Summary: Biblical peace is both the soil in which righteousness grows and the fruit that comes from a peaceable life.
A HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
“A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Canadians pride themselves on their perceived role as peacekeepers serving under United Nations mandates. Since Lester Pearson proposed an international peacekeeping force to supervise disengagement of Anglo-French and Egyptian forces during the Suez crisis, Canada has contributed significantly to the effort to advance the concept of peacekeeping. However, it is open to question how effective the peacekeeping efforts have been.
In part, doubt concerning the effectiveness of these efforts arises from the distinction between peacekeepers and peacemakers. In an earlier message I highlighted some differences between these two roles. In that message, I stated: “Peacekeepers do nothing to lessen conflict; peacemakers bring an end to conflict. Peacekeepers are willing to compromise in order to keep combatants apart; peacemakers will not compromise principle for the sake of momentary cessation of hostilities. Peacekeepers do not ultimately have any stake in the outcome of their actions; peacemakers invest their very lives in making peace.”
I have no desire either to initiate a political fight or to impugn the valour of brave Canadians who have served under the blue banner; rather, I seek to emphasise a point that lacks clarity in the mind of too many Christians. The Bible does not enjoin us to become peacekeepers; though we are encouraged to be peacemakers. In fact, Jesus pronounces a benediction on those who are peacemakers: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” [MATTHEW 5:9]. James clearly esteems those who are peacemakers, and some translations understand the language he uses in our text as promoting this concept. For instance, one translation states, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”
In the text, James summarises the instruction he has provided in the previous five verses. He has sought to encourage the people of God to be wise in their walk. He has distinguished the wisdom that the world values and the wisdom which reflects the character of the Father. The former is attractive and it is easily implemented, but the impact of that wisdom is chaos and spiritual filthiness. The latter almost always requires courage to implement—it will be opposed, but it results in divine peace within the Community of Faith. It should be obvious that James esteems heavenly peace as the pre-eminent mark of righteousness. Because this is the case, we will do well to discover the peace of which James speaks and do all within our power to promote that precious commodity among the people of God.
PEACE DEFINED — How should we define peace? To a surprising degree, our definition reveals our understanding of the will of God. You see, our definition of peace reveals our worldview. Peace has numerous connotations. For instance, the term is often used to refer to an absence of conflict. When we speak of a nation at peace, we mean that the nation is not currently engaged in an armed conflict with neighbouring countries. Similarly, peace can refer to the normal state of public order and security. When we say Canadians value peace and good order, we are speaking of the absence of civil commotion and violence within the community.
Indeed, “peace” can convey the meaning that parties in question are not in conflict with another party or that civic order prevails, whether throughout the nation or in a smaller political entity. As this present age progresses toward its consummation, Paul points to a period of unprecedented peace throughout the entire world. He writes, “Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” [1 THESSALONIANS 5:1-3].
Such a prospect of worldwide peace now seems far removed from reality; but you must remember that there is coming a great deliverer who will unite the European nations under one banner, bring resolution to the continuing conflict in the Middle East and impose on all nations a period of global peace and security. However, the momentary absence of conflict serves only as an opportunity for this Antichrist to work out his agenda of setting himself up as very God, compelling all mankind to worship him.
More often, we use the term “peace” to refer to a state in which the party in question is undisturbed. Whenever an individual says, “All I want is to be left in peace,” she is really saying that she does not want to be disturbed. Really, this is a self-centred expression in which the one speaking seeks isolation from all concerns other than personal fulfilment. This is not necessarily a statement reflecting contentment, nor even an expression of the desire for contentment; rather, this is most often a self-serving desire for withdrawal from accepting normal responsibilities.