Over the past couple of months, many people have been getting caught up in the political whirlwind of the upcoming Presidential election. While many people are claiming a lackluster choice of candidates, we can’t deny that it is at least a little entertaining (if you try not to think about the national and global ramifications of certain individuals taking office). While watching the debates of both parties, I was struck by something that didn’t sit well with me. Why is it that so many people are ready to go to war at the drop of a hat? How is it that we as a civilization are still trying to acquire peace through war? I often think about the phrase Jesus said to Simon Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane on that night where He was taken to be tried and murdered:
Matthew 26:52 “But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
Is it any wonder why violence is so cyclical? Is it possible that the terror attacks, the domestic mass shootings etc. are a return of an investment we’ve made into the war machine? To put into perspective the amount we’ve invested, here is a breakdown of the U.S. budget for 2015: Out of the $1.11 Trillion dollars in the budget, we allocate $598.5 billion for military spending. Thats 54% of all our money, compared to 3% for Energy & Environment, 6% Medicare & Health, and 6% in education. I think our priorities may be out of order.
Granted I’m no politician, nor am I military official, but I can’t fathom the reason why we spend so much on something that produces such negative results. Maybe we are blind. If peace is the goal (which is a debatable point in and of itself) there must be another way. There is a fundamental misconception about war and peace. We think there will be peace when there is no one left to fight. That could mean two things: one, everyone is on our side; two, everyone who isn’t has been eliminated. That’s how our foreign policy works here in the U.S. and it’s been the policy of every empire in history. The only problem is no empire has reached the point where there isn’t anyone left to fight. And they never will, but why?
The simple answer is this: war will never make peace because war and peace are on different plains. Peace, while most notably evident in the absence of war, is first and foremost a state of the heart. Just because there is no violence in a given moment doesn’t mean that there is peace. There must be peace within before there can be lasting peace without. It is because there is no within us that there is no peace in the world. So how do we get peace within? Well, for thousands of years we’ve tried to find ways to find inner peace but unfortunately we’ve used the same warlike way of thinking. Now from the onset, war and religion have been friends more than enemies. From the Christian stand point we have the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and more recently, through the manifest destiny mindset, the removal of entire indigenous people groups from North America. All under the illusion of some God-ordained entitlement to land, people and money. In the same way that warmongers would propagate their type of diplomacy bringing eventual peace, many in the world of religion espouse that through disciplines and checklists, we can reach this point of inner peace.
It is here we are led down a path of works and striving that only seem to produce the opposite of the thing we desire most, yet we never change. I remember in my formative years as a Jesus follower, I would constantly put these religious expectations on myself. The weight of the do’s and the do not’s. Maybe this is a way of understanding what the writer of Hebrews meant when they wrote:
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus…”
So many of us put weights on ourselves that ultimately leave us entangled and feeling less than. That is where most people live. They live in a world of wanting to do more, yet feeling bad for not doing enough. What’s the general remedy for it? Well for most, it’s more of the same. More Bible studies, more services and small groups, but still no inward transformation. Now before anyone gets up in arms, I’m all for reading the Bible as long as you want to and going to more church functions than just a Sunday morning, but that can’t be the answer for the longing in our hearts for peace.
But what if there was a third option? An option that answered all of my questions from foreign policy to my own quiet time? I believe that the third option is what Jesus came to bring. The option of the Kingdom of God. It is in this Kingdom where Jesus informs not only our belief system, but the method through which we carry out those beliefs. It’s here where I find my peace. Where my eyes meet His, and my heart is changed. I don’t have to figure out all of the world’s major problems or even my own, I just have to come to Him. The pressure is off. Once the war is over in my heart, the wars can be over in the world around me.
“War is over, if you want it” – John Lennon
– Sam McCabe