"Peace and safety"
I begin here a series based on the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke truth to the power of the Nazis while his fellow "Christians" almost all deserted the gospel to follow German nationalism.
There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace has to be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God.
Well, that's why we delight in war (Psalm 120), and hate peace, isn't it? He's talking about us, not others, isn't he? Let's break down this remarkable statement one thought at a time.
There is no way to peace along the way of safety.
But the Bible does acknowledge that we need safety, doesn't it? God says to the righteous, "I will set him in the safety for which he longs" (Psalm 12:5).
But Jesus says, "I am the way," not "safety is the way." It is certain that he said that because he had found for himself that his Father is the way (and we too are called in this way to become the truth we live). The way of safety and Jesus the Way are not identical! We pick one or we pick the other. In Matthew 24:12-13, Jesus makes our choice here the whole issue, the one thing that decides whether we are saved or perish: Because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
It's simple. Those who are not provoked by lawlessness to stop loving and to protect themselves and assure their own safety in this world - who endure to the end in the word of Jesus (John 8:31-32) - will be saved. Those who worship the god of their own security will always endanger and terrorize others to do so, violating the command of Jesus. For all their zeal for him, filling their churches and shouting "Lord, Lord," he will say "I never knew you, you workers of iniquity."
That end is maybe not safety after all, is it? The only real safety is under the Father's love, and he loves and keeps us when we keep his commandments. He gives us safety, but not as the world gives, not as we give it to ourselves.
For peace has to be dared.
Yes, but not proudly. We'll dare peace as we confess how we love war, how we love our cowardice that causes us to shrink back from the word of God to protect ourselves and violently force everyone else to change so that we don't have to, to make every one else take risks so that we can keep feeling secure in our illusions. We must dare to learn and confess the truth about ourselves, no longer calling ourselves right and true by calling everyone around us evil and liars, even God (1 John 1:6-10).
It is the great venture.
As Paul wrote, "He is our peace." It turns out that finding Jesus and finding peace is exactly the same. It is the great venture. Nothing else is worthy of human beings. We are made for this. In so doing we become truly human as well as partaking in the divine nature, because it doesn't happen unless God himself is around, who made the heavens and the earth, and who alone is able to do this great thing in us. "If you continue in my word, you shall be my disiples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
It can never be safe.
The first thing everybody knows about Jesus is that the truth took him to the cross. We all know that if we follow him, we'll wind up there too. In fact, we find out that to follow Jesus is to carry it on our way, the cross like Jesus himself being our way, not just our destination. We are tasting of it every day, and if we won't go there, we'll wave goodbye, even if we hide our falling away under any amount of religious excitement and zealous actions
To walk with Jesus is indeed to walk in the valley of the shadow of death - all the time. But that's exactly when and where we learn that he is our shepherd. Read the 23rd Psalm. All those good things are for those who will walk with him in the valley of the shadow of death. If we won't let him take us there, we can kiss off all the rest.
Peace is the opposite of security.
Peace grows out of being in the truth with God and with others. That guarantees that all who hate the truth because they have other priorities will hate us too, because we are becoming the truth that they hate. Security that the world gives is what people rely on to live with being without hope and without God in the world. If you pick that, you have fallen from grace; you have decided to make it without God. Take a long look at this choice. You remember the guy in the Indiana Jones movie who picked the wrong chalice? Don't let the old knight say of you,
"He chose poorly."
To demand guarantees is to mistrust and this mistrust in turn brings forth war.
Of course we ought to mistrust lots of folks. We ought to mistrust the devil, and the promise of wonderful things when we yield to the temptaion to do evil. We ought to mistrust our own deceitful hearts, which are so expert at rationalizing folly to our own destruction. We ought most of all to distrust the guarantees and security that this world offers or that we can devise through our own schemes.
We demand guarantees becuase we do not trust the love of God who made us and will never deal falsely with anyone. People demand guarantees of us only because they do not trust us, and that's why we demand guarantees of the true God.
It's not a problem to feel that way. But it is a problem not to bring it up. Real trust begins with telling God and other people that we don't trust them, and why. You can't always trust other people to handle it if you confess your mistrust of them - but God has heard this before. He can handle it. Tell God you don't trust hium today! Don't forget to tell him why, and to give him a chance to answer, just as you want other folks to do to you.
Battles are won not with weapons, but with God.
Weapons are what we rely on when we think God won't show up. So before we pick up the weapon, we'd best work out why we think God won't show up, and how we can imagine anything can work out right if he doesn't. We can't pick up the weapoin safely until we know how to live without it. The conquest of Canaan started with crossing the Jordan dryshod with just the hand of the invisible God holding back the water, and then everyone being circumcised at Gilgal in the midst of their enemies so that they were perfectly helpless - protected by nothing but God's invisible hand.
You can't pick up the sword without it turning you into a devil and killing you, until you know that kind of shepherd's care.
Maybe we're right to think God won't show up for us. Maybe for the same reasons we wouldn't expect him to show up to help others with their schemes.
Well, that's where the real battle is, isn't it: what is wrong with us that makes us deserve to lose? Shouldn't we ask that question often? Don't we wish everybody did?
Our first battle is to work things out with the God of truth so that we don't deserve to lose. We'll find out in that process that some of these battles aren't God's battles, that we're fighting for Satan or our own fearful lusts, and that we don't have to fight them. That's peace, by any definition - for things to be OK without having to fight. Victory isn't making others right. It's being made right ourselves by God so that life is OK no matter what anyone else does.