It was in elementary school where I first learned that peace was a positive virtue. As our own country engaged in wars overseas (at that time with Iraq) and countries split after years of internal conflict (the former Yugoslavia) we were inundated with the concept that peace was desirable and obtainable. Years later I would attend an event where the Dalai Lama was the keynote speaker and he to would speak of the same thing: peace is both desirable and obtainable. He would tell the group something more: “Peace is dependent upon you.” As I dwell upon the concept of peace, I question, “Is peace still as desirable as it once was and if so, what must we do to make it happen?”
It is safe to say that peace is indeed still a desirable virtue within our society. Recent events and many of the responses to those events indicate that people desire peace. I would also say that peace can also be achieved. However, such a bold statement requires explanation.
Peace of the World
I was a believer when the opportunity came to hear the Dalai Lama, so I went with expectation of the need to be discerning (I went more out of curiosity and opportunity than anything). While other believers were excited about what was said, I cautioned that what he said was not biblical. They quickly disagreed and dismissed my thoughts. Yet, the reality is this. Peace is a virtue that should be desired. Furthermore it is possible to attain it. However the peace spoken of by the Dalai Lama, which was a good representation of the world’s own mindset, is not only impossible and not functional, it isn’t peace at all.
The world has redefined peace. When traveling in Israel, it is not uncommon to be met or dismissed with the greeting, “Shalom” or literally, “Peace.” It is a term born out of Scripture meant to convey the idea of God’s peace being part of daily life. Yet, with most of the people being unbelievers, they certainly would not mean God’s peace would they? Of course not. It is an example of the redefinition of peace.
When the desire for peace makes its way into conversations, what terms and phrases usually surround it? Usually the discussion centers on one’s personal desire to be comfortable and the need to respect the beliefs of others. In other words, peace is about acceptance and personal comfort. The motivation for it then is not about what is good for the greatest people, but what is good for me.
Peace has become a concept where acceptance is acknowledged and accountability is absent. The issue with this is that peace can never be found where God is absent.
Peace of God
Ultimately the peace of God is only found through peace with God. God has been extracted out of the world’s concept of peace because He confronts our knowledge of morality and convicts us through it. As R.C. Sproul rightly portrays, there is a great struggle with God because He is righteous and we are not, creating fear, hostility, and anger towards God. Thus, the only response is to expel God from all worldly notions, including our pursuit of peace.
True peace is only present when God is present. Therefore, to remove God from our definition makes it unattainable. The same is true of love and truth. When we remove God out of our definitions for each, we have negated each. Our longing for each will never be met until they are met in Christ.
True peace can only come when we have wrestled with the conflict between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. Out of it comes a recognition of our need for Christ to reconcile us to God and only then can true peace be found. It is a peace that is manifested outwardly in our desire to live peaceably with all men when possible (Romans 12:18). In this regard true peace is possible, however, we also know according to God’s word in describing the last days, not all will find this peace. The result is that the worldwide peace (or acceptance) that the world desires is not attainable. The only response we can have is to turn to God, because through Christ, our longing for peace is met.
I have been reading through R.C. Sproul’s The Holiness of God . Join me each week as we read a chapter and reflect on what we have learned. It’s not too late to join! For more information click here. Next week we will read chapter 8.