Danger! Peace and Unity ahead!
In a world threatened by war and division, who can ignore the cries for Peace and Unity. But pursing these concepts without God in the equation could prove to be highly dangerous.
IN A WORLD of conflict and division, two of the most powerful attention-grabbing words are ‘peace’ and ‘unity’. But while they represent great ideals, they are amongst the most dangerous words on our planet today. And it is been no different across the span of time. Throughout history there have been those who were very willing to tell the people what they wanted to hear. The false prophets of Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s day proclaimed: ‘Peace, peace’ when there was no peace. And they papered over the cracks to preserve a false sense of security and harmony.
There are conflicts all over – Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan; the list goes on and on. Now North Korea is sabre-rattling in the nuclear arena whilst Iran convulses yet again. But while tens of thousands are maimed and killed in these countries and others, a recent EU poll puts the blame elsewhere. The view is that little Israel – geographically the size of Wales with a population equal to that of Greater London – currently represents the greatest threat to world peace.
So world leaders – actual and aspiring – beat a path to the Middle East: the Pope, the UN, the EU, American presidents, Russia, Tony Blair, the Quartet, Uncle Tom Cobley and all. They are looking to make their respective marks on world history, and the recipe is utterly predictable.
Create a Palestinian state they say; and in so doing appease the Islamic world, defuse Huntingdon’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ between East and West and drain the swamp of international terrorism. Peace – it is affirmed – will then automatically follow. Unfortunately God’s script says otherwise. And it is a supreme and self-delusional folly to focus merely on the bits of the Bible we like.
Beating Swords into Ploughshares
The garden in the United Nations’ New York headquarters contains several sculptures and statues; one is called ‘Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares’. It is based on a verse from the prophets and reads: ‘And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’
For anyone promising to deliver these things, the rewards would be great indeed – centre-stage in world affairs, international backing and huge resources put at their disposal. The prize for delivering peace would, in terms of kudos and status not least, be enormous.
But it is here that so many completely miss the point about lasting harmony. While the EU study was right in highlighting Israel, the survey was right for the wrong reasons. According to the Bible the Jerusalem will – in spite of the diplomats’ best efforts – be the epicentre of a climactic end-time conflict , and only beyond that will become the springboard to an ultimate and eternal peace. But the real reason is that ultimately it is not about Israelis and Palestinians. In fact it’s not even about the conflict between Islam and Christianity, or the clash of east and west; it is about the God’s great enemy knowing that his nemesis is drawing ever nearer and Jerusalem – where God has ‘caused His name to dwell.’
True peace comes at a price
So the purpose of God is not – in the first instance – to bring peace and unity to the world in its present condition. God will work out the ‘macro’ through the ‘micro’. God’s plan is to reconcile sinners – individually and personally – to Himself. And in this there is division. Jesus himself said that he came not to bring ‘peace but a sword’. His appearing was to separate light from darkness, truth from deception, wheat from chaff , sheep from goats , even one family member from another. Does this sound harsh? Don’t blame me; take it up with God. But even ‘Bible-believing’ Christians can become caught up in attempts to manufacture peace and unity. However, it is not for the Christian community to endear itself to the media, opinion-formers and policy-makers that Jesus called His disciples. In fact the Messiah that John the Baptist proclaimed was utterly devoid of political correctness. He wore a hair shirt not a smart suit : he didn’t offer a new policy directive but called sinners to repentance and faith in Christ. And Jesus didn’t appease or win over the political and religious rulers of his day: in fact they crucified him.
True unity is unique
Meanwhile, in terms of ‘unity’, there was only one form of unity which Jesus endorsed and prayed for – that is unity in the Spirit of God within the community of believers in Jesus Christ. Not for the Saviour of the world was it, or is it, the ‘all paths lead to God’ of contemporary ecumenism and multi-faith dialogue. Jesus may have been a carpenter but he was not into religious joinery. How much ‘unity’ amongst the multitude of the world’s faiths did Jesus encourage in claiming ‘no one comes to the Father but by me?’ And, whilst it is not designed or inclined to create peace and unity the message has not changed. It’s still the same. It remains God’s Plan A and he has no Plan B.
Yet as the time of Jesus’ return draws ever nearer there are several spurious end-time scenarios circulating within the Christian church. And the notion that the church will be an all-conquering spiritual force to which the world and its leaders will happily defer is creating a false security and a distorted worldview amongst believers . The heresy – because that is what it is – is creating profound and deleterious distortions regarding latter-day expectations within the body of Christ.
Complacency amongst Chaos
What the Bible actually teaches is that things will get much worse before they become better : however they will become infinitely better after they have become worse . We are warned of an exponential increase in the frequency and scale of conflict, famine and disease, and – paradoxically and alongside – sadly an ignorance and indifference, which says that everything is going on just as it ever was, and ever will; eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage.
The Beatles captured it in song: ‘Desmond takes a trolley to the jewellers store, buys a twenty carat golden ring, takes it back to Molly waiting at the door, and as he gives it to her she begins to sing: “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da, life goes on, yeah - La La how the life goes on”.’ There will be an astounding complacency amidst global calamity. Accordingly we need to understand the signs of the times and discern the times of the signs. We need to be as the ‘sons of Issacher who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.’
Keep a watch
A modern parable speaks of a small boy living at home with his parents. His name was Jamie. His father was a businessman, who travelled extensively in his work.
One day the father had to leave on a long business trip and leave his wife and young son at home.
‘When will you be back Daddy’ the boy asked?’ The dad was to be away for over a month and wondered how to explain in terms the youngster would understand. But glancing out of the window, he saw a solution. Taking the boy in his arms, he went into the front garden.
‘See that tree ... it has many green leaves. After some days you will see the leaves become yellow; then you will see some leaves fall to the ground. When you see the yellow leaves drop, you will know that I am coming very soon.’ And with that the father left on his journey.
Every day Jamie ran out to see the tree in the front garden. After a couple of weeks he saw that some leaves had become tinged with yellow. In days following more leaves changed colour. One day the youngster ran out to the garden and discovered a leaf on the ground. He was so excited he grabbed the leaf and ran inside. ‘Mummy, Mummy! Look, leaf fallen down. Daddy coming home soon’.
The next day more leaves had fallen, and Jamie grew even more excited: ‘My Daddy’s coming!’ And sure enough, his father returned that very same day. Jamie could see the evidence pointing to his father’s imminent return because he had been told what he should look for.
And while God alone knows the exact date of Jesus’ return; through the Son he has given us much that would describe the season: we see it all around us.
Danger ahead: blind summit in the road to peace!
But regarding peace and unity there is a great peril ahead. The word of God teaches that there will be ‘double-dip’ – a highly dangerous ‘blind summit/hidden hollow’ in the peace roadmap which hides a calamity. Following a marked deterioration in the world situation the Bible does indeed predict a peace, but it will be a false and short-lived peace. And in a subsequent resurgence of indescribable evil many will pay the ultimate price for their faith. It will be then, and only then, that the Lord will return.
So the UN and world leaders need to ‘back up’ for a sentence or two in Isaiah’s prophesy. The context of swords being beaten into ploughshares is the preceding verses which the international community chooses to ignore: ‘In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.’
It is only on the Lord’s return and after the best (and worst) efforts of man have failed utterly that true peace and harmony will prevail. It is then and only then that ‘they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’
So in terms of delivering the peace process there is only one safe pair of hands; and these hands bear the only scars to be found in heaven – these are the wounds won on Calvary’s cruel cross by the Saviour of the world. Jesus is the only and the true Prince of Peace.
The above article first appeared in Sword magazine and is published with permission.