Wednesday, June 17, 2015

"No Justice, No Peace?"

If you follow the news at all, you've seen or heard the expression a thousand times: "No Justice, No Peace!"  It's one of the most popular clichés of the political left, although it's a far cry from "All we are saying is give peace a chance."  In fact, it's simply a mindless, irrational slogan that is, in essence, a threat: "Solve the problems we want solved, or we'll continue to make your life miserable."  It is a great favorite of the Palestinians: "No justice for Palestine, no peace in Israel!"  And it has certainly been used in recent months, during the race riots in Missouri and Baltimore.  We're likely to hear it more and more.

It's more than a cliché, however: all political factions have their clichés, and overuse them constantly.  "No Justice, No Peace" is something more: it happens to be totally unrelated to the Biblical requirements for peace. The Bible says a great deal about peace, and the prerequisites for peace: and political or social "justice," as defined by one faction or another, isn't even on the list.  Human "justice," to the degree that it exists at all, has nothing to do with God's peace.  But who, in today's world, even pauses to consider what the Bible might say about a given subject?  It's much easier to bleat out slogans and spit out threats. It's even fashionable, in the literal sense of the term: the slogan is as popular on clothes as the "peace symbol" used to be.

The only time that the world ever refers to the Bible, in this context, is at Christmas, when everyone from the greeting card companies to most heads of state misquote the Bible.  "Peace on earth, good will toward men," the politicians say in their "Christmas Greetings" to their constituents.  "Peace on earth, good will toward men," wheezes the Pope from the balcony of St. Peter's.  The phrase even appears on postage stamps.  But, as I say, the phrase is a misquote, because it cuts a verse in half: the famous cry of the angels, at Jesus' birth, recorded in Luke 2:14:  Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.  The preachers and Popes and politicians who piously quote the second half of the verse are missing something, wouldn't you say?  In fact, they're missing the whole point, and overlooking God's very first requirement for "peace on earth:" glory to God in the highest.  If you wanted to make a signboard or a bumper sticker out of that, you'd have to say "No glory to God, no peace!"  Because that's what God Himself says, and demands.  As long as men ignore God, or deny God, or leave God out of the equation, "peace on earth" will be as unattainable as a trip to the farthest galaxies of the universe.

When God speaks of peace, He's rarely referring to political peace, or peace between nations; in fact, the Bible presents real political peace as something that has never existed, and will not exist until Jesus Christ returns to earth and reigns from the Throne of David in Jerusalem.  There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked, God says in Isaiah 48:22; and, in case we miss it, He repeats the same words in Isaiah 57:21.  That means "the wicked" in Russia or Iran or Washington, D.C.; that means anyone and everyone who is not living in God's favor.  God knew, of course, that "peace" would be the great, worldwide aspiration of men, from Babylon to Cairo to Hong Kong to Nashville and Salt Lake City, and He was not reluctant to tell the truth: Jeremiah said, in reference to the enemies of Israel: They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6:14).  That is one of the greatest hallmarks of the 20th and 21st centuries: saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.  But the Bible says, "No glory to God, no peace."  And, since men will not humble themselves and glorify God.....  

Usually, when the Bible speaks of peace, it's talking about peace with God, or personal peace. (And personal peace is almost as elusive as political peace, as can be attested by any psychologist, or any teenage girl cutting her arms or thighs simply to relieve the inner torments of her life.)  The New Testament is full of helpful information for God's children, those who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12, on how to receive and enjoy God's peace.  For example: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).  But notice: the promise of the "peace that passeth all understanding" is conditional, and depends on the preceding section of the verse.  This is but one of many "prescriptions for peace" that God offers His children.  And, of course, peace is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, available to anyone who has received the Spirit by being born again: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23).

Generally speaking, however, there are several indispensable conditions for peace of any kind: several preconditions.  We have alluded to one, i.e., giving glory to God.  Another, the importance of which cannot be exaggerated, is purity

Purity is mentioned nearly thirty times in the New Testament alone.  But, for the purposes of this post, perhaps the most salient reference is in James' description of "Godly wisdom" vs. "worldly wisdom:" But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (James 3:14-18).
As we've already seen God's standard is, "Glory to God, then peace."  Now we see another prerequisite: "first pure, then peaceable."  Purity always comes first.  The man or woman who would know peace, God's peace (as opposed to the peace of the pharmacist or the pop psychologist), must first strive for purity: purity of thought, of word, of action.  Purity can, in some contexts, be defined as a singleness of purpose, a single-mindedness; but, most often, as our conscience tells us, it is the opposite of impurity: to be blunt, carnal or lewd or "dirty" thoughts, words, and actions.  No man or woman who has a conscience needs a dictionary to know what "purity" means. 

Isaiah understood it.  When He came face to face with God, his immediate response was: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 6:5). When confronted with God's holiness and absolute purity, Isaiah recognized his shortcomings very quickly - - - and Isaiah was not an ungodly man.  And notice: he indicted himself first, before condemning the evil society in which he lived: I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.  It never occurred to Isaiah to blame his impurity on his environment, or on societal or "peer" pressures.

"No justice, no peace?"  That's wrong on a number of levels, when we get our eyes off of the world around us, and look at things from God's perspective.  For one thing, on a personal level, look at your life: at your sins and stupidities and shortcomings.  Are you absolutely sure that you even want justice?  I certainly don't; I want mercy, and have received it by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But, beyond that, why set conditions for peace, when it's not within your power, or your party's, or your nation's, to accomplish peace?

Better to seek the peace that comes from God alone - - - because it's the only true peace that's available in this world, and history teaches us that God rarely (if ever) blesses nations with it.  Not real peace, which is a great deal more than the absence of war.

Do you want peace?  Then give glory to God in the Highest.  Study purity, and ask His grace in putting it into practice.  These are the prerequisites .... and, when accomplished, they work, by the grace of God!

1 comment:

  1. Bleating out slogans, spitting out threats and posting saccharine phrases on church sign boards such as "Peace begins with a smile." I get the visual of the Pope, world leaders and the UN all sitting around smiling at each other, and 'all is well.'

    Um, no, there's a little more to it than that, as you've clearly and scripturally explained in this post. Thank you.