Peace before war! ∙
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. – Romans 12:18
1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.
3 A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up.
8 A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds” (Abraham Lincoln).
“This is certain, that a man that studies revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well” (Francis Bacon).
“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war” (Douglas MacArthur).
In our fallen world, bad things happen. The term bad covers a lot of ground. It provides a continuum of meanings. On the one side is horrific evil and cruelty, on the other, are minor offenses and hurt feelings. We can choose to go to war and seek revenge or we can choose to forgive and do good.
The Bible is crystal-clear regarding the alternatives and the appropriate choice. Children of the King are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). When we first hear the scriptural imperative and let it soak in, our first reaction is, quite frankly, something like “You gotta be kidding me.” But the Father is not kidding. He is not providing advice or counsel. He is dictating proper behavior. He is telling us how to act. Never are we to return evil for evil, but rather seek peace and conquer evil with good. The Father’s directive applies both to warfare and minor family disagreements.
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21 Don’t let evil conquer you but conquer evil by doing good.
Paul is both idealistic and realistic. He recognizes that despite the best efforts of the Father’s children to live at peace with others, others will frequently make it impossible. They simply want what they want, when they want it, on their own terms. They prefer aggression (passive or active) and hostility.
In fact, throughout history taking an absolute stand for the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to come into a right relationship with the Father often arouses enmity, open opposition, and hatred. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is hated!
John 15:18 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.
REFLECT & PRAY
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18
Father, I would much rather be a peacemaker than a warmonger. Yet revenge lurks within my heart. Encourage me to do what is right
The Father commissioned ancient Israel to conquer and take over the promised land. But they were supposed to do so in a specific and distinct fashion that we may consider very strange, almost bizarre. Two strategies were involved, for cities that were outside of Canaan, a diplomatic offer of peace was proposed. The enemy city was given a chance to surrender and commit to personal service of the Israelis. The alternative was certain death. If the people accepted the terms, the city would be spared along with its inhabitants.
Whoever heard of making war by first offering peace? The answer is, of course, the Father.
10 As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace.
11 If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor.
12 But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town.
Much of the history found in the Old Testament reflects the cultural practices of the day. During the time of the conquest of Canaan, there existed what were called Suzerain Treaties. The goal of a Suzerain Treaty was not to treat people as enemies but to welcome them as friends and allies. Rather than destructive conquest, peaceful integration was the endgame. The Father revealed His merciful and redemptive heart.
These working agreements or contracts were agreed to by two parties. One party was more powerful and referred to as the Suzerain. The other party is less powerful and called the vassal. This pattern is found in the Mosaic covenant. The Father guarantees His people’s welfare and safety. They in turn commit to submitting to Him as their sovereign Lord. In many ways, this is similar to the feudal society of medieval Europe.
The Father’s strategy for ancient Israel is the same strategy every child of the King should employ in dealing with others. Peace should be offered before war. Forgiveness and kindness should be sought rather than revenge. Diplomacy should precede combat.
Romans 15:4 Things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.
As we learn and experience the Father’s forgiveness and mercy, He builds up a reservoir within each of us to share with others who need mercy and forgiveness.
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