For the second time this year, I wasn’t sure how to feel when I saw U.S. President Donald Trump smiling and shaking hands with an international foe—this time with Russia’s Vladimir Putin after some tense meetings with America’s European allies. The previous time came a couple months before in a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that stunned many.
Thinking about these encounters gives rise to larger questions about achieving peace in the world.
President Trump’s meetings with Kim and Putin
In the earlier get-together, it was strange to see the camaraderie between the most powerful man in the world and a rogue dictator, with slaps on the back as among old pals. Not just any rogue dictator, but one who has severely oppressed and harmed his own people and had recently made threats against the United States as well as neighboring East Asian nations.
Prior to this the United States had slapped sanctions on North Korea because of its refusal to end its nuclear program. President Trump had chided Kim, mocking him as “Rocket Man” for his continued attempts to develop long-range nuclear-capable missiles, even ones to reach the U.S. Pacific coast. Back in January President Trump tweeted that while Kim has a nuclear button on his desk, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Despite this history a meeting was arranged for these two to sit down and discuss the denuclearization of North Korea along with some other peacekeeping topics. And after much politicking, the meeting even being called off and later rescheduled with a different venue, it actually happened.
Many in the media and opponents of Mr. Trump quickly derided him for even deigning to meet with Kim. Fast forward to President Trump shaking hands with Putin, another bad guy on the world scene. The two conducted a joint press conference after their private meeting. There was an immediate backlash to Mr. Trump’s apparent acceptance of Putin’s adamant denial of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election. President Trump was asked why he had more trust in the Russian president than in U.S. intelligence findings. Most pundits were not satisfied with his answer.
Why is peace between nations so elusive? Will we ever achieve it? Can we achieve peace by negotiating or politicking or electing the right people?
Since taking office, Mr. Trump’s tactics have not been those of a typical politician. He stated in the press conference: “I would rather take a political risk in pursuit of peace, than to risk peace in pursuit of politics. As president, I will always put what is best for America and what is best for the American people.”
President Trump left the Singapore meeting with Kim saying “we got everything” we wanted. Yet press analysts have said that the document signed was vague and that we shouldn’t put a lot of confidence in it.
Personally, after everything has settled I can say that I’m grateful for a peaceful meeting. It’s better than the alternative. I’d like to give the president the benefit of the doubt and recognize his meeting with a madman as a chess play to keep peace in the world.
The president noted on July 15 on Twitter: “There hasn’t been a missile or rocket fired in 9 months in North Korea, there have been no nuclear tests and we got back our hostages. Who knows how it will all turn out in the end, but why isn’t the Fake News [by which he means the mainstream media giving a slanted presentation of the news] talking about these wonderful facts?”
The same goes for the benefits of meeting with Putin on friendly terms. After Mr. Trump reaffirmed in a July 16 tweet that he has great confidence in his intelligence people, he said, “However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past—as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!”
Yet even in a best-case scenario of complete nuclear disarmament by North Korea and positive relations between Russia and the West, it all still feels like a Band-Aid rather than a permanent solution to the conflict in the world. There is still a great deal of global unrest. In my lifetime I’ve seen how things can change very quickly on the world scene. As America learned the hard way, one terrorist attack can forever change the safety and security of a nation for decades.
Why is peace between the nations so elusive? Will we ever achieve peace? Can we achieve it by negotiations and politicking? Can we simply elect the right people to just fix everything and rid ourselves of the unrest?
Ongoing war—right up to the end
When in history can we find times of peace? The Pax Romana—the period of relative peace and stability of the Roman Empire during its height—comes to mind. But even that was only within the confines of the empire to a certain extent, and only because Rome conquered and oppressed subject peoples, which did not seem so peaceful to all of them. Is that the high water mark of peace, the best we can hope to achieve?
Regrettably, we see in Bible prophecy that there will be war right up to the end of this age. When Jesus Christ returns, appearing in the sky on a white horse, it will be in the midst of an ongoing global war, and the nations’ armies will turn to fight Him!
“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war . . . And I saw the beast [an evil dictator], the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:19).
Jesus will be coming to bring restoration to the earth, but only after He unleashes judgment on a generation whose every thought is evil. It will be a one-sided battle, with Jesus defeating them all in a display of great power.
The armies at this prophesied event are not like ancient forces who fought with swords, shields, spears, and bows and arrows. These will be the most powerful armies humanity has ever seen.
Jesus describes the kind of firepower the armies of the world will be capable of in stating: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened [cut short from running their course], no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect’s sake [the sake of God’s chosen people] those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
This can seem scary, right? In reading scriptures like this, one can become overwhelmed with anxiety about what is foretold to happen. And from the headlines it’s easy to see a lot of reasons people would fear.
It’s not just the nukes in North Korea or tensions with Russia that are alarming. Other places in the world are producing frightening scenarios that go beyond local borders and have us all on edge.
The Middle East, for example, is always in some turmoil. Iran, despite recent agreements, still wants to become a nuclear power. We have seen terrible dictators in Africa committing genocide against their own people. We are in desperate need of peace!
The disciples asked Jesus about the end of the age and what it would be like. Jesus warned that there would be wars and rumors of wars, confirming that we won’t solve these problems ourselves. He then told them: “See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet” (Matthew 24:6).
