Since I was little I have been a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings. As a kid I only had access to “The Hobbit,” but when I was in my early twenties I purchased the three volume set entitled “The Lord of the Rings.” Within Tolkien’s writing there are quite a bit of hidden nuggets of truth inserted from a biblical worldview. One clear line of thought that Tolkien grasped that our Post-Modern society would do well to consider, believe and cling to is that governmental powers can be exceedingly evil, because they are being led by evil persons. One of my favorite lines from the Two Towers is a discussion between Theoden king of Rohan and Aragorn rightful king of Gondor on the prospect of joining the war with Sauron, lord of the Dark Tower…the one who wanted to enslave and dominate all creation to his twisted will:
Theoden: I will not risk open war.
Aragorn: Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.1
A Call for Peace and Unity...
In my last post I noted that here in the United States there is a clarion call for peace by many political leaders, media pundits, celebrities and Evangelical Christians2. Take for example popular Pastor Tony Evans statement that he made after signing a call for peace in November of last year:
Citing Psalm 89:14, which speaks of the “righteousness and justice” as the foundation of God’s throne, Evans then said,
Let us just say for the moment that I agree with Pastor Evans statement. When a nation has a mind after God’s thoughts (here in terms of righteousness and justice), then that nation will be strong, it will have peace, and it will stand. But when the opposite is the case “peace will not exist.” But what is the underlying assumption being made? That those things exist to some degree in a nation that murders her offspring, robs from her citizens, calls it blasphemy when one dares condemn what God labels an abomination! How’s that possible?
Let’s take a step back for a moment and consider the following terms: war and peace, violence and unity. Which are biblical terms that should be associated with the Christian worldview? Is it ever righteous for a Christian to pursue war and violence, rather than peace and unity? Or, is it the Christian message (i.e., the gospel message) that requires we must always choose peace and unity?
The way some Christian leaders’ talk, I would think that their overarching assumption is that “peace and unity” is always preferable. Now I can understand why the world will cite Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.”Matthew 5:9; ESV throughout
But I struggle deeply within myself when I hear Christians spout platitudes of peace. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire. No one likes conflict. We prefer to live our lives in the shadow of relative ease and comfort. In this way we are akin to the hobbits in the Shire who prefer to eat, drink and be merry without a thought to what is going on in the world around them. Current president of the SBC, J. D. Greer appears to unknowingly reflect this mindset in a blog post he wrote last September entitled, “When Peace and Unity Seem Impossible.”
After noting that we may share different cultural and political perspectives he then says we should,
As a closer, he then opines,
Peace and Unity on what Grounds?…
Noble pursuits I agree, but to what end? More importantly peace and unity based on what? Oh…to be like Jesus…. Because Jesus was always about peace and unity, right? Peace and unity based on what grounds? Peace and unity with who?
Jesus of Nazareth bears many titles that demonstrate the greatness of His Name. One of those titles is “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9.6). But what does the title mean? One thing that it does mean is that He gives His own, peace (cf. John 14.27; 16.33; Luke 24.36).
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”2 Thessalonians 3:16
Likewise, Jesus calls for unity or oneness as seen in John 17:11, 21, 22. But the question that must be answered is “On what grounds?” Obviously, peace and unity are to be desired if possible, but what is it that makes them a reality?
I just want to add at this point that the world loves it when Christian’s speak of these things in a very general, vague way. That way no commitment is being illustrated. No “Right” way of thinking is being demanded. I’m not sure if this type of mindset is to be blamed on the Evangelical’s ignorance of the Old Testament canon or a plain on laziness on their part. For the fact remains that you cannot have peace without first waging war, and you cannot have unity without an established standard of Truth. This is why it is laughable when varying Christian leaders offer these sweet sounding words of “peace and unity” in a bouquet of decaying flowers. Meant to sound sweet to the masses, but rotten to the core in light of truth.
“That’s a pretty bold claim,” you say “saying there can be no peace without war. Can you prove it?” Yes, I believe so. Rather easily, I might add, but first you need to understand that war and violence, like peace and unity are key component of the Christian worldview.
Knowing the Season…
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8
According to Scripture there is a season for everything, including peace and war. One must know the conditions of the season in question, before they can discern which is the appropriate course of action. Since the Fall, in the beginning, creation has been at war. Violence, then has been necessary since the beginning.
“I will put enmity [i.e., hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”Genesis 3:15
This the Creator promised the crafty beast of the field, the serpent. With violence against God and His image bearer did he (the serpent) enter the garden, and from that day forward war and violence would follow. Thus we read in the Psalms from the prophet David,
“Blessed by the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.”Psalm 144.1
It is the Lord our God who trains us for war, who teaches us to wage violence in battle against our enemy (enemies). With such knowledge at our fingertips we should not be surprised to read that God, after giving Joshua great victory over his enemies in the land of Canaan, left a remnant in the land to teach the next generation what it was to fight:
“Now these are the nations that the Lord left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before.”Judges 3:1-2
Answers the Critic: “But that was in the Old Testament. That language is archaic. That was a different covenant era. Things are different now under Christ Jesus. God’s people are no longer called to wage war, to exercise violence, but to strive for peace and unity with all creation.”
My response: “Really, where then is this new charge dear son or daughter of man given to us in God’s Word, that I might apply it?”
