(God) will judge between the nations and settle disputes among the people. (Then) they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
- Isaiah 2:4
If the figures in Good News Magazine are correct, of the last 3,400 years, only 268 of those years - or one year in 13 - have been free of war. So with apologies to Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy for borrowing from his well-known title, why bother to address such a futile subject as war and peace at all?
Perhaps, as George Mallory said of Mount Everest, Because it is there.
As a Christian, I contrast our governments near-certain decision for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq with the repeated admonition of Scripture to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), and wonder, in todays vernacular: What would Jesus do if He represented the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, or George W. Bush?
We know what He did when He was attacked personally. He who walked on water, fed thousands with one sack lunch, and restored Lazarus to life after hed been dead four days, used none of His powers to protect Himself.
Instead, He allowed Himself to be crucified to pay for sins He didnt even commit. Talk about peace. When His life was on the line He chose not to fight back. But if He were advising the commander-in-chief of Americas armed forces, would He urge him to fight now?
Human peace has always been short-lived, writes Jerold Aust, because it comes from fallible human beings.
True peace is only possible on Gods terms, and there are at least two reasons why the Biblical wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6) will likely continue as long as a world full of human beings remains:
First, those terms represent the mind of God which, as the Old Testament prophet explains: As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are (Gods) thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Second, because we neither understand nor accept that some thoughts are out of our reach, we continue to operate on the amount of understanding we have. So when we, or those we love and are responsible for, are harmed or in danger, we fight - out of love; out of duty; out of a natural instinct to survive.
And out of one more thing: a near-universal contentment to rely on our own thoughts, which we mistakenly believe are the highest thoughts possible, rather than seek the mind of God, because His thoughts come with conditions most of us are not willing to accept.
Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble, said the psalmist (Psalm 119:165). Later, the Apostle Paul also addressed that great gulf between what we know based on our own understanding, and what we learn through the Spirit of God: The man without the Spirit of God does not accept the things of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them (I Corinthians 2:14).
But even if we who call ourselves godly were to accept Gods conditions, what about our enemies? Can we imagine Saddam Hussein or Yasir Arafat asking the spirit of God for His formula for peace?
Sounds hopeless, doesnt it? Especially since most of America mixes so much tolerance with their faith they wouldnt presume to think the Iraqis or Palestinians should swap their faith for ours.
What would Jesus do? Probably the same thing His Father did throughout Old Testament history: guide His people to fight under His direction and on His terms whenever they were in danger of being fought against by an ungodly enemy.
Under the best of circumstances its still doubtful any human being, even a godly leader, can perfectly understand the mind of God.
But still we pray for guidance and protection for our fighting forces, and the innocent civilians in our enemies camp, and hope for the day when the prophets words come true: Then shall the nations beat their swords into plowshares, their swords into pruning hooks and no nation shall learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:4).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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