Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pursuing Peace

We seek peace, but peace eludes us. It slips away just when we think it firmly in our grasp. Whether that peace is internal, a local community’s, or international, all of us know the frustration of searching for harmony in a discordant world. For decades, world leaders have labored to achieve peace in Palestine, to bring unity to Afghanistan, to forge territorial integrity, governments that respect people and use resources wisely in Africa. Those efforts continue. In our own nation, opposite ends of the political spectrum profess to fear greatly what will befall our society if the other side pursues their agenda fully. Tensions continue between races and between people from different economic, educational, and religious backgrounds. In our homes, anger, cynicism, distrust, and harmful lifestyles disrupt domestic bliss. Even within ourselves, we find ourselves echoing those words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:15: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Where can we find the peace that eludes us? I want to examine passages of Scripture that identify paths that lead away from peace and roads that lead to it. I want to conclude by describing a course of action that will lead us to an enduring peace.
Let’s look first at a young man who has just assumed a position of national leadership: King Solomon of Israel, son of David. 1 Kings 3 describes how after the king had spent a day in worship to God, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask for whatever want me to give you.” In response, Solomon asked for a discerning heart to govern his people and to distinguish between right and wrong. In his dream, God looked favorably upon his response and promised him that if he would walk in his ways and obey his commands, he would grant him long life. Solomon, however, did not always do that. Several biblical passages describe how he strayed from the course in his latter years. The book of Ecclesiastes, many believe, describes his spiritual quest for peace. The writer, perhaps Solomon himself, describes how he searched for peace in wealth, in education, in all kinds of pleasure, and in excess. It all was in vain. Solomon’s search is reflected in the choices we and our contemporaries make. People crave wealth. They gamble, steal, invest, and work long, hard hours of overtimes to achieve it. Scholars go to school endlessly and then seek to stay one step ahead of rivals in research and publishing. Soldiers push for perfection in fitness, or seek peace in the freedom of speeding on a motorcycle. They drink too much alcohol or try to out do their peers in terms of sexual conquests. We too fail. Financial recklessness produces the kind of economic wreckage plaguing many of our countrymen. Too many soldiers are dying in motorcycle accidents. Alcohol abuse contributes to spouse abuse; suicide rates increase on our military posts and among our youth in general. Solomon concludes in the final verse of Ecclesiastes, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man, for God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." I will continue this subject in my next posting.

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