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
peace, the giver of peace, in fact the God of peace. [Rom 15:33; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 4:9].
The garden of Eden was a place of peace at the beginning of creation, but that peace was lost in the Fall. Peace between God and man was destroyed, peace
between man and wife was destroyed, peace between humans and creation was
destroyed, and peace between brothers was destroyed. Christ restored peace
between God and man through His death on the cross. And at the real end of
history, not the one proclaimed by Fukuyama, peace in all its other dimensions
will only be truly restored when we are ruled by the “Prince of peace.”
Peace happens when God rules.
The reason there is so little peace in the world is because of sin. You won’t get rid of war by eliminating poverty, or oppression, or ignorance. It’s not that simple. The war in Kosovo, we’re told, was due to oppression from Slobodan Milosevic. Well, Milosevic was a nasty piece of work if there ever was one, but he’s gone, and 8 Serbians were blown up last week. The Albanians and the Serbians have hated each other for generations; “oppression” was the only thing that kept them from each other’s throats. Iraq used to be one of the richest states in the Arabian world. . . and yet Saddam Hussein’s lust for power has reduced his people to grinding poverty. Sin seeks power over others, sin puts self first, sin is never satisfied. And sin can disguise itself as idealism. The reason communism was so attractive to so many was because it offered solutions to the enduring human problems of poverty and injustice. . . and yet what did it lead to? More oppression, more poverty, and more injustice.