Wednesday, July 20, 2011

War and Peace

I've never read any Tolstoy, and I have a pretty good idea that I just won't be reading "War and Peace" unless I get really bored someday.  The Final Jeopardy "answer" from yesterday was about "War and Peace"...and that was the first time I learned the book had multiple epilogues.  If a book is so long that it needs more than one epilogue, I'm probably not going to have the attention span to read it.

But over the past few months, I've been learning a lot about peace.  And just when I think I've finally gotten the gist of what God has been trying to teach me, He teaches me something that gives me all sorts of new questions. 

This past Sunday I was subbing for one of the people on the praise team at my church.  Since I was subbing, I didn't figure out what songs we were singing until I showed up for the sound check that Sunday morning.  To my surprise, I discovered we weren't just singing that morning, but all members of the praise team were participating in a responsive reading sort of thing.  That's when the leader (or, in our case, leaders) reads Scripture or perhaps something based on Scripture, and the congregation responds by reading another Scripture (or something based on Scripture) in unison. 

I don't do public speaking.  If I had known that I would be expected to do "solo reading" in front of people, I would have told them "NO WAY" when they asked me to be on praise team.  But as it was, I was stuck.  So I did the reading...and just like with singing, the reading wasn't about me anyway.  But it was interesting.  I had to read two Scriptures from Psalms.  Both of them dealt with preparing for war.

And I was thinking about it as we were rehearsing.  I was thinking, "God, why are You teaching me so much about peace, and then giving me these Scriptures about how You strengthen my arms for war?"

I kept thinking about this as I went to Sunday School Adult Bible Study.  We've been reading through 1 and 2 Kings.  We're almost done.  But the passage was about Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah.  Now Ahaziah had been the king of Judah until he was killed, and when Athaliah found out he was dead, she killed off the entire royal family so that she could be queen.  But Ahaziah's son, Joash, was rescued and hidden for seven years. 

Then Jehoiada, the priest, took action by hiring hundreds of guards to protect Joash.  He crowned Joash as king publicly, which caught Athaliah's attention.  When she came out, they seized her and she was put to death.

And as the class' teacher was reading this, he stopped and asked us about Jehoiada's actions.  I'm not entirely sure what point he was making (though he probably made a really good one--he usually does) because I was too busy thinking about what I was getting out of it.  Because I realized that while Jehoiada was not perfect, he absolutely did the right thing by hiring men to protect the true king and to dispose of the false queen.  And as a side note, I just have to say that I love it when Scripture has more suspense and intrigue than any novel you could find on a shelf today.

But I think I'm learning even more about peace.  See, when I was a kid, I really loved the Beattitude: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God."  It was my favorite Beattitude, and I guess it was because I figured peace was something I could handle.  And I liked the idea of being a child of God. 

But peace isn't easy.  And peace isn't what I thought it was when I was a kid.  Peace doesn't always mean you back down when there is conflict.  Sometimes that is what it means.  And after also reading some passages in James last week (a very convicting book of the Bible), I was reminded that most of our conflict in life comes when we don't get our own way. 

When a conflict arises just because I'm not getting what I want when I want it how I want it, then the path to peace is as simple and as complex as surrendering to whatever it is I think I want.  If someone offends me over something trivial, peace means overlooking that offense.  If there's only enough coffee in the pot for one person, and both I and another person want it, then peace means letting that other person have the coffee (or compromising and both having half a cup).  If someone is arguing with me over something that doesn't matter, then peace means dropping the argument (sometimes by swallowing pride) and finding something more pure, noble, and praiseworthy to talk about. 

But then there are times when peace means something more than surrender.  Sometimes the only way to get true peace is to fight for it.  The difference is that when peace is something worth fighting for, it usually has something more to do than just me and what I want.  Now, there are times when personal conflicts arise and ignoring them isn't an option.  I like to avoid conflict, but I also sometimes let things bother me, and then they fester.  So I've learned that sometimes I have to confront a situation so that a minor offense doesn't turn into a major grudge.  It's hard to know the difference sometimes, which is why I need a lot of wisdom and a LOT of grace (again--James is a very convicting book).

But usually, when peace is something worth fighting for, it's not about me.  As a depraved human, I often see injustice in terms of myself.  If I can't have something the way I want it when I want it, then I tend to see that particular situation as unfair.  The truth is, injustice goes a lot deeper than the silly things I desire.

What Jehoiada did was not for himself.  He was fighting injustice.  He was fighting for peace by restoring the proper king to the throne. 

And I don't have anything like that to fight for.  Even if I were in a position where I could return a king to power while ridding the government of a corrupt ruler, I have absolutely no brain for politics.  But injustice is all around us in different forms.

Injustice is when a mother watches her baby starve to death because she can't afford to feed him.

Injustice is when a four year old dies from a disease that could have been easily treated with simple medication.

Injustice is when a homeless person has to sleep out on the streets, hungry and cold.

Injustice is when a kid can't sleep at night because she's afraid of bullies at school.

Injustice is when a 12 year old is sold into prostitution.

Injustice is when we fail to meet the needs of orphans and widows. 

So I'm still learning.  I'm still trying to figure out exactly what peace means.  Every time I think I've figured something out, I'm bombarded with more questions about a concept that is far too lofty for me to understand.  All I know is that peace is definitely something worth pursuing.

And sometimes it's something worth fighting for.

Sometimes Christians like to sit around and just pretend everything is okay, and we easily forget that there is a Spiritual battle RAGING around us at all times.  And I know I forget to put on my armor.  I forget to prepare for battle.  It's because I've believed the lie--the lie that there is no battle, that we're at peace as long as we don't open our eyes.

It's easy to pretend that we have peace if we ignore that injustice exists.  My question for myself and for my readers is: Are we brave enough to face reality and fight for peace?

I don't know that I am least not on a higher level than the little things I'm already doing.  But I'm learning....

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