Saturday, January 17, 2009

What the world needs

They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11, NIV)

Sometimes I wonder, what is this thing called "peace" that everyone is talking about? What do people mean when they say they wish for "world peace"?

Have you ever been to a peace rally? If so, why? And how did you feel, standing there with everyone else? Did you feel united? If so, united by what? And for what purpose?

Since I watched the Lord of the Rings Trilogy recently, I have been thinking about war and all the different dynamics. One of the things that strikes me about the story is their clear goal and how much they will risk to fight for it.

But another thing that strikes me is that each side is fighting in earnest. It's easy to hate the orcs or the goblins, those scary and ugly creatures, while rooting for the cute, furry ones.

But Sam (or Faramir in the film version) makes an interesting observation about a southern fighter who had been recruited by Sauron and lands practically in their laps, having been killed by a ranger.
It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace - all in a flash of thought which was quickly driven from his mind. (Book IV, chapter 4, The Two Towers)

There are a lot of war movies which also capture this well. An example which I saw recently is Joyeux Noel, in which the point of view of three different countries is portrayed: as schoolchildren learning geography, as soldiers fighting for a cause, as mere humans experiencing fear and suffering.

The point is that, as it says in the Bible, our battle is not against flesh and blood. If we say we are fighting against evil, we can't mean another country. Because another country, no matter how corrupt, is made up of humans, who are not our true enemy.

When I'm invited to pray for peace, I feel a little uncomfortable because in an "interfaith" environment, I'm not sure whom the others are praying to. That makes it a little hard to come together to pray.

I'm also not always sure how to pray about peace. Of course it is a worthy goal, but I'm not sure that there will ever be peace on earth. In the account of Jesus' birth, the angels proclaim, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14,NIV) There is no promise here of peace to all.

Returning to Jeremiah, I don't want to be a false prophet who tells people it's safe when it's not. Or that lighting a candle and holding hands will help somehow. I don't even want to tell them that a peace treaty means progress, when they haven't made peace with God. Maybe it's important to support their ideas and share their pain. I'm certainly not going to shut the door in their face and say that I don't support peace or that it doesn't matter that people are out there dying. But I want to do more than just sympathize. I want to tell the whole Truth of the victory that has already been won and of the peace with God that won't be achieved by human efforts. And of the life that awaits us beyond the grave, if we believe. The message should be "Peace, peace...with the God who loves us and whose Son is preparing a place for us, if we believe."

4 comments:

  1. What good questions you ask sometimes. I have been at a peace rally...and I don't honestly know if we were united. I rather doubt it, frankly. Peace rallies in this country are often comprised primarily of college students, and while they may be zealous, I don't necessarily think that they are all necessarily like minded. Many are just there because it seems cool, or their boyfriend is there, or they revel in the experience.

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  2. Elizabeth, I wrote a comment for your blog, but I lost it, so I will try to rewrite it. I like that you point out that our "attempts" to bring about peace on earth "is a worthy goal, but I'm not sure that there will ever be peace on earth." While peace will not reign on earth and we will always have conflicts, we still ought to do our part to maintain some peace with our people without compromizing our beliefs. You did, however, forget to mention how there is "no promise of peace" in Luke 2:14. The word for peace is not refering to earthly tranquility, but reconciliation to God.

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  3. By the way, Elizabeth, I am the Josh on Facebook that you commented on my note, which is from my blog at www.truthdefenders.bolgspot.com.

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  4. Hi Josh, thanks for taking the time to read my post! I will check out your blog, too. By "no promise of peace to all," I meant that the peace spoken here is of peace with God, which is offered to those who come to Him through Christ. I am in complete agreement with you about the meaning of peace here, and it's an important difference! I just decided that the post was already too long, so I left that clarification out, which may have been a mistake.

    And you're right, there are also scriptural references to the merits of living in peace as much as possible with others around us.

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