Summary: Making peace is hard work; having peace is a gift from God.
Making peace is work. Hard work. And it’s not cheap, either. Can you imagine President Bush offering a cabinet post to Al Gore? And if you can imagine that, can you imagine Gore accepting the offer? And yet that’s almost exactly what has just happened in Israel, with Prime-minister-elect Ariel Sharon offering the post of Minister of Defense to the defeated Ehud Barak. It was a hard-fought campaign over issues of life-and death importance and very differing views of how to get there. It was a bitter campaign, shadowed by dying hopes for peace and punctuated by bombings and shootings and funerals. How were these men able to put aside their differences? It was because their common enemy is a greater threat. Israel has an inherently unstable electoral system; they’ve had five governments in the last six years, and everyone knew that if Likud and Labor didn’t join forces there would be no chance whatsoever to deal with the chaos
and violence that has ruled for the last few months.
As our own elected representatives are apt to say, politics stops at the water’s edge. That is to say, we may fight like cats and dogs at home, but let someone else try to make trouble and we close ranks immediately against the outsider.
The sociologist Konrad Lorenz once observed that friendships tend to form rapidly under outside pressure, and to fall apart when that pressure disappears.
That’s what happened at the end of the Cold War. The conflict between the two
superpowers was the only game in town for such a long time that a lot of people
thought that with the Soviet Union gone we would finally get universal peace. Do you remember the “peace dividend” we were supposed to get? Some of you may remember historian Francis Fukuyama announcing the “end of history.” But
it didn’t happen. Why not?
Because we human beings are not naturally peacemakers. On the contrary: we’re naturally trouble-makers. A few years ago a group of people tried walking
across America on a mission of peace. They couldn't get along and divided into
two groups by the time they were half way across. According to the statistics, there have 14,553 known wars from 36 BC to date. Since 1945 there have been
over 70 wars and more than 200 significant outbreaks of violence. From 1958
over 100 nations have been involved in one way or another in armed conflict of
some kind. In the over 3100 years of recorded world history, the world has only been at peace 8% of the time or a total of 286 years and 8000 treaties have been
made and broken. Someone once said, "Peace is that glorious moment in history when everyone stops to reload."
What is peace, anyway?
It’s an extremely important biblical concept. The Hebrew word is “shalom”, and it means far more than the absence of war. It includes righteousness, justice, prosperity, health and wholeness. There are at least 400 direct references to
peace in the Bible, and many more indirect references. God is the creator of