They may begin as insignificantly as a sign of slight offence and distance created between two parties, or they may gain traction through a frightening series of escalating tensions and defensive manoeuvres furiously fencing over partisan points of view unwilling to respectfully walk with a differing view.
But the end result is always the same. They lead to lament, division, and loss no matter how unscrupulously history is revised, no matter how many temporary prizes of plunder and transitory power might suggest otherwise.
Where we fail to forgive the trespasses of others, and they ours, we are stuck in the ruts of a cold war headed for ruin, waiting for the heat of a moment to take things into our own hands and fall into warring factions with reactionary rage. God, help us.
It is an ageless problem. Cain and Abel, unstable political alliances, table manners which do not truly remember the body of Christ. And infected wounds of hatred and retaliation grow until cleansed and transformed.
Where a hospital once stood with grace to serve, offering healing care to wounded souls in a nearby town, a pile of demolished ruins now lies lamenting its end to active care in the community as a result of long wars of financial attrition and changing expectations.
Similarly, hostels of hospitable choices with sealed friendships in homes and churches, or, at another level, voices of conciliation with deals delineating cooperation between tribes and nations, may be ruinously pulled down in worn out pursuits of contrition for accumulating hurts and misunderstandings, regurgitated pain from centuries past and as recent as last evening, failing to forgive and forge new paths of freedom together in life saving, life honouring ways.
Will the church of Christ keep a vibrant word of hope and healing in our times?
Sadly, we recognize that sometimes peace can only come through open confrontations with the clarity of truth where ruthless agendas of aggression must be courageously named and resisted. But the primary call to serve in love must not fall to the ground and be trampled as a treasonous obstacle getting in the way of a jugular win without thought for the message we profess to uphold: saved and made new to be servants of the Creator God who loves, redeems and sustains the world in Christ by his Spirit with children from every place.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6: 12)
Some of us who have been joined together on this journey of faith may be called to lead with words of life and hope in very difficult places, war zones ranging from the tragedies of military action to ugly human conflicts which may be found in every sphere of life at a much more localized level.
Perhaps like the hobbits of the Shire in J. R. Tolkien’s, ‘Lord of the Rings’, we would like to simply live in the cool green of rolling summer hills filled with ripening produce and avoid the battle fray of advancing orcs by hiding from ruinous wars and rumours of wars.
But we don’t choose the times in which we live.
Regardless of how soft or tough an outer shell we present, we repent from holding back true expressions of the love of God in turbulent times and give each other to his care to stand as one, daring to trust the goodness of his love above all evidence of hardened evil running loose. We refuse to fear and hold our head out high.
He is always near.
‘Lord, have mercy, drawing especially close to each one standing in the gap.
We lament innocence lost and the cost of angry aggression to body, mind, and soul wherever wars are raging. We content ourselves in your will to be bearers of the good news that in Christ, weapons of war may be put aside, pride and ego denied a foothold. We cement our commitment to be vessels of your light in the strength of your Spirit to shine brightly, however deep the darkness.
While missiles move across the lunar cycles, waxing, waning, bright lights filling nights where darkness would be welcome, we pray for peace.
While meetings of state leaders prove again a deeper looming crisis, taxing, taming nothing but the shock of wartime sights, stark and cruel, we pray for peace.
Sirens wail and tell incessant tales of incoming bombs. Mounting mounds of tear-soaked tombs curtail the will to put down arms and harm no more. Borders bear strict orders of division. Mortar shells rebel and hell breaks loose on living souls whose lives and homes and lands will never be the same. Lord, have mercy.
Children wail and tell incessant tales of bombshell news that parents will never come home. Haunting sounds in fear-soaked ruins assail the still living who plead for more kindness in a world gone mad. Sanity is shelved with stakes as high as selling hope of ever knowing more than sadness – vain repetitions of violent stories – vanity of vanities, nothing new under the sun. Paradise undone. Lord, have mercy.
May your wisdom be spread as an antidote to tyranny from the blindspots in our own character, to the bully in the pew, to the deadly stew of nations and peoples devouring one another. May your holiness and righteousness become the light by which news of steep ascent out of deadly pits of war to the higher road of peace is found. May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven to wipe away tears of grief so raw as to make the possibility of relief seem but a distant unlikelihood to souls broken in the crossfire.
Set your cross before our eyes, and grant us your peace.