PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING: What is Peace?
What is peace? The answer is as fundamental as the question. Peace is an attribute of God, rather than of human beings. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom; the basic meaning of shalom is harmony, completeness, soundness, wellbeing, and success in every area of human endeavor. Shalom also refers to a state of family unity, peace with one’s neighbors, and freedom from fear and anxiety. Shalom is contentment within our souls and with God (Numbers 6:26; Romans 5:1).
Peace is not merely the absence of human conflict, but the imposition of the reign of love among human beings, which can only come from the heart of God. When we comprehend and accept this most important fact, human civilization will have taken the first step toward peace. Jesus counsels His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid” (John 14:26–27 NKJV). “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV). Paradoxically, for some adherents of Christianity, it seems extraordinarily difficult to practice the teachings of Jesus Christ, which state that peacemakers are called the Sons of God (Matthew 5:9).
Are human beings capable of peace? The imposition of a peaceful world order was a key objective for the League of Nations (1919 – 1946), established in the aftermath of World War One. Can its successor, the United Nations (UN) (1945) bring about peaceful relations among nations? Nations of the world are in search of peace, yet world peace has never been more elusive than it is today. The prophet Isaiah wrote, approximately twenty–five hundred years ago: “The way of peace they have not known, and is no justice in their way; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:8 NKJV) (circa 712 BCE). The fundamental question is: Why cannot we live in peace?
The world lives in hope that peace is within the reach of the next peace plan, peace mission, peace treaty, or peace pact. How confident ought we to be? Over the past century, there have been numerous peace initiatives, peace negotiations, peace marches, and the formation of organizations dedicated to peace. The United Nations (UN), World Peace Organizations, and G8 and G20 nations host meetings at the aggregate cost of millions of dollars to the global economy, but peace remains the great illusion that we pursue.
The world thinks of peace as the opposite of war, but the undeniable fact is that love, not peace, is the opposite of war. Therefore in order to eliminate war from the human landscape, we must seek love; then joy and peace shall come. Love is the only condition under which joy and peace can flourish. Which nations can we say are responsible for the ravages of wars? Can we blame a nation’s ideology, its politics, its religion, its race, its culture, its economics, its nationalism, or its pride?
We are nationalistic (even so, nationalism can be both positive and negative). We are African, American, Australian, British, Canadian, Chinese, French, German, Indian, and Russian – just to name a few nationalities. We are White, Black, and Brown. We are adherents of Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, just to name a few religions. We are religious, but do our religions matter if our religions divide us, because of our superficial differences (race, creed, colour, or culture)? Evidently, our religions are manifestly incapable of leading the way to peaceful coexistence and to unite the human family.
We often forget that we are, first, members of the human family, with a common heritage. We often forget that we are the world composite of all of our needs, thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and aspirations, and of our violent nature as well. It is an illusion to think that any nation can secure peace or its national interest apart from the international interest of the family of nations. How can the international community of nations find peace? Is peace a military imperative as opposed to a spiritual imperative? It is lamentable, the global military spending in pursuit of illusive peace (http://www.globalissues.org/article/75/world–military–spending).
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes… known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few… No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” James Madison (1751 – 1836), 4th United States President, Political Observations, 1795
Peace begins with God who is the source of peace (John 14:27). If we miss this most important distinction, our desire for peace becomes a vain pursuit, marked by futility and frustration, and a recurrent drain on valuable material, human and financial resources, while human suffering continues unabated. Despite trillions of dollars spent engineering Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), is humanity any closer to international peace and harmony? With billions of dollars spent to assembly nations for peace negotiations, is humanity any closer to international peace and harmony? Evidently not!
The genesis of the ancient world is a chronicle of nations warring, subjugating, conquering and enslaving weaker peoples and nations. The ancient philosophers and prophets had forewarned of the dangers of the illusion of self–reliance; living apart from God’s guidance and His enlightenment. “For the past 150 years, tens of millions of men, women and children have lost their lives in genocide or mass atrocities. Millions have been tortured, raped or forced from their homes in various other atrocities as dark periods in history threatened human existence” (http://endgenocide.org/learn/past–genocides/).
The indomitable human spirit triumphed over the Dark Ages (Middle Ages) and liberated the world from under its moral repression (People use the phrase “Middle Ages” to describe Europe between the fall of Rome in 476 CE and the beginning of the Renaissance in the 14th century (http://www.history.com/topics/middle–ages)). A new age of scientific and material enlightenment, and social and cultural sophistication emerged out of the darkness (the Renaissance). Unfortunately, the world re–entered a new age of egotism; skepticism; rationalism; humanism; nationalism; racism; materialism; and new and more sophisticated forms of “Mutually Assured Terrorism” (MAT) in the modern age.
Our materially driven life, fuels greed, competition, and self–interest, which increases our capacity for conflict among peoples and nations. Fear has become the dominant human condition in the crucibles of the twenty–first century, and violence has become the universal remedy for disagreements between individuals and nations, in a dangerous game of world militarism, and world liberation, fueled by Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
Ernie Regehr (1980): “There is a clear relationship between the arms race and the social and economic order. The arms competition of the superpowers and other countries involved in weapons design and development fosters the present unjust economic order that prevents the principles of the new international economic order from being implemented. Governments and multinational corporations participate in military escalation at the expense of economic and social development. In the process, available resources are misused. Disarmament is therefore essential for the proper utilization of human material resources available for a new international economic order” (Ernie Regehr, MILITARISM and the World Military Order, A Study Guide for Churches. (Geneva, Switzerland: © Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches 1980. Economic and Social Consequences of Militarism, pp. 66–68).
Observing the conflict among nations over the past six thousand years provides quantifiable evidence that world nations, reacting to fear of each other, bring us ever closer to the brink of catastrophe with the horrors of ever greater wars than those experienced in World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945). Paradoxically, some who promote wars as the way to peace often use World War I and World War II to justify their arguments, but can we justify the repeat of such catastrophes in our modern era, in which we claim academia, intellectualism, and modern enlightenment?
Man will bring civilization to the brink of annihilation, but can science bring us back from the brink? Assuredly not! God will have to intervene and take control of His creation (Daniel 2:44). Is World War III inevitable? Can human beings afford the outcomes of yet another great war? We stand at critical crossroads of fear and faith in our twenty–first century. Fear of each other has paralyzed the nations of the world, and this fear has its roots in the carnal nature. Faith in God and in his Word helps us to overcome fear, because fear has a spiritual nature (2 Timothy 1:7).
Present political, social, and religious conflicts, wars, and rumors of wars and the accumulation of armaments are symptomatic of the chaos in the world? We are dealing here with the issues of life and death for humankind. Each one of us must act in the interest of the survival of humanity and write and speak to the issues that confront us in the twenty–first century. The Holy Scriptures, ancient prophets and great philosophers of yesteryear have forewarned humanity of a time of great tribulations and great wars among nations (Matthew 24:15, 21). In acts of great defiance we (human beings) have consciously and purposely chosen paths that all but guarantee fulfillment of the prophetic writings. The choice is ours to serve God, Man, or Machine — the machines are coming; will they bring peace?
By: Errol A. Gibbs (05/15/2014)
Errol A. Gibbs, Author, International Motivational Speaker. Books: © 2011 Five Foundations of Human Development (FFHD) & Thoughts to Enlighten and Empower the MindTel: 905.875.4956/ Email: firstname.lastname@example.org/