Hamas terrorists purposely situate themselves among Palestinian women and children in Gaza, and indiscriminately fire rockets at civilian targets in Israel. Israel takes appropriate military action to protect its people, warning civilians in Gaza beforehand to evacuate the target areas. Hamas won’t let them leave. Then, when those civilians are killed and wounded, supporters of Hamas accuse Israel of war crimes. And now voices are raised, calling for peace: “Peace! Peace!”, when there is no peace.
But what is peace? What does it mean? How do we define it? And how do we obtain it? Don’t assume everyone understands or agrees. Peace is a vital concept. To some, peace is simply the cessation of violence — an end to the killing. No more bombs or rockets. No more shooting. Following this line of thinking, it is easy to see why some people are against gun ownership. Their basic assumption is that without weapons, violence hasn’t got a chance. Even if only one side disarms, that solves half the problem. Of course, you understandably might not appreciate that if you are in the disarmed half, while those attacking you are armed.
Part and parcel of this anti-gun/disarmament point of view is that war itself is immoral. It disavows war as a proper course of action for nations, on the basis that wars are never going to change the world. But this contention is an intellectual dead end because nothing we do is ever going to change the world anyway — either for good or for bad. Nothing human beings are capable of doing will ever change the world. While we may indeed do things that help people and contribute to the quality of life on a temporary basis and in a limited scope, changing the world isn’t our job. That belongs exclusively to God. So, while we do our best to be a good influence in the world, we must accept the fact that until Jesus comes, the world will continue to remain in its fallen state, as it has since the disobedience of Adam and Eve.
Today it is popular to see war and peace as polar opposites — end values on a sliding scale between violence and non-violence. From this view, the idea that there could be a moral justification for going to war is unacceptable, since you then must commit immoral acts in order to defend your moral position. In high dudgeon, supporters of Hamas — apparently blind to their own inhumane behavior — accuse Israel of war crimes, when all Israel is guilty of is taking military action to establish order and safety for her own people. They stand accused of not living at peace with their neighbors.
So where is this “peace” that Hamas seeks? Had cooler minds prevailed weeks ago, no teenagers would have been murdered; no rockets would have been fired. Israel would not have been pushed into a military response in Gaza. But would that prior restraint have meant “peace” for the enemies of Israel? What do we learn from history? Those opposed to Israel haven’t stopped accusing them of oppressive “occupation” ever since the U.N. approved their founding in 1948. Not only the Muslim nations surrounding her but the dissidents within her own borders, have been continually trying to dismantle and destroy Israel. Their idea of “peace” is to wipe Israel off the map.
Secretary of State John Kerry has called for “negotiations”, the latest iteration of a theme and variation called, “The Peace Process”. Political leaders of all ilks have been negotiating for “peace” in the region for longer than I can remember. Back In 1978, then President Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the historic Camp David Accords. It was touted as the most significant Middle East peace negotiation ever achieved. Sadat and Begin shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their achievement.
So, how’d that work out? In 1981 Sadat was assassinated by Muslims who hated the peace treaty. Israel became entangled in a war with Lebanon and Begin died in 1983. American Embassy personnel in Iran were held hostage for 444 days, leading to Carter’s defeat in his re-election bid. So much for those peacemakers. Still today, the voices continue to call for more negotiations, in order for the peace process to “move forward”, whatever that means. It sounds great, but like all deceptions, it doesn’t really mean a thing.
There is a definite confusion factor in how we look at peace. Consider the notion that Islam is the so-called “religion of peace”. That’s more than a bit confusing when you discover that most of the terrorist activity in the world comes at the hands of Muslims. But it makes sense when you realize that the “peace” of Islam is when the whole world comes under Islamic law. The Koran teaches a philosophy of fighting against non-Muslims and forcing them to submit to Islam. Islamic terrorists are simply Muslim believers who are willing to put the Koranic teachings into practice. They are willing to kill and die for the Islamic idea of peace. That mind-set precludes the possibility of negotiation. You can’t negotiate with anyone who thinks that way because they will lie and deceive and do anything they can to force their will on their enemies. In fact, lies and deception are institutionalized as acceptable tactics in the advancement of Islam. Look up Taqiyya and Kitman.
But you don’t have to look at Islam to find confusion about peace. A lot of Christians also seem to be confused. We like to think of Jesus as the loving Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6. But remember that Jesus himself said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). By this he meant that he draws a line between life and death, good and evil, right and wrong. That line divides the rewards of faith and righteousness, from the punishment of rebellion and disobedience.
