My heart cries out over Moab; her fugitives flee…weeping as they go; they lament their destruction. Their waters are dried up and the grass is withered; the vegetation is gone and nothing green is left.. the wealth they have acquired.. they carry away. Like fluttering birds pushed from the nest, so are the women of Moab at the fords of the Arnon.
(Isa 15.5-7; 16.2)
The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
(1 Cor 11.23-26)
I saw heaven open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war…. and his name is the Word of God…On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
Many other and more discerning writers will put pen to paper this weekend, to comment and lament and analyse the appalling addiction of humankind to war and violence as a means of resolving difference and apportioning resources. I only want to reflect for myself briefly on the pattern, on its devastating consequences, and on the solution which is revealed in the good news about Jesus.
One of the earliest consequences of human rebellion was the resort to violence as a means to an end, and a response to the fear of others which sin breeds in us. Cain took his brother’s life, and within a few generations, his descendant Lamech was boasting about how many he had killed for trivial reasons and with impunity.
The picture of destruction and of fleeing refugees in all their vulnerability has changed little since Isaiah wept over the plight of the neighbouring land of Moab – human distress in war is not new, although perhaps the means of inflicting it may be.
Left to ourselves, this expression of the destructive power of sin might have quickly wiped out humankind, and I believe that it is only the ‘restraining power of common grace’ (with thanks to the scholar Alex Motyer*) which has enabled our race to continue to exist and to grow in numbers and sophistication of technology and culture down the centuries.
The bible tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, and his hand of final judgement is still withheld, even though sin in all its ugliness and destructive power dominates our lives. He is preparing a people for himself, with whom to share a life eternal, and for this reason, he waits. And that means that war goes on, violence continues to shatter lives and devastate communities and countries. Humanity left to itself is incapable of breaking the cycle, because it springs from the blight lodged in deepest recesses of all our hearts. We must not hide from the evidence – is the 21st century looking more peaceful and harmonious than the 20th did? No! This seems to be another lesson from history which we cannot learn.
The good news about Jesus is that he came to win the ultimate fight – against the power which enslaves humankind to wrong and destructive choices, to rebellion against God. He won through surrendering to violence – undeserved death, alienation from God – and his resurrection demonstrates his victory because sin’s ultimate weapon is death, and Christ defeated it.
When his followers remember Jesus’ suffering and death, they do so in anticipation and in thankfulness. We remember that sin has been defeated, that we are on the winning side, and that one day we will enter into a life where death and suffering have no place – where war and weeping are no more.
As a Christian, I believe that I am called to be a peacemaker – to live and interact with others in ways that promote love, generosity, forgiveness and healing. I also believe that until God’s time of waiting is finally over, there cannot be true peace in the world, because only when all human hearts are healed and made new will there be an end to those things which cause wars.
I remember the fallen, the broken, the displaced and the haunted-living whose minds are so traumatised by violence that their lives are detestable to them. I pray and speak and move for healing peace between individuals and nations. But I do not put my faith in human effort, or education, or any other possible tool. I put my faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, whom I also remember, with gladness and profound humble relief, as the one who has defeated the enemy of all our souls, and has promised that one day we will live with him in perfect, fruitful and lively peace.
[Alex Motyer; The prophecy of Isaiah, IVP, 1993]