Sir Winston Churchill once said that “If the human race wishes to have a prolonged and indefinite period of material prosperity, they have only got to behave in a peaceful and helpful way towards one another”.
But he still bombed Germany. After they started it, of course. Turns out that “one another” bit was crucial: it’s hard to behave peacefully and helpfully towards someone who is trying to take your homeland by force. Peace is a great idea, though, and a wonderful experience for those of us privileged enough to live in it. Since my home is in Europe, I’m thankful that our wars of the past century have stayed in the history books instead of boiling over in more bloodshed. Yes, the nations of Europe still fight with one another, but the fighting is now done over champagne in Brussels instead of the trenches in Somme. Still, we all have armies.
Just in case.
We also have airport security. You know, terrorism. And police, because most crimes come from within our own borders. And metal detectors, and security systems, and don’t forget locks – so many locks! Then there’s the fences and gates (with locks) and CCTV and timed lights and car alarms. And identity cards and two-factor authentication and biometrics and passwords – so many passwords!
When you think about it, we spend an awful lot of time and effort and money on protecting ourselves from one another. Even in a part of the world that has been free from open war for a couple of generations, we still tell our children not to talk to strangers. Our definition of peace still has to include prisons. Our prosperity still needs protection. Yes, we agree with Churchill that we should all be peaceful and helpful to one another – then we lock the doors, turn on the security system, and go to bed. As long as our definition of peace includes a murder rate, there’s a problem.
We settle for so little, because we know that real peace is unrealistic. Can you imagine a world without passwords? A world with no need for locks? Just think of going through an airport with no security! It would be Heaven on Earth! There’s a lot of ways we could use all the freed up money and time. But even as we imagine what could be, our headlines and history argue against us. We can’t even live up to our own ideals. As long as our definition of peace includes arguments, slammed doors, betrayals, and lies, there’s still a problem.
We have these ideals and long for them because in the beginning, we were made for peace. Peace with our Maker, and peace with our fellow humans. It was us who broke that peace and stopped trusting God and each other. It was us who stopped being trustworthy. We lost our way. The Apostle Paul describes humanity in Romans 3:17 by saying “the way of peace they do not know”. Then he goes on to show how Jesus provided the only possible path to restored peace with God – and each other. That peace starts when we put our trust in His salvation and stop fighting God. It grows as we learn to live out the peace He won for us in our relationships with others. And then our longings for peace will come gloriously true for the rest of eternity – and yes, it will be Heaven!