Summary: For Day of Prayer for World Peace: Peace is shattered because of social, personal, and spiritual relationship breakdowns. It is restored through spiritual healing, which leads to personal and then social healings.
All around us lies the evidence that peace is a sometime, fragile thing. Everywhere we turn we discover that peace has been broken, peace has been shattered.
We have the international scene to remind us. A few years ago we hardly knew where Yugoslavia was, but now we are having to learn about all of its Humpty-Dumpty parts, and are sending troops to a place called Macedonia and flying fighter jets over a land called Bosnia. A few months ago we couldn’t even have described a nation called Somalia, but now we know about starvation and the warlords, we know about riding on technicals, we know the geography of Mogadishu. Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, on and on it goes; the international scene reminds us how fragile peace is.
And we have the home front to remind us as well. The strife and slaughter on the streets of the city remain unabated. It is still here. It is still unacceptably high. It is still robbing us of young men with tremendous potential. It is still stripping us of our sense of security. The plight of our city reminds us that peace is fragile, peace can be shattered in an instant by one malicious bullet.
The international scene, the home front .. but more. We also have historical reminders of the issue of peace. Our history as a nation marked by too much violence keeps on jumping up to slap us in the face. We schedule this day of prayer for world peace on the first Sunday of August, because of history. It was in early August of 1945 that nuclear bombs showered down death on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. History reminds us of the issue of peace.
The other day, while I was away on my reading week, I invested a couple of days reading a major new biography of Frederick Douglass, that great crusader against slavery and oppression. All of that happened, as you know, a hundred and more years ago. What an irony, then, when I took a break from my reading, turned on the TV, and picked up the United States Senate in session. I watched fascinated as the junior senator from Illinois spoke with deep, burning passion about the insult implied if the Senate were to approve a symbol of our nation’s most ruinous war. Even history comes alive, you see, and jumps up to remind us that peace is difficult to achieve and even more difficult to keep.
By the way, I was embarrassed at the junior senator from my home state of Kentucky, who responded by emoting about how his ancestors had fought to preserve the peculiar institution. I don’t see any point in defending your ancestors if your ancestors were wrong and if somebody else, here and now, is being injured!
And I will say nothing at all about the response of the senior senator from you-know-where!
Peace is a fragile thing, a sometime thing. Peace is all too rare in this world. Strife and hostility are the norm.
If we were to analyze this business of war this morning, we could do so something like this: Hostility, has in it three components; we fight because we break down in one or more of three different ways.
First, we break down socially; we break down in our relationships to others. That shows up as nationalism. It shows up as power-grabbing. It shows up as racism. It means, "My people are going to take what your people have". Aren’t you just astounded that Yugoslavia, having broken up into six countries, is now further breaking up, so that Bosnia will apparently become three more? How many ways can you divide a nation and still have any meaning? Hostility is a social breakdown.
But hostility is also a personal breakdown; that’s the second component. We break down in our relationship to ourselves. Whenever there is conflict, it always involves individuals who become overly aggressive, selfishly trying to gain for themselves. So in Somalia, for example, you have competing warlords, each of whom has no other goal than to line his own pockets, consolidate his own power, and fatten his own stomach. He will ride roughshod over the bodies of defenseless children to get what he wants. His personal integrity has broken down.
Or in Nazi Germany, thousands upon thousands of people lost their integrity; they just gave blind allegiance to Hitler, and lost all perspective. They broke down their relationship to themselves. Whenever there is conflict, it involves not only a breakdown in our relationships with others; it involves also a breakdown in our relationship with ourselves.
Now, I’ve said that when peace breaks down, there are three components: a breakdown of relationships with others, a breakdown of relationships with ourselves; but most of all, most profoundly of all, when peace is destroyed, it means that there is a breakdown of another relationship. What is it?