The Keys to a Peace-filled Existence

Noah Webster statue by Korczak Ziółkowski
Photo by Ragesoss – CC-BY-SA 3.0

Noah Webster once wrote: “Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe.”[1] And you thought all Noah did was write dictionaries!

Webster is also reported to have stated, “Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state.”

The great fear of our Founding Fathers was not of a U.S. citizen with a gun, but of a tyrannical government run amuck. Technology was less advanced in those days, and society was not especially inclined toward senseless violence, so we can only infer how Webster’s statements would apply to our current situation. However, one thing has not changed since the days of our forefathers—human nature is still driven by a lust for power (control).

Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany stand as a classic case in point—their thirst for power resulted in the untimely deaths of approximately 70 million people. To put this into perspective, this equates to roughly the current combined population of our 29 smallest states! That is 70 million fathers, mothers, children, siblings, and friends. And, unfortunately, the death and destruction of WWII stand as the fruit of but one of many such conflicts that have occurred throughout the course of human history.

Hitler and Nazi Party - December 1930
Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 119-0289 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Our natural tendency is to bemoan such terrible things as though they are far removed from any one of us, but that would be a huge mistake. Hitler could never have committed such atrocities without the help of all who participated in the Nazi party, as well the involvement of other Axis nations. World War II was undoubtedly the collective effort of many parties.

Our inherent desire for control breeds conflict and destruction on so many levels. Nazi Germany certainly stands as an extreme example, but the fruit of seemingly less significant attempts to control others is fiendish in its own right. How many families have been severely damaged by a controlling mother or father (or a rebellious child)? How many churches have been divided because of internal battles for control? How many powerless, unborn children have been slaughtered due to parents who refuse to release control of their own agendas?

The greatest struggle that any of us will ever fight is the battle of the will. And, unfortunately for us, when we win, we lose. Those who get their own way in life will find themselves far from the will of God and His abundant life. Death in its many forms is all that we can expect. Thankfully, inherent to the Gospel is God’s provision to free us from our compulsion to control.

Somewhere along the line, you may have heard of a little something called the Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:10-12 (NASB)

When Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray, right near the top of the list was, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” God’s kingdom is essentially His government in which His will is performed. All of this means that any Christian’s top priority should be to pursue the will of God–rather than his or her own personal agenda–because of a deep love for our Savior.

Peace is one of the defining attributes of the kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). This type of peace isn’t simply an absence of conflict but rather an almost unexplainable harmony brought about through an environment of authentic love.

Humble Prayer
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Guns have become the focus in our debate over violence because very few of us genuinely understand real peace. Whether on the streets of a city, in the conference room of a church, or the living room of a home, the entrance to the path of peace comes not from standing tall in power, but bowing low in humility. Surrendering control. Yielding to His will. Giving God the freedom to have His way. These are the keys to a peace-filled existence.


[1] An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, (1787)

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Why Government Leaders Ignore the Root Causes of Violence

U.S. Capitol
photo credit: Hey Paul via photopin cc

Every time a mass shooting occurs in the U.S., our government leaders rise to the occasion by proclaiming the need for change. Those who are sincere will usually push hard for gun control while ignoring the root causes that have brought such sickness upon our society.

Why are our politicians so slow to look at the real issues? There are times when gazing into a mirror can be very unsettling.

In examining the Scriptures we find that the primary problem with human nature is an innate desire to be like God apart from God. This defining drive of the human heart finds its expression through three primary roots—self-centeredness, the lust for power and control, and a constant yearning for self-glorification. All three fallen tendencies drive the world of politics, but rather than potentially implicating themselves by addressing the real issues, our leaders and legislators will look for any scapegoat to deflect the attention from their own shortcomings. It is all simply a matter of human nature.

We the people
photo credit: “Caveman Chuck” Coker via photopin cc

I share these thoughts not as a disgruntled American full of disdain for our government leaders, but as a Christian who fully recognizes that these self-absorbed tendencies are common to the entire human race. If ours is a government for the people and by the people, at least to some degree, our government leaders serve as a reflection of the general populace.

All of this brings us to yet another factor in the rise of gun violence in the United States—the declining influence of a vital Christian Church in America. I cannot agree with those conservative historians who try to paint virtually all of our Founding Fathers as devoted Christians, but I can say that the men who fought for freedom from tyranny and who framed our Constitution were profoundly influenced by Christianity.

