I recently received an email from a Christian group that was urging all believers to speak out against the upcoming peace summit to be held in Annapolis in the United States of America. While it is natural to have a healthy dose of skepticism with regards to all political maneuvering, and easy to see how some would be unconvinced that this meeting will lead to true and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, its seems odd to me that Christians would be against it altogether.
Just to be clear, Musalaha has no official position on the impending peace summit, but this issue brings to the surface an interesting question about peace in general. Unfortunately, for some believers, peace is not ‘the Will of God’. This mindset is usually informed by some sort of theological position on the ‘End Times’. At Musalaha we have encountered this attitude before, being accused of pursuing humanistic goals and ignoring the spiritual and Godly realm. For many, the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” from Philippians 4:7, refers only to inner peace, an individual affair that has nothing to do with those around us, and certainly no connection to actual physical peace.
This attitude seems to contrast with the Biblical teachings on peace. We find numerous passages where peace-making, and peace pursuing is spoken about in the Bible. Actually, upon investigation, the truth is that in the Bible, peace-making is connected with spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6, Paul talks about the armor of God, which was modeled after a Roman soldier, and urges all believers to take up the spiritual weapons. He makes it clear that our struggle is not against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12. While this is true, Jesus also made clear that those who work for peace on earth are doing God’s work. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9. It is interesting to note that included in the list of our spiritual armor, such as the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, in verse 15 we are encouraged to shod our feet, “with the gospel of peace”.
Feet are very important for everyone, but especially for soldiers. It is with your feet that you either stand your ground, and resist, or retreat and run away. We are to clothe our feet with the gospel of peace, and take it with us everywhere we go, to reconcile with God and with each other. Many believers hear the phrase ‘the gospel of peace’, and instantly think vertically, of peace between God and man. But real peace, as it appears in the Biblical context, requires horizontal peace with fellow man in addition to peace with God. If we ignore this crucial part of the message, we are letting evil overcome good. The tragic result is that many non-believers see followers of Christ, the Prince of Peace, rallying against peace, and seemingly encouraging war.
The word peace has been very misused by humans, especially in the Middle East. It does have a spiritual meaning, but that does not stop it from also applying to the actual world of flesh and bones. Pursuing peace and peacemaking are some of the most important aspects of spiritual warfare that is the believer’s duty. And it is not an excuse to claim that true peace will never come until the return of Jesus. While this is true, it still cannot absolve us from our responsibility to strive for the Kingdom of God on earth. There is nothing humanistic about trying to make people stop killing and hating each other, and making them stop their everyday life and actually talk with their ‘enemy’. If anything, the more humanistic approach is to block any avenue to peace, to find reasons to continue with the conflict, to slander others and to destroy. This is the humanistic approach because humans are incapable of seeking peace without God. We humans are weak, selfish, and predisposed towards conflict because of our nature. Any attempt to rise above the earthly conflict is necessarily a spiritual affair, for it is impossible without God. Our focus should be on God, and on our eternal future, but we cannot forget that our actions while still on earth also matter. How we treat others, our neighbors, and even our enemies, determines how closely our lives are in obedience with Christ’s teaching.
This is what Musalaha strives for. We seek peace with fellow man and with God, knowing that there can be no political peace without God, and no spiritual peace or growth, without reconciliation with others.
May this find you all well, and may God bless you.
Salim J. Munayer Ph/D.