“Either war is obsolete or men are”—R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983).
“Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice”—Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677).
“There is little for the great part of the history of the world except the bitter tears of pity and the hot tears of wrath”—Woodrow Wilson (1856—1924).
Human history is, at its core, the story of wars. We study what led up to them, what weapons were developed and used, who was hurt most by them, who was considered the winner and what was done to prepare for the next one.
The spaces in between wars are often referred to as peace, but too often they are merely times of sorrow and recovery from the war just past, or fear and preparation for the war to come. Precious little peace can be found in human history.
Human history is at its core the story of wars.
After two devastating world wars, the nations gathered in San Francisco, California, in 1945 to found an organization “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind” (Preamble to the United Nations Charter). But in spite of that lofty goal, between 1946 and 2002, there were 226 armed conflicts by one count (John D. Wright, Guide to the State of the World, 2005, p. 80).
Why is man drawn inevitably toward war? Why have our best efforts failed to bring peace?
Causes of war
The Bible reveals that the cause of violence goes all the way back to the rebellion of Lucifer, who became known as Satan (Isaiah 14:12; Luke 10:18). “You became filled with violence within, and you sinned,” Ezekiel records about this rebellion (Ezekiel 28:16). Satan is described as a murderer, a roaring lion seeking prey and a dragon making war in heaven and on earth (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 12:7, 17).
Satan, humanity’s greatest adversary, currently rules this world, and broadcasts his attitudes of hate and violence into the minds of men (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). His influence helps amplify our natural selfishness to a fevered pitch as described by James:
“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 4:1-3).
And so we find ourselves in a world that desperately needs and desires peace, yet which is far from it. Cries of “peace, peace” are too often wishful thinking, political maneuvering or outright deception (Jeremiah 6:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:3). Paul accurately described the human condition this way:
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:15-17, emphasis added).
Thankfully, the Bible reveals that Jesus Christ will rescue this world from the final throes of the most destructive world war, before we annihilate ourselves (Matthew 24:22). Under His rule, the elusive way of peace will finally be taught.
Swords into plowshares
Outside the United Nations buildings today, a famous sculpture of a man beating a sword into a farm implement captures the longing of humanity for peace and hints at the way it will truly come. The inspiration for the statue—and the true hope for disarmament and peace—comes from a beautiful prophecy in Isaiah.
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
Thankfully, the Bible reveals that Jesus Christ will rescue this world from the final throes of the most destructive world war, before we annihilate ourselves.
“Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4; repeated in Micah 4:1-3).
What a wonderful vision! Finally, disputes between nations will be resolved without resorting to the horrors of war, which only plant the seeds of future conflict. At last, nations will be forced to disarm, but they will soon realize they have nothing to fear, since their neighbors will all be disarmed as well.
War colleges will be shut down, and the militaries disbanded. No more will the young, with their bright hopes and great potentials, be used as cannon fodder. Instead of investing the best minds and greatest resources into developing weapons of destruction, nations will be able to invest in making life better for all their citizens.
Today some of the most impoverished nations in the world import inordinate amounts of arms. Weapons make up 33.5 percent of Eritrea’s imports and 20.5 percent of Ethiopia’s (Wright, p. 87). Gone will be these wasteful arms races, and today’s dangerous neighborhoods—like the Middle East, where 40 percent of arms exports go—will be peaceful at last.
The way of peace
Though Christ’s rule will begin by halting wars using supernatural force, soon peace will spread through education in the way of peace. Christ’s followers are taught to become peacemakers even in this present age (Matthew 5:9), and they will teach others in the world to come.
Paul described some of the elements of this way of peace in his letter to the Romans: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.
“On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:16-21, New International Version).
The way of peace, coupled with the justice and mercy of God’s government, will provide effective conflict resolution on the personal and national level.
Many other biblical passages detail the attitude and approach of the peacemaker (for example, see Romans 8:5-8; 14:17-19; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; 14:33; Philippians 2:3-5; 4:6-9; and James 3:17-18). The way of peace, coupled with the justice and mercy of God’s government, will provide effective conflict resolution on the personal and national level. Ultimately, every conflict can have a win-win solution that will benefit all parties for eternity.
Rebuilding and renewal
After the most devastating war in human history, there will be an incredible amount of cleanup and rebuilding to do. But this time people will be able to rebuild knowing that it won’t all be destroyed again in a few years by another war.
This time the rebuilding can be done in a sensible and sustainable way. Cities will be clean and safe. Villages and farmlands will be productive and beautiful. Picture these scenes from the words of the prophets:
“I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them” (Amos 9:14).
“So they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited” (Ezekiel 36:35).
Even Jerusalem, perhaps the most fought over piece of real estate in history, will finally live up to the meaning of its name as a city of peace and safety:
“Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (Zechariah 8:4-5).
A world without war will be incredibly better than today’s world. But a world with true peace—resulting from following God’s way of peace—will be fantastic almost beyond human imagination!