Perhaps you are not aware of it, but according to statistics mankind has been involved in more than 13,500 wars since time began, an average of more than two wars for every year since God created the first couple. Adolph Hitler defined peace as "an abnormal state between two wars"! Just since the day of his death, at the close of World War II, the world has had more than 50 new wars — including Vietnam, the war that took the lives of more American soldiers than any other. No wonder God says "the way of peace they know not"!
Do wars bring peace?
Have you ever wondered why nations fight? Perhaps we should first ask why do individuals fight? Have fights ever solved — permanently and satisfactorily — any differences or brought any harmony or lasting peace? Never! But it would be utterly unthinkable for a nation today to do away with its military budget and armament program — just as it would be unthinkable for any individual to renounce his natural belligerency. Nevertheless, God promised our forefathers — the chosen people — He Himself would fight their battles: "And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid" (Lev. 26:6). In John 14, Christ said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you" (John 14:27, Revised Standard Version). But how can Christ give us His peace when His very teachings - His Gospe1 — cause so much division between His Church and the world? If Christ really came to leave His peace with us, why did He "set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law"? Is there a contradiction or mistranslation here? Of course there isn't. This peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit — the third mentioned in Galatians 5:22.
Necessary for salvation
If God's Spirit is in you, you are to bring forth this fruit of peace. It is absolutely necessary for salvation. And one of the keys to obtaining this peace is your relationship to God. The closer you are to God, the greater your peace. In God's Church, you have heard many sermons concerning the love of God. You know and you are convinced that God is love (I John 4:8). But are you also convinced — totally convinced — that God is peace? It is only logical, without peace there can be no love. Paul writes: "Mend your ways, heed my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you" (II Cor. 13:11). Ask yourself this question. Is your mind in peace — now? Are you at peace with God and with yourself? Do you live peacefully with your neighbor, whether or not he is in the Church? If need be, are you willing to make sacrifices to maintain peace? Just like love, peace is an outgoing concern for someone else's rights and happiness. It is an expression of your sincere desire to better understand him — to better help him — without losing patience or feeling yourself superior. Christ is the King of Peace. God's Kingdom is a kingdom of peace. And no matter how many good qualities you may have, you won't enter God's Kingdom unless you totally repent of your belligerent tendencies and habits and seek peace — both with yourself and your fellowman.
The Sermon on the Mount
In what is known today as the Sermon on the Mount, Christ clearly showed us the way to live a peaceful life — how to have peace, how to procure and share it. He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matt. 5:9). Let's examine three basic rules underlined in Jesus' message that day that you — a peacemaker — should faithfully follow. Many of God's people still have difficulty in understanding this teaching of Christ. What did He really mean when He said: "Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39)? What are you supposed to do? Let people take advantage of you? Walk all over you? Should you let them hurt you in every possible way — or even kill you? What did Christ really mean when He told us not to "resist one who is evil"? As a Christian, you certainly have the right to defend yourself, and you should. But it must be God's way, not yours. You must use His spiritual tools, not carnal weapons. A bitter tongue, a sharp sword or strong fist is not the way to peace. You must use God's weapons — the power of His Holy Spirit — by expressing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness.
Love your enemies
That's why Christ said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" (verses 44-45). Notice, once again, the essential requirement to be a son of God. You have to love your enemies and pray for them. This is how you can be a peacemaker — and a son of God. To the carnal mind, this type of reasoning and behavior seems foolishness. But God's ways and laws always seem foolish to the carnal mind. "If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God" (I Cor. 3:18-19). Your enemy — or for that matter, anyone. who wants to hurt you — will be totally confused, disarmed and helpless when you do good to him, show love to him, never rendering evil for evil. He will have no effective means to fight back. He will have to quit in frustration. The apostle Paul under God's inspiration clearly explains this truth: "Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God... if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head" (Rom. 12:17-20).
The second basic principle or rule underlined in the Sermon on' the Mount, which will strengthen your position as a peacemaker, is not to judge others. Judging or condemning someone is not your prerogative. It is God's. He alone knows all of the facts in every circumstance; He alone is all love. Therefore, He alone is able to judge — or condemn — with love. To a certain degree, everyone of us in God's Church, even though converted, is still vain and self-righteous. We often see the speck in our brother's eye and not the log in ours. That's why Christ warned us: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you' give will be the measure you get" (Matt. 7:1-2).