The prophesied armies will wield enough destructive force to annihilate the entire world. Jesus will have to intervene at that time so we don’t destroy ourselves!
This sounds bleak. It makes peace talks sound futile. Still, we aren’t to be troubled by these things. Those of us looking to God shouldn’t live a life of fear, waiting for the shoe to drop and the world to erupt on us. God is fully aware of what is happening, and He will allow the terrible events ahead to continue only temporarily. He will intervene when the time is right. Until then we can be comforted by what Jesus told His disciples: “See that you are not troubled.”
Corrupted nature behind human warfare
Given that war is so costly, destructive and wasteful, why does it continue?
Since the time of the Garden of Eden the human race has rejected God. Satan used a tactic on Adam and Eve that was very appealing to our human desire for knowledge. He told them, “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Full understanding, knowledge and wisdom are what Satan said the results would be for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Part of the deception of Satan is that we can make everything right on our own. All of the wars and rocket attacks and political posturing can be put right if we just talk to one another and work it out. We can do it—or so we imagine. All we have to do is shake enough hands and compromise with our neighbors and we can achieve peace.
But that’s part of the lie. We took of the forbidden tree because we wanted to know as God does and determine things for ourselves. We think, “We’ve got this . . .” Let’s just get behind the right candidate, join peace protests or push to have the United Nations step in. Satan has fooled us into thinking we are capable of achieving peace without God directing us. It’s just not true.
The Bible states: “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” (James 4:1-2). Where we have our corrupt human nature, which is influenced by Satan, we will have wars—period.
Where does that leave us? Do we end up in an ever-escalating world of violence? That is not what God desires for us.
What is the battle for a Christian?
God sent His Son to earth with a mission. He was to live perfectly as an example to His followers. He also came to establish His Church, His Spirit-led group of followers in this age—to continue the work He began. After He died, was resurrected and ascended into heaven, His followers continued on. Those of His Church don’t live by the same mentality as those around them. They strive to live by the lifestyle that is expected in God’s coming Kingdom.
Yet believe it or not, Christians are still at war. Not the wars we read about in headlines and news feeds. Rather, our battle rages on in the spiritual realm: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, English Standard Version). Satan and his demons are always trying to influence God’s people into sinful corruption.
The battle of a Christian is to spend a life of overcoming the very nature Adam and Eve succumbed to in the Garden. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [of physical flesh] but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). And: “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3).
This does not sound like a peaceful calling—but overcoming these hostile spiritual forces does bring peace. It’s a peace that will affect you on a very personal level. It’s a peace God is calling you to today.
Jesus was the chief ambassador of a new world that is coming. He is going to establish a Kingdom of peace and will usher in a new era without war and fighting. The seeds of that Kingdom are being sown today, and the people whom God is working with are living examples of that peace to come.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15, emphasis added).
Letting the peace of God “rule” in your heart is an interesting way to describe how we should be living and overcoming. The Greek term here gives the sense, from related usage, of our yielding to the call of an umpire in sports. An umpire knows the rules and makes judgments in situations. Yielding to God’s peace means submitting to His laws, which define His way of life of outflowing, loving concern, leading to peace.
From inner peace to world peace
When we yield to God’s peace we can live free from fear—free from the fear of what we see on the world scene. We can also live free from the fears we have in our personal lives. Yielding to God’s rule gives a peace that surpasses under-standing (Philippians 4:7). If you have fears about finances, health problems or interpersonal issues, you can let the peace of God rule in your heart.
But to experience this peace, you have to yield to Him in all areas of your life. You have to make God and His coming Kingdom your priority.
Jesus promised this peace to His followers: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Jesus differentiated the peace He offers from the peace we can achieve on our own. When we read about the wars and political wrangling in the world today, we can see that the peace of God is absent. We can see that leaders are putting their own selfish interests first and don’t really know the way to peace in international dealings. When it comes to maintaining peace in our world today, it typically comes because one nation’s military might is stronger than the adversary’s.
When Jesus said, “My peace I give to you,” He wasn’t offering something superficial. He was offering something that only the God of peace can offer. How, then, do you acquire this peace?
Peace is an element of “the fruit of the Spirit.” Before ascending to heaven Jesus instructed His disciples to go into all nations preaching all they had learned, making disciples and baptizing them (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19). The repentant who were baptized would receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by a minister of God (Acts 2:38; Acts 8:14-18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6-7; Hebrews 6:1-2).
Yielding to the Spirit gives you the power to grow in all the attributes it produces: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:22-26).
In receiving the Holy Spirit you begin seeing these attributes in your life. You can harness and take on these powerful characteristics by the power of this amazing gift. It still takes work on your part—striving to overcome your own nature as well as the influences of the corrupt culture around you.
But success comes only with God’s help through Christ. And in giving your life to God you receive a peace you weren’t capable of before. Knowing God, knowing His truth and living by His Word brings wonderful assurance, comfort and real peace.
This will ultimately be the pathway to peace and salvation for all mankind!
In the future, Jesus at His return will gather all those who are His and set the world straight. He will lead the nations into peace. There will be no more of the politicking we see today—no more incitement to nations fighting one another. We will have a perfect King reigning supreme.
The prophet Isaiah gives us an amazing picture of that time to come: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse [the Messiah, Jesus], who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles [all nations] shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:9-10).
Then at last there will truly be world peace. What a beautiful future we have ahead of us!