Summary: Peace is secured if a nation will repent, think realistically, and work to produce righteousness. The support of Christian missions is a step for peace.
In a few days the leaders of two great nations will sit down for a summit conference, designed to promote the cause of peace. One of those nations is passing through unprecedented trials. A year ago who would have predicted that the Soviet Union would look shaky and might even break apart? Six months ago few would have expected that its president might, in fact, be presiding over the dissolution of a bankrupt ideology and a useless military system. President Gorbachev comes to the summit, some would think, in real trouble, anxious to protect himself, hoping to keep his empire from further disintegration.
Many Americans felt they had reason to cheer over these past months. It looks a whole lot like peace is breaking out all over. It looks as though the days of the evil empire nay be numbered. But is it to be peace? Are we to have a time of peace without threats and interruptions?
Who knows what Mr. Gorbachev may be willing to pay as a price for a secure peace?
At the same time the leader of our nation comes with troubles on his hands, too. While there may be no question of the dissolution of the United States, there are questions about our national priorities. While there may be no serious threat from outside to our political stability, many of us wonder whether we will not rot from the inside out, gorging ourselves on drugs, indulging ourselves with the symbols of consumption, and seeming to make war on the most vulnerable parts of our society – the unborn, the young, the poor, the elderly, the diseased. And so while we may not be openly at war with another nation, we seem to be at war with ourselves.
On the eve of the summit and on this Memorial Day, I cannot help but wonder, do we really want peace? And will we too be willing to pay some kind of price for a secure peace? What does President Bush understand the cost of peace to be, and what do we as Americans, as Christian Americans, expect to pay as the price of a secure peace?
If, as Jefferson put it, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"; if, in the words of Lincoln, "these honored dead shall not have died in vain", what is the responsibility you and I will have to shoulder in these days to secure the peace?
There is, you know, such a thing as a false peace. There is an illusory peace. And the Bible instructs us about that. The Scripture teaches us to be on the lookout for peace too easily achieved, peace not yet paid for, peace that is no peace at all.
Travel with me in your mind’s eye to the little Kingdom of Judah in the seventh century before Christ. These are momentous days in that little Kingdom. For many years Judah had kept itself together only by paying homage to the greatest of the great powers of that day -- to the Assyrians. It was Assyrian power that kept the Egyptians contained to the south; it was Assyrian wealth that paid for the trade routes and the merchant caravans and all the other trappings of business that brought prosperity to some of Judah’s leading citizens.
But just beneath the surface there was something else … it was Assyrian muscle that intruded false religion and pagan gods into the life of Judah. The only way in which Judah could have a degree of peace was to pay a high, high price -- the price of her integrity. And so Judah, in order to keep Assyria happy, tolerated the worship of idols right alongside the worship of her God.
Now toward the last couple of decades of this seventh century before Christ things took a different turn. A new king in Judah, named Josiah, became convicted about the need to revive authentic faith. Josiah set out first to repair the Temple. And in the Temple Josiah’s workmen found parts of the Scripture which had been lost for a long, long time. When Josiah read that word from the Lord, Josiah repented and began to rebuild the nation on the basis of God’s law. All very commendable. But King Josiah was to discover that he would have to pay a very dear price to lift up the truth.
As Assyria grew weak, Egypt to the south grew strong, and when Egypt marched toward Judah, King Josiah resisted and fell dead at the Battle of Megiddo. The Egyptians installed a weak puppet king, Jehoiakim, and everything that Josiah had accomplished melted away. At first the people were ecstatic: peace had come, the war was over! But the prophet Jeremiah saw that it was a false peace, an illusory peace, and Jeremiah cried out a warning.