I have almost completed reading a book that is mildly getting under my skin. It is well written, and the author does argue his case with diligence and skill. The challenge I have with the book is that the author’s arguments, though passionate, are invalid! An argument based on a fallacious foundation is an argument that cannot stand.
A skilled debater is one who argues with such subtlety that he or she is able to cause you to buy an underlying assumption, often without you even realizing you have done so. In the case of my current reading, the author is arguing atop two fallacious assumptions, 1) that Jesus is a pacifist (a position I debunk in my latest (currently unpublished) manuscript), and 2) that we would have world peace if the Christian faith was more accepting of, and less militant toward, other faiths such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the like.
Jesus is not a pacifist, but I’ll not pursue that argument here since that’s not the purpose of this posting. And Jesus himself made it clear that there will be wars and rumors of war up until the final trumpet blows and we close this chapter of humanity’s story. (Matthew 24:6)
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6, ESV
This Isaiah 9:6 passage has become inexorably linked with the Christmas season. I feel nostalgic every time I read it or hear it. It causes fond memories to come to the fore.
The child/son spoken of above is the same Son who said:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household (Matthew 10:34-36, ESV).
Perhaps there is an additional assumption put forth by the author mentioned above, an assumption that the peace of which Jesus speaks when he offers peace is a peace that is the antithesis of war, or the absence of conflict. Jesus seems to be saying that he brings conflict, and that doing so is his purpose. “I have come to DO these things…”
Yet this same Jesus says:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid – John 14:27, ESV.
The peace Christ leaves with us is not the peace of the world, or peace with the world. Thousands of years of history have taught us that searching for world peace is a futile endeavor. I do not begrudge any for pursuing that mode of peace. Jesus taught us “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). But tangible experience demonstrates that war happens on a daily basis as one sect of humanity is constantly at odds with another.
Note the personal pronoun in Jesus’ statement above. He said, “My peace…” rather than world peace. Indeed, he contrasts his peace directly with the peace of the world. The peace Jesus gives is a peace that settles our hearts even as we swirl with the vortex of strife and violence that intrudes into our lives.
The truth is that we will never be at peace with the world. On the heels of some difficult remarks to his disciples, Jesus said: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, ESV). Even in the midst of trouble with the world system, Jesus offers us an internal peace, a peace that surpasses comprehension (Philippians 4:7).
Just as the peace offered by the Prince of Peace is an internal matter, so also are the conflicts we stir up. James says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”
If there is going to be peace between nations and conflicted individuals, it is a peace that will come through Jesus. The apostle Paul tells us that Jesus, himself, is our peace, breaking down the walls of hostility and division that separate us (Ephesians 2:14), and that he made peace between us and God through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). The latter is essential, because we will never see peace among individual humans until we see peace between those individuals and God.
“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end…” (Isaiah 9:7a, ESV)