Peace-making

  1. Possible Peace

There are multiple Biblical approaches to peacemaking, and peace is qualified.   Sometimes, people have worsened the relational friction by attempting to impose on others their own conception of peace or peacemaking.  Peace does not mean the naïve ‘Christly’ posture of forcing friendship with a manifest enemy, or lowering one’s guards in their presence as a fond show of ‘Christian’ trust renewed.  Godliness is not stupidity.  The Bible says to “put on THE WHOLE armour of God,” but tells us nowhere to put it off at any time because we feel safe (Ephesians 6:11).

Romans chapter 12 is one classic Bible passage with intriguing perspectives on the subject of peacemaking.  Whereas it says in verse 14 to “follow peace with ALL men,” four verses later, it qualifies that statement by adding that that prescription of peace-with-all is applicable only If it is possible” and “as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18, KJV, NIV).

The implication of “if it is possible” is that it is NOT possible in every case to be at peace with someone, and peace cannot be forced.  In other words, we should be prepared to live with certain conflicts, as peace will NOT be possible with the other party.  That means that there are people one can never gain peace with, no matter how much one tries.  Some people will be implacable, and some peace will be impossible.  The unfortunate condition of no-peace in certain relationships therefore does not mean that someone has not been a saint enough or has not done enough to gain the peace.  That further means that it is wrong to guilt oneself or someone else because there is yet a state of no-peace between them and someone else.  To force a peace that is not ‘possible’ may be as dangerous as, or even worse than, the crisis one seeks to avoid or appease.

  1. Mutual Peace

The two conditions for peace with “all,” according to Romans 12:18, are, firstly, “if it is possible,” and secondly, “as far as it depends on you.”  The second condition implies that gaining some peace does not entirely depend on the one party.  For example, if there was a conflict between two countries and a truce was reached, sustaining that ‘peace’ will depend on each party abiding by the terms of the peace and especially refraining from attacking the other.  If one party was ready for the peace but the other keeps throwing missiles into their country, the attacked country, no matter how peace-loving they might be, will be forced to defend themselves, if possible, by retaliating with greater force as Israel has often done with its terrorist neighbours.  The fear of such disproportional retaliations is what sustains some of the peace for Israel.  The fear of Israel is the beginning of peace, we might say in such cases.

One cannot sacrifice oneself to give the belligerent other a peace that they do not want.  This again stresses the point that some state of no-peace is not because someone has not done enough to gain the peace but because the other has not made their own contribution to the mutual peace process.  Prophet Joel asks a fundamental question, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).  Whereas some peace may be gained by walking away, some other peace may be gained only by confronting the other party and ensuring their compliance with the terms of peace, that compliance being their contribution to the peace process.   No matter how much you might wish to make peace, some peace does not entirely rest with you.  You might end in pieces trying to force unwilling peace.

  1. Forbidden Peace

As important as peace is, as imperative as God enjoins us to make peace with “all men,” the scriptures let us to know that some peace is subtle invitation to death, or ‘peace’ to the other in exchange for one’s own death as amply illustrated in the story of King Benhadad of Syria and King Ahab of Israel.

In that story, there had been a war in which King Benhadad’s army was crushed, and even the king’s life hanged in the balance, at the mercy of the king of Israel.  Just then, however, Benhadad’s advisers came up with a plan to save the life of their king.  They said to him, “We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings,” then they proceeded to plot how they were going to exploit that identified characteristic virtue of the kings of Israel in King Ahab.  A delegation quickly disguised and proceeded to Ahab and said, “Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee, let me live.”  Ahab fell for it.  He said, “Is he yet alive? he is my brother.”  Quickly, those foes picked on the word ‘brother’ from the mouth of Ahab and pushed further.  Next, we find those two kings riding away in Ahab’s chariot, the same kings who, a while ago, were at war, ready to kill each other (1 Kings 20:31-33).  That was peace, we might say, but it was a tragic peace as far as God was concerned, and someone was going to pay for it with his own life.

Both kings soon signed their peace pact, with diplomatic concessions of cities and streets.  As soon as Benhadad was gone from Ahab, God sent a prophet to Ahab with the following solemn message: Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (v.42).  In other words, God was not in the peace that King Ahab had negotiated with King Benhadad.  Ahab had let to escape a man whom the Government of Heaven had sentenced to death.  His life and that of his people were going to pay for it.  When, in the name of peace according to the definition of the Syria, you spare whom God has appointed to death, you mortgage your very life and that of your people.

God is not in every peace that people negotiate; He is not in every peace even when it might have been done ostensibly in His name and in ‘accordance’ with the ‘famous’ ‘tradition’ of the kings of the people of God.

  1. Ensuring Peace

Peace is generally conceived as the absence of war or the cessation of hostilities.  Peace is also conceived as the calmness of soul despite or in the midst of hostilities.  Some peace may be gained by the means of peace, but some other peace may be procured by war, especially if the other is the kind of whom it is ‘not possible’ to gain peace with; or when their terms for peace imply your enslavement.  For example, peace with Satan when he started a rebellion in heaven would have meant for God to abdicate His throne to Satan.  That was ‘not possible,’ so “there was war in heaven” (Revelation 12:7).  It took such a war to get to the place where it could later be proclaimed, “NOW is come salvation …” (v.10).

Even heaven had to fight a war to gain a peace; a peace which meant the expulsion of the other party with whom it was ‘not possible’ to be at peace.  So, can conflict be a part of gaining peace?  Ask the United Nations.  Their peacekeepers wear blue helmets but they carry rifles, fly combat planes, and mobilise armoured tanks, to enforce some peace.  At least, once upon a memorable time, Jesus had to resort to the whip to force out transgressing trespassers from the House of God.  What might have been the options to Jesus if He had wanted peace according to some of our religious translations?  Peace, then, would have meant condoning those rebellious trespassers and enduring the evil of a people not disposed to His change.

From The Preacher’s diary,

November 23, 2021.

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