That division engenders spiritual enmity between believers and unbelievers. Luke 12:52-53 describes a division that even pits family members against each another. But we are still commanded to love those from whom we are estranged. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” And Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Those two clauses are very important: “If possible” and “so far as it depends on you”. The implication is that it isn’t always possible to live at peace with others and the entire burden of living peaceably doesn’t rest on any one person or nation. Even when we do our best, sometimes living peaceably is not an option. It can’t be.
Sometimes nations are forced into taking aggressive action for their very survival. Their “peace” cannot be measured by either the absence or presence of war. There will always be threats such as terrorists and rogue nations. Our attitude toward war should incline toward the preservation of all that is good. If we cannot come to an agreement on what is good, then how can we ever find peace? In John 14:27 Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” This has nothing to do with either war or the cessation of war.
There are two different categories of peace: that which the world gives and that which Jesus gives. Peace negotiations in the Middle East seek to establish a peace that the world can give. Who knows what that may be? It could be a repetition of history — the cessation of violence for a time, without resolving the underlying causes of antipathy. It could be the product of one power or authority enforcing its will over another. It might even come as a result of negotiation. But regardless of how a worldly peace comes about, it can never last long. It will always be a short fix. Jesus said he didn’t come to give that kind of peace. He gives a different kind of peace. And his peace is forever.
Some people tend to feel that peace is a product of love, as war is a product of hate. Jesus told us to love one another (John 13:34 and elsewhere) and even told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44 and elsewhere). But whether we love our enemies or hate our enemies, we still have enemies and those enemies are still prone to threaten our peace. So, while we may love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, we still must do what we can to protect ourselves. Loving our enemies does not mean repudiating our own self-defense or denying the courage of our own convictions.
There are two issues at stake here. Jesus said, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20:25). Jesus is saying we have two duties: to serve the purposes of national sovereignty and to serve the purposes of God’s sovereignty. We are to do both. In Matthew 6:24 and elsewhere Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters”. So, rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s is not the same as serving Caesar as your master. If the government of a nation commands a believer to go against God’s sovereignty, it is the believer’s duty to follow God, not his government. It is the citizen’s duty to make those moral distinctions. And in that process, sometimes we discover that a moral decision to participate in war has nothing to do with hatred or anger, and everything to do with fighting for what is right.
The idea that peace comes by ending war, and ending war replaces hate and anger with love misses the most significant aspect of peace as the world gives it. Like war, this kind of peace doesn’t change anything. It only creates a lull in hostilities. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with peaceful lulls. What I am saying is that if you pray for peace, pray for that ultimate peace that doesn’t depend on a balancing act between opposing forces. Pray for the peace that Jesus gives. There are those in the world who cry for peace. But they are like the deceitful prophets and priests of Jeremiah 8:11 who said, “‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” because they are willing to sacrifice righteousness and compromise justice to get the monkey off their back.
There can be no peace in the absence of justice. There can be no justice in the absence of righteousness. Therefore, those who would pray for peace must be willing to establish justice through righteousness. Ceasefires do not accomplish that. Ceasefires for the purpose of negotiating with lying scoundrels have never established justice through righteousness. Just as going to war does not require hatred or anger, ceasefires do not require the cessation of hatred or anger. They are not the causes of war, nor are they resolved by ending war.
If the purchase price for peace includes compromising justice and sacrificing righteousness, what value is that peace? We should love our enemies, yes. But if that means giving up life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what is the point? Islam has an answer to this question. For those desirous of a peace that the world gives, there’s always Dhimmitude, which makes apartheid look like Sunday school. Simply lie down and accept the burden of humiliation and subjugation. For those who want to think of Dhimmitude as myth, I recommend reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam And The Crusades, by Robert Spenser.
Dhimmitude is significantly different from Ghandi’s Satyagraha, which we think of as peaceful resistance. India’s success in gaining independence from Britain was largely due to how a culture strongly steeped in Christian values was impacted by Satyagraha, a product of Hindu culture. Islamic culture simply does not tolerate such resistance, but as history and contemporary events demonstrate, Muslim rulers ruthlessly eradicate any resistance.
Do you pray for peace? What kind of peace? What is it and how do we get it? For everyone who yearns for peace, who calls for peace, who strives to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9) Scripture advises us, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We begin to know the peace of Christ when we trust in God. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). That peace goes beyond all understanding and as such, is not subject to political debate. Do you pray for peace? Guard your heart and mind in the Messiah, the Savior of the world who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world. And you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace (Isaiah 55:12).