The only hope for peace … was born in the Middle East
Making peace in a time of war
The world seems to be way ahead of us in terms of peace and tranquility. The Dalai Lama said, “Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace.” The poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Nobody can bring you peace but yourself.”
Peace has been at the forefront of many minds for almost two years as we have watched – and prayed for – the situation in Ukraine. And since the beginning of October this year, the world has been crying out for ceasefires and peace in Israel and Gaza.
Peace is a global concern and many are way ahead of us believers.
Even while we watch the news in this time of stridency in politics, and see the disintegration of relationships in workplaces and neighbourhoods, one of the main messages we sing to one another as Christians is that we should be lovers of peace. It’s the ache in the heart of all true believers.
But is peace realistic at a time like this when war seems to be all around us? Can real peace truly be found?
A simple biblical solution
The simple fix is to say that ‘both’ sides or ‘all’ sides need to put down their weaponry, stop shooting at each other, and live together in harmony and kindness. Simple but unrealistic, they say.
Peace is not a new message. So many of the Levitical offerings were titled ‘peace’ offerings. Bringing shalom (the Hebrew word for ‘peace’) to humanity, or at least Jewish humanity in those wilderness-wandering days. King David, while playing the madman, sought peace and said, “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
This quote from David is even clearer: “Too long has my soul had its dwelling with those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:6-7). The literal Hebrew is clearer as there is no preposition before the second ‘peace.’ It reads, “I am peace” (in Hebrew, “Ani Shalom!”). That’s a great clarifier. My position is so much for peace that I am identified with the cause, the effect, the end goal.
How do we, how does anyone, make peace in a time of war?
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22) and so much more. And peace is central to be sure. If that’s so, then shouldn’t Christians be at the forefront of the peace now movements? Shouldn’t we be seeking peace, pursuing it, getting military agendas to be diminished and peace agendas to be elevated?
Realistic peace, with wars seriously ending, is a worthy cause. Unfortunately, most people just want individual quiet and calm, but not necessarily real peace. Alanis Morissette is quoted as saying, “Peace of mind for five minutes, that’s what I crave.”
How is peace attainable?
The question then is how do we, how does anyone, make peace in a time of war? When I visited Ukraine and Poland last year after the war broke out, I found places with real peace. They were not governmental action centres. They were not political treaty venues. They were churches. Congregations where real peace between Russian sympathisers and Ukrainian refugees found depth. Their answer about how they found this peace was the same: Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7). Those who loved Jesus and sang songs of love to him found peace together. They were born again to a living hope.
The situations in Gaza and around Israel are turbulent, to be sure. Reports are varied and wide; pains are abundant as people are ache for hostages to be returned and people to find their homes again. Is peace possible? I think so!
When I read reports of life in Israel just now, in congregations from Dan to Beersheba, even in S’derot, the village literally minutes from Gaza, I hear the same refrain: Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Arab and Jewish believers in Jesus find the same hope. They sing the same songs. And war’s “swords are turned into ploughshares” by the Spirit of God (Isaiah 2:4).
Real peace happens when Messiah himself breaks down the dividing wall …
I remember preaching at a messianic congregation in S’derot a few years ago, where I shared my story of faith. At the end, I invited those attending to receive Yeshua as their Saviour and Lord, and several did so. I saw real hope in those Jewish people. Hope for a personal relationship with the living God.
Paul the Apostle cited Isaiah in describing the result of the work of the cross of Jesus, saying, “He himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in his flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in himself he might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace … He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:14-17).
True peace is found in the Prince of Peace. Handshakes and treaties last a time, but real peace happens when Messiah himself breaks down the dividing wall and establishes in himself one new man.
As December fills our lives with opportunities for commercial silliness or for sacred reflection, as the media continues in relentless pursuit of solutions in Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, may we who know the Lord, find others who love him as well and announce together: “The only hope for peace was born in the Middle East … that’s Jesus.”