The intensified propaganda for peace, dramatized by groups of pickets, by articles in secular magazines and religious periodicals, in resolutions by organizations both secular and church, and highlighted in political pronouncements on both sides of the iron curtain, may not be identical in motivation or objectives, but does indicate the yearning desire of many to be freed from the fear of potential atomic devastation.
Christians should study the meaning of true peace—its origin and its objectives. We say this because the word “peace” is one of the most abused and misunderstood of all words today.
It is our profound conviction that peace is a blessing conferred by God, on his terms, and available in no other way. It must be sought and defined in accordance with the divine revelation or it will prove but an elusive mirage, ever evading those who seek it.
Any movement for peace should beware of the spirit shown by the “wicked tenants” in our Lord’s parable, who, seeing the heir, rejected him and sought to seize the “inheritance” for themselves. Peace is one of God’s gifts. Can mankind seize this gift and at the same time reject the Prince of Peace? Here there may be a basic principle we all need to ponder.
Should not we heed the words of the Prophet Isaiah, ‘ “There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked’ ”? And, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot rest, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.”
In judgment God took away peace from Israel. Through the Prophet Jeremiah, he says: “… for I have taken away my peace from this people, says the Lord.” There is no reason to think that nations are more righteous today than then. We must beware of seeking peace on terms of human endeavor rather than through the God of Peace.
One must soberly envision what a man-devised peace could mean to the world; not peace with God and the peace of God, but the peace of death—spiritual death—where men would have even greater opportunities for indulging their appetites and lusts in the service of Satan. To tamper with or ignore God’s conditions can lead to disaster.
But why, some may say, did our Lord pronounce his blessing on the “peacemaker” if Christians are to refrain from participation in the peace movements current today? The answer is simple. Wherever peace is sought on God’s terms Christians should be found at the forefront. But, where peace is sought in any other way, ignoring God, the giver and sustainer of peace, and his righteousness as the sole basis of a godly peace, they should beware.
The Church has a glorious alternative: the Gospel, whereby men find peace with God through faith in his Son, and the peace of God through his indwelling presence.
The Psalmist makes a distinction between the righteous and the wicked which no man should seek to bridge. “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and his ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.” To claim for the wicked the blessings of the righteous is to deny the redemptive work of Christ in favor of a man-made salvation.
The relationship between righteousness and peace is stated by the Psalmist: “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” To the world, peace is the absence of war; the atmosphere of nonhostility between nations. But in God’s sight these things have eternal significance only if based on the imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Is the Christian then to ignore all efforts for world peace? Shall we let the unregenerate world seek after peace while we sit idly by? Of course not; but the Christian should center his main efforts on the divine basis of peace—man’s right relationship with his Creator.
This position assumes practical focus when we look at the Church’s obligation to evangelize, both at home and abroad. Who are America’s greatest ambassadors for peace? Not our diplomats, businessmen, or members of the Peace Corps, as such, but those Christians, be they diplomats, businessmen or others, who preach and live the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. This group is most consistently exemplified by Christian missionaries, who take the message of salvation and reconciliation and in so doing lay the foundation for true peace.
The whole issue of world peace becomes confused when it is projected on any terms other than the divine prescription for peace. Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a product of human endeavor. True, open warfare may be averted at times by conferences and compromises but an armed truce is a far cry from a peace based on God’s righteous precepts.
To the worldling peace means one thing, to the Christian something entirely different. Our Lord gives peace to his own, a peace in no way related to time, place or circumstances. One may have perfect peace in the midst of chaos and destruction. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety,” becomes a precious reality.
When God is given his rightful place in our lives peace is one result. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them,” speaks of cause and effect, of a peace of which the world can know nothing.
Our Lord, about to leave his disciples, spoke to them, and in like terms speaks to us today: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” To claim this peace for an unbelieving world makes a travesty of Christ’s redemptive work. Until he is acknowledged as King and Lord his peace is not available, nor can we claim it for the world.
There is a divine sequence in the attainment of peace. The Apostle James tells us: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” Our Lord offers peace to a world weary of the threat of war, and of sorrow and oppression. “Come unto me,” he says, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Finally, the Christian should pray for peace and for those national leaders on whom rest those decisions which can make for peace. Unbelieving men are still under the sovereign power of God. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” is an affirmation on which Christians should lay hold, praying for peace that the Gospel may yet be preached at home and abroad.
Hot and cold wars may be held in abeyance but outside of Christ there can be no permanent peace. In him there is peace, regardless of what may happen.
It is this message which the Church must preach.
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