“PEACE!!” If you’re a child of the 80’s like me, you know this exclamation has nothing to do with the absence of conflict – it simply means, ‘Goodbye.’ I know it makes no sense, but neither did parachute pants and mullets. ‘Peace’ is what rappers and cool kids said when they were leaving a scene. It was accentuated by putting up 2 fingers to form a ‘V’. Why a V? Beats me. It actually originated in the 1940s and did not mean ‘peace;’ it meant ‘V for Victory’ (which makes more sense), signifying our success after World War II. In the 1960s, it somehow morphed into a peace sign during the Vietnam War. It was one of two signs. The other, you might recall, was this , airbrushed on carpeted vans everywhere. Rappers would also wear it as a necklace pendant, virtually covering the entire torso. The sign is actually the logo for the British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but I’m sure Kool Moe D knew that.
So why such a focus on peace? Was it a fad, or was there really a need to calm the storm? I would say a little of the former, and a good helping of the latter. We don’t typically consider the 80’s as a tumultuous time in our history, but we certainly had our share of unrest. The two major standouts were the Cold War and the Iran-Iraq War (followed almost immediately by the Gulf War in 1990 (which my brother was in). There was also the Tiananmen Square protest, which did not occur on U.S. soil but rather in China, where people in favor of democracy wanted changes. Several other major and minor skirmishes ensued throughout the 80s and 90s, on up to the present day.
So when did this desire for peace begin? Since the beginning of time, right? Not quite. There is no need for heat unless there is cold; health without illness, light without darkness, and peace without conflict. In the beginning, there was no desire for peace because there was no conflict. Everything God made He called good. It wasn’t until Adam and Eve exercised their free will at the devil’s behest that conflict came into the earth. I said ‘earth’ and not ‘world’ because conflict was already in the world. Lucifer rebelled against God Almighty, and so it began. That transpired in the heavenlies; peace was all that was in the Garden, until the devil influenced its inhabitants, then chaos erupted. Isn’t that right, Mr. Joel? > We Didn’t Start the Fire
So with all of this mayhem, we need people willing to stand up and be peacekeepers, right? Wrong! Jesus said in Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” We sometimes use those terms interchangeably, but one could argue they are worlds apart. Peacekeepers do just that; they keep the peace. They make sure things stay as they are. No rocking the boat, no upsetting the status quo. Peacekeepers kept quiet when Hitler decided the Jews were responsible for Germany’s woes and orchestrated their deaths in droves. Peacekeepers said nothing when African Americans were treated with utter cruelty and ascribed a value lower than animals. Peacekeepers held their peace when a completely innocent Man was whipped beyond recognition and sentenced to death by crucifixion. British Parliament member, Edmund Burke, said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Doing nothing is, ironically, a peacekeeper’s preferred course of action.
A peacemaker, on the other hand, is about peace at any cost. You can’t stir the pot too much, you can’t make the powers that be too uncomfortable, and there is no price too great. After all, you are making peace. In other words, you are creating peace where none exists. It’s a tall order, but a necessary one, and only a few can handle its great responsibility. God said those who did this would be called His children. That makes sense, since one of His names is Jehovah Shalom (The Lord is peace). His Child was called the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6, and a prince by definition is the King’s Son.
What is interesting about Jesus though is He said He didn’t come to bring peace. In Matthew 10:34, He says, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” WHAT?! Does this not sound like a glaring contradiction? Sure it does. Most everything does when taken out of context. Ephesians 2:14 says “For He Himself is our peace,” so what He was really doing was drawing a line in the sand. If you truly wanted peace – that is, peace with God – the way to obtain it was to follow Him. If you didn’t want things shaken up, if you were fine with the way things were – being at odds with God due to sin – then so be it. He was saying your relationship with God was at stake, and the cost was great. The proverbial sword He referred to was to divide the makers from the keepers.
So that’s it. You have those who believe and those who don’t. Group 1 lives their lives, and Group 2 lives theirs. End of story, right? Oh so wrong. In Biblical times, as well as present-day in many areas of the world, Group 2 does not want Group 1 to exist. It doesn’t make much sense to us in today’s western world, but that is because we live in a democracy rather than a theocracy. Israel was under a theocracy from Moses until Saul (Israel’s first king). It then became a monarchy, but the king was still to rule strictly by religious precepts. So rebellion against those in power was not simply an annoyance against the government, but a capital offense. That meant anyone joining Group 1 was automatically putting their very lives in danger through persecution. Jesus Himself was persecuted, tortured, and killed, so it stood to reason His followers would, unfortunately, have to suffer as well. The Lord bestowed great honor on those who chose this path, and said in Matthew 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He went on to say in verses 11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”
[Photo credit: Ashley Place]
Peacemakers are not interested in temporal comfort, but rather eternal impact. They understand their mission is to see to it that this world is better because they existed. If that means they have to be uncomfortable for a time, or rock others’ comfort zones, then it is simply par for the course. If it means struggle, hardship, and difficulty, bring it on. It was one of the world’s most significant peacemakers, the apostle Paul, who said in 2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Light affliction. This is the same man who was whipped 39 times on 5 separate occasions. He was beaten with rods 3 times; he was stoned, he was shipwrecked 3 times, he starved, he froze, he went through unimaginable adversity, yet he basically said, ‘No biggie.’ This is the mindset of a peacemaker, and those who endure persecution for the sake of Jesus the Christ. They forsake their own satisfaction for the betterment of others. For that, God Almighty calls them Blessed, and gives them a little parting gift called THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. If we would aspire to live our lives in this manner, I believe the term ‘world peace’ would no longer be considered a pipe dream, but rather a wonderful reality.
Julian Ketchum is a resident of Norristown, PA, originally from the Baltimore area. He is a member and former elder of Hope Community Church in King of Prussia, and serves primarily on the Worship Team as a drummer, pianist, and vocalist. He has been married to his lovely wife, Katina, for 21 years, and they have 3 children – a daughter aged 16, and two sons, 14 and 12.