God hates gossip
Do you realize that one of the primary reasons, if not the main one, for gossiping is our eagerness to judge or condemn others? God hates gossip. He hates "a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers" (Prov. 6:18-19). A gossiper is always a loser — never a winner. A peacemaker is always a winner — never a loser. "When a man's ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. 16:7). If you can't repeat openly, in someone's presence — and without hurting him — what has been said about him, then don't repeat it. Don't even want to hear about it. Turn away from those who spread rumors. But carnally that is so hard to do, isn't it? Do you know the best way to stop gossiping? Here it is: "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8). If you are guilty of this sin that tragically divides brethren in the Church, you had better repent with all your heart. Get on your knees and ask God to forgive you. You were called to be a peacemaker, not a gossiper "gadding about from house to house," dividing the brethren. "Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
"Do so to them"
The third basic principle is found in Matthew 7; a principle that in itself sums up all the laws governing man's relationship with man. "So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). Peace is a two-way street. You can only find it when you procure it for others. Do you really want people to treat you with kindness and respect? Then do likewise. Do you want them to be understanding toward you? Show understanding toward them. If you want them to love you — love them as you love yourself. To be patient with you? Then be patient with them. You couldn't find any simpler or more effective law to insure peace. In every instance live by the Golden Rule — faithfully! If you were the one at fault, would you like others to treat or talk to you in the manner you treated or talked to them? Make an honest effort to understand the problem and the circumstances. Look at the positive side of things. Be kind and express love. This is unmistakably your best weapon to insure peace. James wrote: "What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire. and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions" (Jas. 4:1-3). How simply and beautifully stated. And how clear the solution! The carnal mind neither knows the way to peace, nor can it grasp it. But you do because you have God's Spirit. Let it guide you. When you first came into the Church, you had learned that, as a Christian, you would be persecuted and would suffer. That was part of your contract with God. Accept then the challenge and live peacefully with your neighbor, regardless of what he might think of you or do to you. "Blessed are you when men revile you," Christ said, "and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad... for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-1.2).
Have you ever considered the peaceful way Abram (who later became Abraham) settled the strife that arose between his herdsmen and Lot's? Their possessions of sheep, goats and cattle were so great that "the land could not support both of them" (Gen. 13:6). Abram could easily have told Lot, his nephew: "You know, of course, that God has given me this country. You and your family are primarily blessed because of me. Therefore it's most natural and logical that I be the one to have the first choice. You'll take what's left." Abram could have reasoned that way, but he didn't. He chose the peaceful way of settling the arguments between his herdsmen and those of Lot. He told Lot: "Is not" the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left" (verse 9). And what did Lot do? How did he reason? He "lifted up his eyes, and saw that the Jordan valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar... So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan valley" (verses 10-11). The matter was settled. There was no longer strife between the two groups of herdsmen. No disagreement. No fights. Lot chose for himself what he thought to be the most fertile and beautiful land. Now was Abram the loser? On the contrary. He prospered even more whereas Lot eventually lost the land he had chosen for himself.
The peaceful world tomorrow
The Gospel is the good news of the wonderful world tomorrow — a world of joy, happiness and peace. Christ came not only to reveal this message to us but also show us the way to enter the Kingdom — the peaceful way, without sword or weapons. If you are a peacemaker today, you will be in the world tomorrow. But to be a peacemaker today, you must constantly fight against your carnal nature, and you must control your thoughts and bridle your tongue. When the Roman soldiers arrested Christ, Simon Peter was all set to fight. He drew his sword and "struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear" (John 18:10). But Christ ordered him to put his sword into its sheath. "All who take the sword will perish by the sword," He told him. Your goal — your final destination as a peacemaker and a son of God — is the Kingdom, where there won't be any fighting. No need for swords, cannons or nuclear weapons. You, as a peacemaker, will teach and encourage people from all over the world to "go up to the mountain of the Lord" that He may teach them His ways.. You shall see Christ, the King of Peace, "with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth" (Isa. 11:4). Imagine! If you are a peacemaker now, you will be with Christ in the world tomorrow, working with Him, ruling under Him! You will see nations "beat their swords. into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks" (Isa. 2:4). Today, no nation is ready or willing to do this. Total disarmament has never occurred in human history. But in the world tomorrow, with your help under Christ, "nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Do you grasp the depth of your calling? Can you picture yourself living in a world where people will all have one religion and be in one Church — the very Church you are in today? Can you visualize a world where people will faithfully study the Bible and live by its teachings — as you do today? You will see "the restoration of all things," the change in nature, in people, even in the character of wild animals. Then you will remember the words you have read many times in your Bible, prophesying that some day, "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isa. 11:6).
Be a peacemaker today
But remember. In order to be in the world tomorrow, 'you must be a' peacemaker today. You must learn how to live in peace with your neighbor as well as how to have peace of mind. You must know and really feel that it is "good and pleasant... when brothers dwell in unity" (Ps. 133:1). Successfully living in peace in this world today is a prelude to the great worldwide peace that all nations will experience in the world tomorrow. That's why you should start now — in "the present evil age" — to live in peace and harmony with everyone, to be truly a peacemaker, whatever the circumstances. If you honestly seek peace and pursue it, then "the peace of God, which passes all understanding" (Phil. 4:7) will keep your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus until His Kingdom comes.