The First Great Awakening was a move of the Holy Spirit that changed the fabric of the American colonies in the 1730s and 40s. That experience, combined with longtime frustration with authoritarian monarchies, deeply impacted the hearts of America’s 2.4 million residents. The result was a new form of democracy replete with freedoms of all sorts, including an emphasis on the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, and, of course, the freedom of religious practice.

Founding Fathers
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Even though the Founding Fathers may not have all been Christians, they all lived in a culture that had been colored by the Christian faith. The result was an ideal—the belief that if all pursued the greater good, they could build a society like none other. In the process, men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington established a system of checks and balances to protect this new ideal from the self-absorbed tendencies of human nature. Almost amazingly, the social experiment that we call the United States of America worked quite well until the moral influence of a vital Christian Church began to wane. With the decline of the Church came the lifting of the societal standards which stood against self-centeredness, the lust for power and control, and the constant yearning for self-glorification. Human nature, in other words, has become increasingly free to run its course. And just as it was when Cain killed his brother Abel, grief, tears, and extreme heartache are now our lot.

Church Building
photo credit: Per Ola Wiberg ~ powi via photopin cc

Again, I want to be clear that my primary criticism is not of our government but of the Church at large in the U.S. Non-Christians will do what non-Christians will do—and all the more so without the steadying influence of a vibrant Christian Church. For those who profess Christ, we are now left with a choice. We can whine and complain and lament the loss of what once was, or we can lift up our heads, bow our knees, and pursue Christ with our whole hearts. Instead of being selfish, we can walk in love. Instead of seeking power and control, we can seek the advance of God’s kingdom. Instead of seeking our own glory, we can proclaim His through both word and lifestyle.

Will we be able to turn our nation back to the point where freedom truly thrives? In all honesty, I don’t know. But I do know that one life fully surrendered to the King of Glory can have a powerful impact on the lives of untold others. If even one potential mass murderer is won to Christ, not only is his life saved, the lives of all of his potential victims are also spared.

No matter who you are and no matter what your status, if you are truly alive in Christ, you will make a profound difference in the lives of others. What better legacy can we leave for our children, grandchildren, and the others who follow after us?

The Mystery of Violence Revealed

Wet Dog
photo credit: Hello Turkey Toe via photopin cc

World peace! It is a vision long held by many. Each New Year, it seems, we try to cast off the violence of the previous year like a dog trying to shake off water. Unfortunately, dogs are much more effective in their drying off efforts than we are in our quest to eliminate conflict between humans. Why is peace so elusive? Either we don’t understand the root issues of conflict, or we don’t care enough to change our behavior.

Did you know that Cain’s murder of his brother Abel was not the first act of violence recorded in the Bible? Somewhere in the recesses of time–or perhaps before time began–the greatest of angels, the one we call Lucifer, attempted a violent coup against the Creator of the Universe.

How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
But you said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” Isaiah 14:12-14

Three particular aspects of this attempted coup are extremely relevant for our purposes:

Pride
Photo by SfMe Ministries Inc.

1. Lucifer repeatedly uses “I” to define his self-centered quest. Mysteriously, while God willingly receives worship, He is not self-centered. Always motivated by love and compassion for others, the life of Christ serves as evidence of God’s other-centered heart.

2. Lucifer also adds the word “will” to each of his five uses of “I”. Thus, one of his primary goals is for power and control.

3. Lucifer’s ultimate goal is to be like the Most High (the King of Glory), to lift himself up above all others.

When Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s temptation in the Garden of Eden, they inherited the same  three tendencies which collectively form what we call pride. (I sometimes call it “C-pride” or “collective pride”.) It should stand as no surprise, then, that Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, murdered his younger brother due to nothing more than jealousy. The rest, unfortunately, is history. Since that fateful day in the Garden, human activity has always been beset with violent sexual assaults, murders, and wars of all kinds.

I have written about much of this in the past, but it bears repeating in light of recent mass shootings in the U.S. When someone mercilessly kills 20 first-grade children, as happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, something is desperately wrong. But something has been desperately wrong almost from the beginning of time as we know it. Even societies that have all appearances of peace are not that far from being immersed in conflict. Like a virus waiting for an immune system to be compromised, the violent tendencies of human nature need only time and opportunity to fully run their course.

