During World War II, there was a massive campaign by the government to encourage people to help out at home in the war effort. Posters hung everywhere with slogans such as, “What You Do At Home Affects How Long They (the troops) Will Be Over There” and “If You’re Riding Alone, You’re Riding With Hitler.” These posters were reminders and encouragers to the American public to conserve their resources in case the government and the troops needed them in their fight against Nazi Germany and Japan. Those kinds of reminders and encouragers have been absent during this current conflict, and it makes me wonder exactly what my part in this conflict should be.
I am reminded by this conflict, in reflection on the entirety of it, of how war-like we all are and how strange the Gospel sounds to me in the context of world events.
Our generation has never seen an issue divide our country so thoroughly, and perhaps even our generation has never been as divided over an issue as it is over this current war. Arguments for and against the war have persuaded me and moved me in different directions, many times simply depending on the news channel that I happened to be watching at the time. Rhetoric of war and protests for peace seem to not only tear at the conscience of a nation, but they seem to bear the weight of the struggles that even I face everyday. I am reminded of war in the mean and spiteful ways I act in an argument with my wife. I am reminded of war when I become enraged at drivers that cut me off in rush hour traffic. I am reminded of war when I forget simple courtesies towards others and when others forget them towards me. We are not only reminded of war and strife in the news and in countries around the world, but we are reminded of it in every area of our lives, whether public or private. War seems almost inescapable.
Then, I am reminded of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). These are interesting words in this world of war. Here, Jesus was not referring to the people who already have obtained peace, although they certainly have their due rewards for the life they have chosen. He was not talking about the people who are in search of peace through their own walk of faith, although there is much joy in the journey. No, instead Jesus was calling to those that would directly lay their own pride, their own comfort, their own insecurities and their own needs on the line in order to bring about peace in the world. This was not a selfish inner peace that we seem to be seeking after and that every self-help book on the shelves promises to give us. This was the promise that if we lived our lives making peace in this world, then our reward lies beyond the war and turmoil of everything here in the world.
This idea of peace that Jesus offered to us in the Sermon on the Mount still strikes us as uncomfortably unattainable, however. This country was founded on the right to protest, on the right to speak out against tyrannies and on the idea that every person’s ideas are just as valid as the next guy’s. In short, we value the opportunity to argue against each other. The right to protest and to speak our minds is one thing that has made this country great, and the thoughts and prayers of a nation rise for the troops that are fighting for those freedoms in foreign lands at this moment. So how are we to take these words of Jesus in our present situation, while at the same time supporting the men and women who fight for our own freedoms and ways of life?
For me personally, my war effort consists of trying to be a peacemaker in my own home. If I cannot go fight overseas, then I can apologize to my wife when I have done or said something wrong. If I cannot hold a weapon in defense of my country, then I can right a wrong that occurred between myself and another individual. If my cries for peace go unheard in the resounding cries for war, then I can offer my life in service for another person. We are being asked to do little in this war effort by our government, but we are being asked and will continue to be asked for great measures of peace from our God. We cannot ignore the small measures of everyday life that would be world-changing actions in the wars that rage around us.
So although the actions of our nation might be very different from the actions of those that lived and worked during World War II, our call remains the same, and amazingly it is a call that not only benefits our country but that stays true to the ministry of Christ in this world. That call is a call to change the world around us with love. It comes in such simple forms that many times we forget to even acknowledge it, but we cannot be mistaken. War and strife are huge terrible events in the history of the world, but it is not those victories that we as Christians are after. Instead, they are victories of grace, mercy and love. These should be our war efforts here at home.
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