Tag Archives: Peacemaking

God’s People, part 66: Total War

Read 2 Chronicles 13:1

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

totalwarPart 66: Total War. One of my favorite games ever was a game called Medieval: Total War, which was a turn-based, strategy and real-time tactics computer game developed by Creative Assembly and distributed by Activision. Released in North America on August 19, 2002, I was fully immersed in that game for years until it no longer ran on the newer Windows platforms. I loved it because I love the Medieval period and the game, for me, was like time traveling back to that period with all its historical glory.

The premise of the game is this: following picking which “faction” one is going to be (e.g. Bittania, Spain, France, Holy Roman Empire, etc.), one works to build up one’s fortresses, troops, and kingdom/empire. One can set taxes and things like that; however, it is also important to keep one’s people happy, otherwise, revolts can and will outbreak. As one plays the game, time passes and historical events (e.g. the plague epidemic, the emergence of the Golden Horde, etc.) take place at in the correct chronological and historical order.

What this all amounts to is, as the title suggests, total war! One must grow their armies, protect their kingdoms and expand their empires through warring with other kingdoms and empires around them. When portions of one’s empire revolt and split off, vendettas occur and one builds up enough troops to go in and conquer the land back! This sort of thing is exactly what happened to Judah when Israel split off from them. Judah kept trying to reclaim Israel through total and constant war.

Thus, we begin to get the picture of how the sin of David with Bathsheba really spun out of control generations later. Had David not seduced and raped Bathsheba, had he not murdered Uriah the Hittite, had he not had Solomon as a son, he would not have been able to put Solomon as his heir. That is important because it was the act of putting Solomon as his heir that caused division in David’s family, that caused Solomon to kill off all of his political opponents, and caused enemies of Solomon to rally and have their day of independence following the death of the king. David’s one selfish act of sexual assault caused his entire Kingdom to divide and fall into a perpetual state of total war.

Perhaps it is too simple to state that it was just one of David’s sins; however, the fact of the matter is that David’s success became David’s failure and, had he followed the LORD instead of his own impulses, things might have been different. Even if others following him became corrupt, it would not have been a result of his own actions. Instead of being united in peace under God, the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah became separate, warring, enemies looking to shed each other’s blood any chance they could to dominate, subdue and lord their power over the other.

We can see this in our own nations and kingdoms today. Different time, same old story. The question for us becomes this: are we going to be a people who follow our leaders into a divide and conquer mentality, or are we going to follow the Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ, in being peacemakers in hostile territories? On our own, we will inevitably pick the former option for that is the result of our sinful, human nature; however, if we open our hearts to Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to work within us, then all things (including peacemaking) are possible. Let us choose Christ, who is the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings.

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows. – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lord, help me to be a peacemaker among warmongers, so that I may shine the truth of your light into the darkness. Amen.

The Beatitudes, part 8: Peacemakers

Read Matthew 5:9

“Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’” (Hosea 1:10 NLT)

RomanLegionIt was high noon as the sheriff stepped off of the the old, dried out, wooden deck of his office and onto the dusty road of the town. He faced the outlaw with a certain steadiness in his eye, a determination to put down this cold-blooded, no good, double-crossin’ rattlesnake before he caused anymore problems for the citizens of Tumbleweed, NM. The Sherrif slowly brushed his black trench coat back on both sides, showing the peacemakers he had holstered to his hip. The other man flinched, and before he could even take a breath, the lawman’s peacemakers rang out with bullets blazing. That outlaw would never be disturbing the peace of Tumbleweed again.

Often times, when we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, we think in terms of the sheriff above who was certainly “making peace” for his town by ridding it of troublemakers and outlaws. We think of our military, the police officers, and other first responders who keep the majority of people in our communities safe from criminals and others would “disturb the peace. We also think of pacifists and people who refuse to partake in any sort of violence.

Yet, while both of these understandings certainly embody an aspect of “peacemaking”, none of them captures what Jesus is actually refering to in his beatitudes. First, it is important to understand the historical and political contexts in which Jesus is living. In the first century, the Jews found themselves under Roman occupation and they were quickly being “converted” to a Greco-Roman society. There was great pushback against this and many groups, including zealots and others, violently resisted such occupation. Yet, Jesus’ message was not merely against those groups’ violent action against Rome, as it is sometimes portrayed.

Much more than that, this was a political statement against Rome itself. After all, the Roman emperors called themselves “peacemakers” and “Sons of God.” It was the Roman Emperor, and by extension the empire’s legions, that peacemaking was done. The Zealots, the Essenes, the community at Qumran, and many more were put to death by the Roman sword or the cross. If one didn’t live peaceably under Roman rule, then one found a sharp and painful end to their unwillingness to conform. This was what Rome considered to be “peace” and they spread their pax Romana (Roman peace) throughout the known world.

With the spread of terrorism, violence in our own communities, and on our own streets on the rise, many today are calling for peace by force. They want their streets safe again and they want someone to enforce “law and order” in order to ensure that “peace” is ruling in the streets. The question is this, peace for who and at what cost? Is this what Jesus meant when he said, “blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.” Does God force into peace, or does God strive to reconcile us with each other and with God in order to attain God’s Kingdom of peace here on earth as it is in heaven?

It is important to understand that when Jesus states, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he is not referring to governmentally or civilly enforced peace, nor is he referring to a passive attitude toward violence and/or others. On the contrary, being peacemakers is the actively engaged, and difficult, work of bringing reconciliation into our communities. Those who seek to bring reconcilliation between people/communities and their neighbors, as well as reconciliation with God, are the ones who are called the “children of God.

What this means is that anyone who wishes to follow Christ must be an agent of God’s recociliation.Those who are know that such work is not easy and, it is often costly. Jesus attests to that in his next beatitude, as we will see next week. I pray that you find yourself challenged by this and that the Lord leads you, as well as all of us, down the road of making peace and building up a reconciling community of love.

“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” – President Ronald Reagan
Lord, grant me peace that I may be a peacemaker and counted among your children. Amen.