Peace, who has even heard of such a thing in our times, is it something new? The Catholics and Evangelicals know nothing of peace, confusing it with a militaristic state of control; and the Anabaptists confuse it with a physiological state of rest. Then, what is Peace?
The earliest prophets anticipated peace as one of the unusual characteristics of the Messiah’s appearing, and His angel messengers sang over his manger, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men!” Peace thus became the birth-song of all true Christians. The principles of peace were wholly exemplified by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, and the theme of peace is scattered throughout the New Testament, and so strictly put into practice by the early Christians that not a few of them died rather than to disturb that peace. The Church, however, has slipped into a deep, numbing, and lingering slumber, and peace is now reduced to a mystical theological concept of which we know nothing. The reins of peace have been entrusted to the State, while the Church continues in its lazy, slothful, sleep. Where is this peace foretold of by the prophets and where is the peace that our souls cry out for?
After the Church’s fatal union with the State, seventeen-hundred years ago, under Constantine, she gave her sanction and approval to the custom of war with scarcely a thought of its evident contradiction to this religion of peace, and Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin all later yielded approval. And, for five-hundred years the Anabaptists have also slept, all comfortable in their new homes, getting a well-deserved rest, and living at peace in their surroundings. With a slumbering and muted voice, these have all given sanction to the sword, and with a muted voice, they disturb not their pretentious peace.
All the peace societies of the nineteenth century have withered away and only their writings remain and no one has taken up the mantle today. But, do we even need more writings? No, but we do need more Elijah’s! We need more John the Baptists, who came in the spirit of Elijah! Where are the prophets of restoration today who are not afraid of modern Ahabs and Jezebels? Elijah appeared in one of the darkest periods of Israel’s history, a man of whirlwind and fire came to a people who had forgotten their God. Are we not in the darkest time of Church history also? It is in this time of great despair and upheaval that God has chosen to teach us again about His peace in the midst of trouble.
Just as Elijah had delivered the message to Ahab declaring three years of drought and famine, and Jezebel’s promise of death before sunrise, God also had something to say. As Elijah sat alone afraid and exhausted after the great excitement at Carmel, under a bush of the broom plant, it seemed to him that his work had been for nothing, and had only resulted in a miserable failure; and, indeed, not only his own work but also that of all the great men of the nation who had gone before him. Such disgust of views and feelings, however unreasonable they may be, is not uncommon even with God’s men and women of great faith. The mighty wind ripping the rocks asunder, the upheaval shaking the huge mountain, the quivering lightning that seemed to fill the air with flame, and then the sudden – peace and calm – and silence – and maybe even the scent of freshly cut hay wafting through the air, broken only by the sound of a low and gentle voice – these were the means by which God spoke to make the prophet understand that desperate messages, judgment, and destruction have their place in the salvation of the world, but the greatest power for us is the Spirit of Peace silently and quietly abiding in the hearts of His children.
Peace is the identifying characteristic of a child of God. We need not fear the battle, the quaking mountains, the raging waves, or the fearful fury of a hundred Jezebels who hate us; we need only remember the Spirit of the Prince of Peace whose home we have become.