).

    I see real “conflict” with your professed desire though and the plea for that world class military. David Lipscomb once said, “The chief occupation of human governments from the beginning has been war. Nine-tenths of the taxes paid by the human family, have gone to preparing for, carrying on, or paying the expenses of war.” Even Dwight D Eisenhauer warned about the defense “establishment.” At no time is the “prophetic” voice of Lipscomb and even the patriotic voice of DE closer to reality.

    I think the point can be made by comparing foreign aid (which most americans vociferously protest) with military spending. But our foreign aid in terms of the federal budget is nearly a joke. In 2008 the Defense Department’s budget was over 711 BILLION dollars which accounts for 43% of all global military expenditures. That is more than DOUBLE China and Russia combined. By contrast in 2008 the USA budget 25 billion in Aid. That is a whopping 0.2% of the budget. Germany, much smaller in terms of population & economy, gave over 13 billion in aid. Here is a link to actual numbers:
    http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_foreign_aid_does_the_us_government_give_away

    Here is a link to worldwide military spending for comparison purposes. The US spent over 600 billion vs the rest of the world @ 500 billion. That is fascinating:

    http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world-military-spending

    For 2009 the military budget was 711 billion

    At what point do we scratch our heads and say something is amiss??

  2. John Says:

    Thanks Bobby – my conflict might be summed up with an extra-biblical quote: “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, though my meaning may not be exactly the same as Teddy Roosevelt’s. I still believe in the “just” war, I am not pure Lipscomb, but have a lot of respect for him and Harding.

    When I become Caesar, I will drastically cut military spending (mainly by keeping us out of foreign wars) and drastically cut taxes. I will expect the church to step up in the benevolent field. The tax cuts will stimulate business, which will provide employment, and the employed will pay taxes – so, the revenue stream will actually increase. Now flush with cash, I will reduce the national debt. The way I would do foreign aid is by making our economy so good here that we couldn’t keep up with the employment demand. I would at that point allow increased immigration. I would aid the foreigners by welcoming them to America, as our ancestors were welcomed.

    I think your comment went to moderation because of the multiple links. Moderation is turned off. Thanks for your comments and links.

    BTW, I also have a plan for peace in the Middle East, if interested. No nuclear weapons are involved.

    John

  3. Bobby Valentine Says:

    John, I just dont see how you reconcile that “speak softly and carry a big stick” with any of the scriptures u cited … much less the ones I cited. How does that square with

    “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom 12.14)

    or

    “beloved never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God” (Rom 12.19)

    And a host of other texts.

    I think those points of view are mutually contradictory. The purpose of the big stick is in fact to avenge oneself, and it would be hard to see how it would bless rather than curse.

    As for the links I provided. They are illustrative and incredibly illuminating of the prophetic truth David Lipscomb testified too. The figures are hard to justify.

  4. John Says:

    We just concluded our gospel meeting, one baptism – James Wyers preached.

    Romans 13.4 means something – Yoder never fully convinced me in that chapter. I see no conflict. What I see as a problem is that I don’t think we exhaust the peace option (v the war option). I guess those blessed in WWII Europe would be the other half of the world Jewish population that Hitler never got to.

    Of all the wars the U.S. has been in, the only one I think I would have pulled the trigger on is Hitler. Japan is a maybe, but I’m thinking “no”. I am not an authority on the details of events leading up to them, so I could change my mind if I learned more, but based on what I know today…what I said.

    I think the existence of a strong military is itself a deterrent. My military budget would be a fraction of today’s because my military would be smaller, fewer bases, fewer (if any at all) stationed overseas, and not engaged in active fighting (except in the rare case per above). I would probably increase the CIA budget and the FBI, but there would be a significant net reduction.

    Want to hook up for a ticket in ’12? We would need to get started. Know anybody with any money?

  5. Bobby Valentine Says:

    No conflict? I fail to see how you cannot. You have to agree with Martin Luther’s two kingdoms theology. I can disobey a command of God (i.e. do not kill or harm) if the civil authorities tell me too. I cannot do that as a Christian Luther argues but I can as a deputy of the State. How is there not a conflict? The Government in Romans 13 is the same government called the Whore of Babylon in Revelation. I’d like to see some more argumentation from the context of Romans 13 to support your position. If the context begins in 12.9 with exhortations to love and being patient in “suffering” and moves thru “blessing” those who persecute u to never repaying evil for evil and to not avenge ourselves … and then picked up once again in 13.8 with an “envelope” back to 12.9 with meditations on Love and doing no wrong to a neighbor.

    In between is the stuff on government. Context matters. Both historical and literary. Paul never says join the government. This government is the same that expelled all the Jews (including Jewish believers) in AD 49. Paul’s concern is that the church does not draw unwanted attention to itself once again. What are the specific duties to that government in Romans 13? Only 3: pay taxes, respect, and honor. That is it. Paul doesnt even say to pray for it in this context (he does in Timothy but that is a different context). I do not see in 13.4 an ethic that is moved in by Paul that subverts that in 12.9ff and 13.8f. Are there two ethics? One as a Christian and one as a deputy of the state?

    Lipscomb put it well in 1896 when the USA nearly came to blows with Britain over the Monroe Doctrine: “Should the Christian patriots of America kill the Christians of England because they are patriots too?” Great question!

