(A sermon baseed on Matthew 5:9 for the Sunday before Memorial Day)
Neil Young’s recent biography is entitled Waging Heavy Peace. Young has been trying to develop a digital music delivery system that is of superior quality to that which is presently available. Someone asked him if he was going to wage war against iTunes to which he replied, “No, I’m waging heavy peace.”
Waging heavy peace would be a good thing for the Church to do.
Famed World War II leader Gen. George Patton said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance. God help me, I do love it so.” With all due respect to the General, if he really did love it so, he needed God’s help. When you think, though, of the kind of focused energy, commitment, and sacrifice that a nation can muster during a time of war, you can see his point.
What if a nation were to mobilize to wage peace with the same kind of commitment with which we wage war? What if we counted as heroes those who give themselves up for peace as much as we do those who give themselves up in war?
We can’t count on nations—even our great nation—ever to do that, though. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and our nation’s 34th president Dwight Eisenhower once said, “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
What if the Church led the way? What if the Church mobilized to wage peace?
“But,” you are thinking, “sometimes war is necessary and sometimes we have to fight.” Yes, in a fallen world sometimes wars do and will—maybe even must—happen. Can we work, though, to try to stop war from being a perpetual reality? Can we work so that war will lead to peace?
At our brother Alvie Dorminy’s funeral in 2009, his son Mark said, "Dad didn't want for me to be a soldier, because he had hoped that his service would make it unnecessary for me to have to do so." Mark went on to say that "he, like John Adams, believed that 'I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.'"
The full quote from our second President, a vital leader of the American Revolution, is, “I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”
In other words, those who fight and those who die fight and die so that those who come after them might have a more peaceful world in which to live.
I guess that “fighting for peace” is an oxymoron but still, when we must fight, peace is the proper goal, and we who have lived in relative peace are grateful to those service men and women who have enabled it to happen.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Really, in Christ peace has already been made. In speaking about the breaching of the wall between Gentiles and Jews, Paul said, “Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2:13-14).
We are to live out the peace that Jesus has established. So let’s know peace, let’s live peace, and let’s share peace—let’s wage peace!
How do we do that? Well, we can start right where we are and we can start by letting these words from Paul be our guide:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:14-21).
As we honor those who gave their lives waging war so that we might know peace, let’s commit our lives to waging peace …