Really, only two options are possible for the violence to cease:

Fidel Castro
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1. We remove various layers of freedom until an authoritarian government removes all potential weapons of resistance and forces its citizens to get along. Of course, the very real danger is that the authoritarian regime will itself be violent, subjecting its people to all sorts of cruelty and injustice.

2. We provide people with freedom but change their hearts so that they are motivated by love rather than selfish hatred. Herein lies the foundation for a truly prosperous society, but eliminating the selfish, self-exalting tendencies of the human heart is no simple matter. Real change requires much more than wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, in our self-absorbed world, freedom eventually leads to moral decay, giving way to violence in the end. At the other end of the spectrum, those revolutionaries who rise up to break the grip of an oppressive regime will almost always become the oppressors themselves.

In prophesying the birth of Jesus, Isaiah called Him the “Prince of Peace”. As a revolutionary, Jesus rebelled against the oppressive, self-absorbed establishment, but He broke their power in a thoroughly mysterious manner. By suffering unjustly Himself, Jesus Christ provided the antidote for each of the root causes of violence. We call that antidote the Gospel.

Happy New Year!
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I, too, really would like to see world peace. In my upcoming posts I will highlight how the Gospel truly is the only lasting cure for deadly virus of violence, but until then, I want to wish you all a happy New Year! My hope is that it won’t be a year that goes to the dogs!

Searching for Peace? Bend the Knee!

By John WIlliam Waterhouse - Public Domain in U.S. Due to Expired Copyright

A teenager sneaks out of the house in the middle of the night. A wife continually nags her husband. A man explodes in anger because dinner is cold. A politician agrees to cover an indiscretion in exchange for a vote. A science professor blackballs a promising young PhD candidate for believing in God. A young girl dabbles in witchcraft to cast a spell on the classmate she despises. An aspiring supervisor spreads false rumors about the current boss. A church splits because of an argument over the color of the carpet. A couple of gang members drive through another gang’s turf spraying bullets in all directions. A drug lord brutally murders a leader from another cartel. Several terrorists bomb an elementary school filled with children….

The common denominator in each of these scenarios? They all involve efforts to dominate and control others. This struggle for power, inherent to the entire human race, is a third primary source of the conflict that continually mars our world. But it wasn’t meant to be this way!

27God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” Genesis 1:27-28 (NASB).

The "First Mourning" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau - Public Domain in U.S. Due to Expired Copyright

Notice that man was given dominance over animal life, but not over other people. Everything changed when Adam & Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in an effort to be like God apart from God. Immediately conflict erupted; a blame game was soon followed with their eldest son murdering his younger brother. Domination and control.

In so many ways God can do what we humans cannot. God can be the center of the universe without becoming self-centered. God is able to receive massive amounts of glory and yet never be demeaning to others. God is the sovereign Lord of the universe, yet still gives humans the freedom to make individual choices. God reigns, but He doesn’t control. Mankind seeks to control, extinguishing freedom and creating conflict.

Someone might argue that, historically, religion has been used to oppress others—and I would wholeheartedly agree. But I would also be quick to note the marked difference between rule-based religion and New Covenant Christianity. Confusing the two never results in anything good!

I know that this flows totally against our natural way of thinking, but serving Jesus as the Lord of our lives is actually the path to true freedom. The “good news and great joy” of the Christmas Story is not just that of a Savior coming to Earth (as awesome as this is) but also of a Lord; a Lord of a very different character than those who use their position and authority to dominate and control those beneath them.

Ignore Christ or try to remove Him from Christmas? To a certain degree, God will allow us to. But we’ll be on our own as we reap the consequences of the resulting conflict!

Photo by xenia - morgueFile

Personally, I’m learning more and more to celebrate the lordship of Christ. The peace of His kingdom is of an entirely different nature than the forced peace that results from a domineering ruler squelching every voice of opposition. The peace of Christ brings wholeness and well-being, covering us with an umbrella of safety in the form of love-shaped freedom. Are you searching for peace? Willingly bend your knee to the Christ the Lord!

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” Luke 2:10-11 (NASB).