“Blessed be the LORD my strength; which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight…” (Ps. 144:1)
“…Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Is. 2:4)
We like easy answers to the tough questions. We prefer shortcuts, workarounds, bypasses, and end-runs. We know that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step and we are content to take that step as long as someone shuttles us up to mile marker 999. God is our Father and we are hoping for a little celestial nepotism.
But since he is both good and wise he decided to let us start out in the mail room rather than the board room. Before we get to make the decisions we first have to learn that decisions have to be made. That experience usually leads us to the realization that there are no easy answers. This is never more true than in the pursuit of peace among men and nations.
Since peace is the ideal, the quintessential characteristic of the eschaton, we should seek it the way that God in Christ sought it. His was a multifaceted program and we should not expect ours to be any more streamlined than his. We pursue peace by dying and rising again, by falling seven times and getting up eight, by vanquishing the powers of darkness, by trampling the serpent underfoot, by tearing down strongholds and taking thoughts captive, by making a mockery of principalities and powers; putting them to an open shame, by turning the other cheek, by walking another mile, by giving our t-shirt when only our coat was requested, by speaking truth to power, by saying grace at meals, by singing imprecatory psalms, by singing babies to sleep, by weeping and dancing, by mourning and laughing, by building and battling, by fasting and feasting, by giving and receiving, by war and relief, by life and by death and everything in between. In short, it’s a cumulative process. Peace comes in pieces.
I am reminded of the words of General Douglas MacArthur when he said (and I paraphrase) that no one hates wars more than the soldiers who have to fight them; no one loves peace more than the ones who are called to take up arms and lay down lives to purchase it. Such is the state of affairs of a world living between the already and the not yet. It is precisely because peace is ideal that we must fight to obtain it. Though we long for such days, our spears are not yet pruning hooks and our swords are not yet plowshares. The hardest part about living on this side of the consummation that we are impatient. We are very patient as long as we are not forced to wait. We are still the Church Militant awaiting our ultimate triumph but we want to experience glory now. Let patience have her perfect work. In this interim between two eternities it is no contradiction to pray, “Lord, teach my hands to war so that we may learn war no more.”