No the fact is that our own Lord not only demonstrated that we are to, at times, wage war and be violent with forces of evil. Jesus corrects the worldview of His hearers when He unashamedly declares,
“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”Luke 12:49-53; also see Matthew 10:34-36
What sort of fire is He speaking about? What baptism is He talking about? Jesus had ready the winnowing fork in His hands, so says the prophet John the Baptist (cf. Matt 3.10-12), to separate from each household those that serve God and those that serve the creature. This is the fire that Jesus brought to the earth, a fire of division, a fire of winnowing, a fire of judgment against those who refused to bow the knee to the rightful King over all. In order to finalize this, He waged a battle with Satan where the beast of the field, the serpent of old, struck a death blow at the Lord’s heel, but when the cross was driven into the ground it was there that the enemy’s skull was crushed (Matt 27.33; Mark 15.22; Luke 23.33; John 19.17; also see Psa 7.16). This is the death (baptism) that Jesus was baptized with, striking the final blow against that murder and liar from the beginning (John 8.44).
It is for this cause that we too continue the work of waging war, of extricating violence against all who stand opposed to the Truth of God:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when you obedience is complete.”2 Corinthians 10:3-6
I thought it wise at this point to add this little caveat to the reader unless they assume that my rhetoric was calling for physical attacks against the enemies of Christ. The main difference between us and Israel, as they entered into Canaan, was that they were waging war as God’s sword. In this they played the role of the minister of God who does not bear the sword in vain (Rom 13.4). For this reason it was a just war, but the same could not be said of us who bear the Name of Christ. There are moments in life when an act of war or an act of violence are called for; one in particular falls under the heading “self-defense.” But, the Christian mandate is to wage war and violence against sin and an ungodly worldview not to personally attack someone just because they are servants of another.
Furthermore, I think that Christians, leaders or otherwise, that make the claim that Jesus was all about unity and peace and not about offending someone for believing something not based on the Truth of God’s Word have not done an adequate job of reading their Bible’s. Jesus purposefully stood in opposition to those who abused, changed, or thwarted the Word of God. One moment in particular comes to mind when I entertain a discussion on this subject matter with another.
Offering Necessary Offenses…
In Luke 11:37-54 you have Jesus invited to a Pharisees house to dine. In verse 38 we are told that the “Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not wash first before dinner.” This was not a thing about hygiene, but a law kept by those in Israel lest they become ceremonially unclean. The fear was that a person might come in contact with someone or something that might make them unclean and so they washed as a ceremonial ritual to prevent uncleanliness (i.e., impurity or unholiness) before the Lord God.
My experience at this point is that people just focus on the rebuke Jesus offers (see vv. 39-44). But what they should consider is Jesus’ knowledge of the facts before He comes to eat at the Pharisee’s house. He knew their customs and He ignored them. He refused to play along. In a sense He waged war on their traditions and violently opposed them.
I once had a fellow in church tell me, “You should never do anything to offend another…for to do so is a sin.” “Is Jesus a sinner?” I asked. The man was dumbfounded. I then explained this little passage as one of many examples of our Lord purposely causing offense in light of the Truth of God’s Word.
Pastor Evans and the slew of others that joined in the signing of some silly peace accord back in November of last year (it may have been earlier); along with other Evangelical leaders attacking and blaming Trump for what happened in Washington D. C. on January 6th are sorely confused individuals. I would add J. D. Greer to this confused state as well.
Peace and unity are only possible when both sides have an agreed upon standard of truth. Peace and unity are only possible when one side agrees to lay down their weapons of warfare. There is great unrest in this nation and people want some semblance of calm to return, even if it is a false veneer. I get it. But, I also understand that applying the hobbit’s worldview to a world filled with sin, to a nation that bathes in it religiously, is absurdly ignorant.
Peace comes when…
“True peace comes only when those who say Jesus isn’t necessary come to understand that they need Him, when they’re willing to say, ‘Blessed is the one coming in the name of the Lord.’”8
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but peace that is only accomplished when you bow the knee to His gospel call—“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” It is peace offered between God and man, not the offspring of the serpent (who is Satan and his people) and the offspring of the woman (who is Christ and his people).
“For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”2Corinthians 6:14
To argue and to work for peace on any other grounds is to stand in opposition to the One you profess to represent.
2Some of these calls for peace and unity came before the election results were tallied and others came after what happened on January 6, 2021 at the nation’s capital. Various leaders pointed to Jesus and His gospel and that which is contained within the Word of God (Holy Bible) to challenge voters on both sides of the aisle to move towards peace, healing, and unification. Here are just a few articles to establish my point:
Rev. Mitch Hescox and Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, “Evangelical climate activists call for an end to the violence and chaos,” Evangelical Environmental Network, January 7, 2021, accessed February 15, 2021, http://redgreenandblue.org/2021/01/07/evangelical-climate-activists-call-end-violence-chaos/; Kelsey Dallas, “Religious leaders call for peace amid election turmoil,” Deseret News, modified Jan 15, 2021, accessed February 15, 2021, https://www.deseret.com/indepth/2021/1/6/22217663/capitol-protests-donald-trump-christian-religion-2020-election-joe-biden-catholic.
3Dwight Widaman, “200 Evangelical leaders sign letter calling for peace following elections,” Metro Voice, November 4, 2020, accessed Feburary 15, 2021, https://metrovoicenews.com/200-evangelical-leaders-sign-letter-calling-for-peace-following-elections/;
5J. D. Greer, “When Peace and Unity Seem Impossible,” Blog, September 21, 2020, accessed February 21, 2021, https://jdgreear.com/when-peace-and-unity-seem-impossible/.
6Ibid., final paragraph.
7“The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name” (Exod 15.3).
8James B. Jordan & Gary North. The Failure of the American Baptist Culture (Kindle Locations 6371-6372).