What is Peace & What is War?
June 10th, 2018
Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11
They dress my peoples’ wound without concern ...Peace! Peace! they say, but there is not peace.
Life is often a balance between positives and negatives. For example, physicians often face this balance. A doctor knows when there is a time to mend and a time to amputate. Such was the retinal surgeon’s decision whether to recommend that I decide to remove my left eye or probably lose my life in a struggle with cancer.
A very long time ago a man known simply as The Teacher said something like this: There is a time to be born, and a time to die ... a time to kill, and a time to heal ... a time to break down, and a time to build up ... a time to keep silent, and a time to speak ... a time for war, and a time for peace. [Eccles. 3:2-8]
It is the balance between these two forces that I want us to look at when considering the question, what is peace and what is war? It is important that we know when to be negative and when to be positive.
For instance, if one were to go to the Grand Canyon, there would be numerous signs saying, Don’t climb on the fence! You see, that fence serves as a barrier between safety and a drop of a 1000 feet to the floor of the canyon below. So, the message is negative, but I’m sure you would agree that in that instance, it is positive to be negative. Can you imagine any parent in his right mind telling a child, just go ahead and play on the fence? Of course not. Well, if you understand that, then you have insight into our text for this morning.
The prophet Jeremiah saw his people, the Jews, standing on the edge, playing on the fence, there on the verge of destruction. The morals of the nation had been corrupted. The spiritual leaders were interested in politics, not in religion. The people had forsaken the faith of their fathers and mothers. Crime was on the rise, and no one seemed to care. Violence throughout society was a fact of life. But, Jeremiah saw that the greatest danger to the nation came from their leadership.
Instead of leveling with the people and reminding them of their own complicity in the wickedness abroad in the land, and helping to define the forces at work in destroying the nation from within, the leaders were going around telling everybody that things were great. Twice in the prophecy of Jeremiah, he denounces the leadership of the country for proclaiming Peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Now, if we consulted the Jerusalem Bible translation, we would find a textual note that would help us understand a little more fully what Jeremiah had in mind when he speaks of peace. When the term shalom, or peace, is used here it means a lot more than the absence of external danger, i.e. there was no nation around threatening Judah at that time. No, there’s a lot more involved here. Peace is understood to mean an ideal state of happiness in which the individual and the nation prosper and there abides a social harmony. This is the lie that the leaders of the nation are trying to sell to the people and Jeremiah is trying to expose it for what it is. The nation was playing on the edge of a grand canyon, climbing on the fence, and the parents of the nation, so to speak, were encouraging this.
Is this much like what we experience whenever election time rolls around? Have you noticed how the party in power talks about how, all things considered, everything is just fine? And how the party out of power says that things are really bad, and the nation is going to the dogs? Surely, the truth of the matter is that things rest somewhere in between. However, I am convinced that when the moral fabric of leaders and people in general are questionable, then those who would tell us that everything is just fine are not doing us a favor. The negative element must not be overlooked. There is a time to declare war and not to do so is to invite destruction. To tell the truth, whatever it may be, is the path that Jeremiah favors, and so should we.
Yes, there most certainly is a time to be positive. If there is a time for war, there is also a time for peace. If there is a time to kill, there is also a time to heal. This is what Jeremiah was trying to do, because he spoke for God declaring that the moral and social structures of Judah were falling apart. We have no less a mission in our own day. Now, the people in Jeremiah’s day did not listen, so they had to look at Jerusalem in ruins, the temple burned to the ground, as they were forced to leave for exile in Babylonia.
But in the Bible there is no message of doom without a message of hope. There is a path, and there is time for changing. You see, it would be so easy for me to stand here and denounce our society, and tear down our leadership, and tell you how bad things are in Washington, and so on. And it would also be easy for you sitting there to say to yourself, yes, isn’t that right. They’re all a bunch of scoundrels. However, if I did that, and left it there, I would be failing you, and God, and my calling to be not only a preacher of the Gospel but also a prophet, i.e. a spokesman for God.
My friends, the fact of the matter is that the problem starts with us, with me and you. It is a blessing and it is a curse that we are governed by those whom we elect, or those we let our neighbors elect. In other words, any turning, any change for the better has to begin with us, you and me. If our society seems to be falling apart, it’s probably because we are. If we don’t believe that Christ wants us to live for him and wants us to spread his word, and his way, by the way we live, well then, things are not going to change for the better. We’ve got to change if our society is going to change.
Now, there was another Old Testament prophet called Ezekiel who also spoke for God, and he said: A new heart I will give you; I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. Our society won’t be saved, won’t be changed, when we just stop bad-mouthing it ... oh, no, it will change when we have a change of heart.
Perhaps it’s time for a new heart and a new spirit in our land. As Christians, we have both a positive and a negative message. Indeed, there will always be a time for war and a time for peace. Woe to us all when we cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. You see, the Christian faith always sounds a positive note. The mercy of God, as revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, is calling all of us, yes, all of us, to be a new people for him. A long time ago, now, Moses stood before some people just like us and told them that God required them to choose between life and death. Well, the alternatives haven’t changed. Think about it, please.
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