Real Peace Is More Than Absence of War

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Real Peace Is More Than Absence of War

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Peace and safety rank very high on the list of priorities for many people. In the buildup to the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq, and in the early days of the conflict, many people in the United States and around the world staged peace rallies advocating peace instead of war. Many eschew violence and insist that peace can be preserved by negotiation. Feelings run strong on both sides of the issue.

Peace is a major topic addressed in the Bible. The prophet Isaiah decried violence, lying and injustice in the nation of Judah and boldly proclaimed, “The way of peace they have not known” (Isaiah 59:1-8).

The apostle Paul applies this passage to all mankind (Romans 3:9-18). Indeed, the fact that man does not know the way to peace is tragically documented by man’s entire history, from the time that Cain killed Abel to the wars and conflicts of today.

The causes of war are deeply rooted in the self-centered, carnal nature of unregenerate man. Violent, aggressive behavior that leads to war begins with someone wanting something someone else has and striving to get it forcibly (James 4:1-2). This hostile approach begins in childhood, when one child wants a toy another child is playing with.

Most people live in some degree of peace with their neighbors. But what about those who willfully remain violent and persist in lies, and whose decisions and actions result in the suffering of innocent victims? History, as well as scripture, teaches us that some people are simply unwilling to depart from their violent, rebellious and destructive ways. No amount of education, negotiation or concessions will sway them from their evil plans.

There is a widespread mentality in the Western world that considers physical punishment the antithesis to peace and something to be avoided at all costs. This philosophy pervades many human institutions in our culture from child rearing to international politics. Many years ago, Bertrand Russell, in the face of threatened war with the Soviet Union, coined the slogan, “Better Red than dead.” This is the ultimate “peace” at all costs and a stark contrast to patriot Patrick Henry’s famous words, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Peace without freedom is really not peace.

Violence and war result in widespread suffering, often resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians and other innocent victims. However, other alternatives often perpetuate the same problems when a violent, evil leader is allowed to remain in power.

Jesus tells Christians to “love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). However, God does not intend for evil to go unpunished. Paul explains in Romans 13:1-7 that God, the source of all authority, has made provisions for civil authorities to “execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4).

Jesus Christ will bring about permanent world peace as a conquering King, who “in righteousness . . . judges and makes war” (Revelation 19:11). Some consider righteousness and making war contradictory acts. But the love of God includes punishing evildoers as a prerequisite to lasting peace.

Human nature must be replaced by the love of God. This requires repentance and a spiritual transformation initiated by God (Romans 12:1-2).

Ultimately, all mankind will learn the way of peace based on the laws of God under the righteous rule of Christ. Universal disarmament will be achieved and weapons of death and destruction will be converted to agricultural implements. Everyone will dwell safely (Micah 4:1-4).

Today we live in a dangerous world, fraught with wars and conflicts. We should pray for our national and international leaders with the comforting assurance that ultimately all will “come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Jesus promises us true peace that far exceeds the mere absence of war (John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7). We can look forward to the time when war and suffering will finally be no more. Meanwhile we should do our best to be examples of the peace of God in our own lives. Our motto ought to be, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”