Adapted from a lesson by Dorris B. Billingsley
published in The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 6, April 1952.
Jesus began His great Sermon on the Mount by relating a number of characteristics that would be possessed by those who would be ready for His kingdom which was soon to come. He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit:...Blessed are they that mourn:...Blessed are the meek:...Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness:...Blessed are the merciful:...Blessed are the pure in heart:..." Then Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God." As we study God's Word, we learn that the sons of God are the peacemakers of this world and they are blessed.
In Romans 14:19 Paul said, "Let us follow after things which make for peace." As children of God, we have a great responsibility to follow after and do those things which make for peace. As Christians, we should be the peacemakers and not the warmongers and strife-makers in this world.
We live in a world that is far from being at peace. We have just passed through two world wars which were the most destructive that has ever been known in the history of man. At present we are at war in Korea and we do not know when the third worldwide conflict might begin or whether it may have already begun. The world is living in fear and all about us, we see greed, distrust, selfishness, and corruption in high places. We are engaged in a battle for military supremacy and are trying to outstrip our enemies and even arm half the world. Our taxes are going higher and higher and we are living under a false economy, wondering when it is going to cave in on top of us.
We ended the last war with an atomic bomb, and for a while, we felt secure, for we thought this bomb was ours alone. Now we know we have no monopoly in this way, even though we still feel superior. Some of our leaders are saying that we should use the atomic bomb now in Korea or against the Russians. At the time we are saying that we are trembling for we know the Lord has truly said, "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
Various attempts have been put forth to bring peace. We are now engaging in truce talks, we have our United Nations Organization to settle affairs of nations, we have meetings of the big powers of the world, and our Atlantic Pact Treaty. There is even some talk of disarmament, but we know very well there is not enough trust among nations for them to scrap their weapons, beat their swords into plow shares, and study war no more.
This reminds me of a story about the animals in the zoo. The animals decided they would disarm, so they had a big conference. The rhinoceros was the first to speak and he said that the use of teeth in war was barbarous and should be prohibited. He added that horns were mainly a defensive weapon and of course should be allowed. Very quickly the porcupine, the stag, and the buffalo agreed with the rhinoceros and cast their vote with him. The lion and the tiger held different views. They defended the use of teeth and claws in warfare. Then the bear arose and said that both the teeth and horns should be banned as weapons in fighting. The bear stated that it would be quite enough when the animals quarreled to give each other a big hug. That would be a big step toward peace, he said. All the other animals disagreed with the bear and soon panic broke out among them and their conference and hopes of disarmament ended. That is a good picture of our situation today.
In times past, nearly everything has been tried to prevent war. We have tried disarmament, we have tried economic barriers, we have tried boycotts, we have tried leagues of nations, we have tried the accumulation of power, and we have tried the big stick policy. All of these have failed to bring us lasting peace. We have never tried Christianity and until we really try it by going to God and following His way, and walking according to His Will, we can never hope to have peace in this present world. As long as so many are willing to die for peace than are willing to die in war, then we will have peace among nations.
We can learn a great deal about peace from the Quakers, who call themselves Friends. We do not agree with them doctrinally, but we must admire them as peacemakers. Under the leadership of William Penn, the Friends made peace with the Indians in Pennsylvania while others were fighting and killing them and being killed by them.
One of the Friends moved westward to a little frontier settlement called Cincinnati. One time the rumor was spread that Indian bands were on the warpath. The settlers moved into the fort and armed themselves to fight the Indians. This particular Friend didn't go to the fort for he said he was a man of peace and wanted to follow after things that make for peace. He would simply trust in God and stay in his cabin with his wife, even though they had no gun with which to defend themselves. In those days the doors of log cabins were fastened on the inside with a latch. A string was attached to the latch and was pushed through a little hole in the door. From that comes the expression, "the latch string is on the outside." One night the husband pulled the latch string through the hole to the inside before retiring. He and his wife spent several sleepless hours and finally, he said, "It just doesn't seem as if we are trusting God when we pull the latch string in." So the man got up and pushed the latch string through the hole again to the outside. Later in the night, they heard the war whoops and savage cries of the Indians. Soon the Indians began to creep up to their cabin. One Indian tried the door and it came open. In his amazement, he stopped and then withdrew and called all the other Indians to the edge of the woods for a conference. The man and his wife watched them from the window. They didn't know whether the Indians were deciding to take them as prisoners or to kill them. After a short time, one of the Indians who appeared to be the chief arose and walked toward the cabin with a white feather in his hand. He fastened the feather to the door and the Indians left. The man and his wife allowed that feather to hang there for a number of years, and later a friendly Indian told them that the feather meant "This is the house of a man of peace, do no harm." He said the Indians knew that if a man would leave his door open to welcome the stranger in the night that he must be a man of peace and one who should not be harmed.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." But we will never make peace with the artificial means of man. We may put war off a few years, and that seems to be the only hope many of our leaders have. Some of them are even expressing doubt as to whether it is best to try to put war off. They suggest it would be better to have it now while we are superior to our enemies. We must learn that only when we come to God and follow Him; and replace greed, distrust, and hatred with love, mercy, and kindness will there be anything upon which to build peace.
We can't expect nations to be at peace until we as individuals live at peace with each other. All of the attempts that are being made for peace on the national and international levels; but if we are to have peace, we must start down on the level of the individual. Only when individuals begin following God will the nations, made up of these individuals, be able to get along. As long as people are selfish and greedy; lying and cheating; and jealous, contentious, and feuding there will be no peace. Peace must start with us. And as long as we take unfair advantage of others, and as long as families are fighting and neighbors are quarreling and the merchant on the corner is cheating his customers, and as long as some men will prey upon their fellow citizens by selling them alcoholic drinks, and as long as labor and management are fighting, yes, even as long as there are contentions in the church there will be no basis for peace. Since we want peace, let us think about the contribution we can make toward peace. What can we do that there might be peace in the world? Let me suggest three things:
First of all, we should pray, for there is great power in prayer. James tells us that the prayers of a righteous man avail much. I hope every Christian will pray daily to God for peace if it is in accordance with His Will.
Second, as Paul tells us, we can "follow after things which make for peace"; we can do those things which make for peace at home, at work, in our community, and in the church.
Third, we can try to teach the people of the world the message of the Prince of Peace. It may be that we could avoid war if we would send our enemies missionaries of peace and not threats of war.