Christianity places a high value on peace because Jesus came among us as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9.6), was heralded by angels who at his birth sang of Peace on Earth (Luke 2.14), and whose death on the cross brought us Peace through his blood (Col 1.20). Jesus blessed his disciples saying, Peace I leave with you my peace I give to you (John 14 27). In these and other verses we begin to see the breadth of teaching about peace in the bible. Peace is foundational to our understanding of who Jesus is, and therefore of who we are to be as his followers. But this does not mean peace at any cost. We read, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18) Sadly, peace does not always depend on us. At times war may be thrust upon us by an aggressive adversary.
The question of when Christians might engage in war has been an ethical dilemma through the ages. St Augustine began considering this in the 4th century and pursued the idea of a Just War which must be only entered into as a last resort, with limited force, aimed at establishing justice and restoring peace. This was followed in 1027AD with the Truce of God. This truce could hold between warring groups if they both had a Christian heritage and thus would respect a truce on the Sabbath or a Holy day. It was later expanded to include Christian seasons such as Lent, Easter and Christmas.
What difference does this make to us? While we might, in very limited circumstances, be justified in sending our military to war, this must be the very last resort, more in terms of defence than aggression, when attempts at peace have failed and when injustice is being perpetrated towards the innocent. Even then any force that is used needs to be proportional. As Christians we follow the Prince of Peace, whose death on the cross brings us peace. Therefore, we should be peacemakers, seeking to live peacefully, pursuing peace and promoting peace. We should not be quickly angered. We should not easily turn to violence. Rather having found peace with God we should try to bring reconciliation. For as long as possible we should actively pursue a peaceful solution. In times of war, we and our nation should do all we can to provide humanitarian aid and be willing to receive the refugees of war.
And we should pray. King David wrote Psalm 122 praying for the peace of Jerusalem. King David was familiar with war. We read of his early life going to where the armies of Israel and the Philistines faced each other. There with a slingshot and stones, the boy David killed Goliath the giant. David knew the cost of war and in this hymn, he prayed for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6–8) As David prayed this for the city he loved, so to we can adapt this to pray for the city we love. We can pray this for both Ukraine and Russia. Peace provides a framework for security and prosperity. We can pray for peace to prevail, and for the armies to return home.
- Do you have a family member who was part of the armed forces who you particularly remember on ANZAC day? Share something of their story with the group.
- What have you found most distressing about the war in Ukraine?
- Ask each member of the group to read one of the following verses and then discuss as a group how this enlightens your understanding of the prominence of peace in the scriptures: Isaiah 9.6 - Luke 2.14 - Col 1.20 - John 14 27 - Acts 10:36 - Ephesians 2:14–18 - Philippians 4:7. (Is there another verse which speaks of peace and is meaningful to you?)
- Read Luke 22:35–38 and Matthew 26:52. Why do you think Jesus told his disciples to buy a sword if they didn’t already have one and then later warn them against using a sword?
- Compare/contrast Joel 3:9–10 and Micah 4:3–4. What do you think of these verses?
- What to you make of the idea of a Just war or of the Truce of God? (You can google these for more information)
- Read Ps 122.6-9. What can we learn from these verses? How might these verses help us to advance the cause of peace?
Rev John Malcolm