  6. John Says:

    Tell me exactly what 13.4 means then? Why could the government not function as the ‘vengeful’ arm of God in a ‘just’ war (Hitler)? Has he not used secular governments in the past to accomplish His purposes? I think the government can do things I can’t do as an individual. If they can levy taxes (which I can’t do), why can they not have a functioning military in view of 13.4? Bobby, if this were a live debate, I would attack your position with Hitler about every sentence.

    I would like to hear your explanation of 13.4 but what I want to talk about is peacemaking, not warrioring. I would have a strong military but I would have actually used it a small fraction of the amount it has been used in our history – That’s the important point. Let me say that again – that is the main point.

    Watch out for the scorpions.

  7. Bobby Valentine Says:

    John first you did not address what i wrote. I asked how there is not a conflict given the context of 13.4. And are there two different ethics? It is also difficult to see how one can “chase peace” while preparing for war any more than one can pursue marriage while planning on divorce. They are mutually exclusive.

    The problem for 13.4 is that Paul never once suggests that Christians become part of, what another NT writer calls, the Whore of Babylon. He say to pay taxes, show honor, show respect. That is it. As Lipscomb once wrote “God has a dirty tool to do a dirty job” … that is the government. Government is ordained by to exercise his vengence. Just as Babylon was. But God never told his people to help Babylon out. In fact though both Assyria and Babylon were God’s chosen vessels they both came under judgment themselves.

    Now here is a thought exercise. Hitler is the stereotypical arch villain. But in the ancient world, including the Bible, it was Nero or Domitian. After all the Whore of Babylon is the government that murdered the Son of God and thousands and thousands of Christians … Revelation 13 and 18 vividly show us the nature of the government in Romans 13. Could the Roman soldier, as a Christian, arrest fellow Christians for treason? When the Whore falls in Rev 18 (and what a description in that chapter of this glut!) why are not Christians called to assist in her demise? Because vengeance has been forbidden us. Rather than invade Rome Paul in Romans 13 says we are to “submit” to the Whore of Babylon. And i do not see a whole lot of difference in the glut of the Palatine Hill and Berlin in the Hitler years.

    The consistent witness throughout the NT is that Christians follow the example of the Messiah and ENDURE suffering rather than inflict it. Romans 13.4 is not the “exception” clause like fornication is in divorce.

  8. John Says:

    Bobby, we are not likely going to agree on this, but I think we agree on much more than we disagree on. My answer to your question: “I think the government can do things I can’t do as an individual.”

    The ‘two ethics’ bait was a good technique, but I will pass on it. It is all, of course, one ethic. Is the Good Samaritan two ethics? I’m assuming they were on their way to the temple. 13.1-7 is a Pauline Digression continuing the concept of general submission as it relates to the civil government in which he makes some points re civil government, very Paulish.

    13.4 specifically allows the civil government to wage a just war and execute criminals. My emphasis is: very few of our wars have been truly just, that is, they were not the only reasonable option when declared. We are in 99% agreement, so I dont know why we’re ‘debating’.

    How would it look on the ground? You would be overrun and in a dungeon somewhere. All your people would be suffering. We would be carrying on as usual. People would be working and providing for their families. The bad guys thought twice about attacking us because of our armament. Also, because we didnt have a history of being in their face trying to run their business and we werent dependent on them for essential resources. They didnt really have a grievance with us. My country, therefore, continues to produce with its vibrant economy and feeds itself and helps feed the world (thats how we do ‘love your neighbor’). The bad guys decide to hit someone else’s country: probably yours.

    This is fun, but I had rather talk seriously about my targum.sermon on the mount. I’m not really Caesar, but I am struggling John. I could use some help.

  9. Bobby Valentine Says:

    John dont think of it as debating. Think of it more as a discussion over a Cup of Java. I celebrate the attention you are giving the Sermon on the Mount. But that Sermon is subversive … and you may end up surrendering that big stick.

    The question about two ethics is not bait. It is rooted in historical reality. I do not think, and you will naturally disagree, you have not anywhere near justified your understanding of 13.4 allowing CHRISTIANS do what the apostle had just forbidden them. There is not an iota about Christians becoming the arm of the civil government to exercise God’s wrath. And you passed over in silence if the Christian soldier for the whore of babylon could arrest other Christians … as happened to Paul, Peter and the saints in Revelation … etc. Nor did u offer any rational how the government dubbed the “Whore of Babylon” by the Holy Spirit is more moral than that of Hitler’s Germany. I think they are relevant questions to ponder.

    And in that Sermon … where does it ever call a disciple of the Lord under any circumstance to inflict suffering rather than enduring it? You are right there is only one ethic … the only question is do we have the metal to follow it.

  10. John Says:

    This is such a digression, when I want to talk about peacemaking. I believe 13.4 means what it says. The govt can do things the individual Christian cant, I think I’ve said this before, but the Christian can be a part of the govt if he wants too. I’m not sure why someone would desire to join the army, but some do. If war breaks out, it must be a just war for the Christian to participate. Defining justness is dicey and I’m not going there. Hitler was just, I dont know re the others.

    Separate question that has come up in my reading. Why were Ignatius and Clement not included in the canon?

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