I’ve mentioned this before, but let me reiterate: If you’re looking for a step-by-step chronology for the return of Christ and the end of human history as we know it, then you’re looking in the wrong place. I’m not going to delve into the details of eschatology; instead, I’m going to stick to some basic principles which just about any Bible-believing Christian can agree to.
Having said that, I think today’s passage can enlighten us on today’s world, and the one to come.
For over 60 years, the United Nations has been the last, best hope for peace in the world for a lot of people. It’s a place where nations can air out their differences without resorting to armed conflict. It’s a place where non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) can coordinate in order to provide things like clean water and medical supplies where most needed. At least that’s the theory.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Quite frankly, it’s usually a place where bad nations can pretend to be on the same moral level as good nations. Nations whose governments routinely imprison, torture, and murder dissidents can be on the U.N. Human Rights Council. And it certainly hasn’t prevented many conflicts, as far as I can tell.
I’m all for peace. I don’t like people getting killed. I don’t like seeing people suffer. So if anyone is trying to prevent things like that, then I applaud their motives.
What went wrong? To answer the question, let’s take the example of a doctor. If he examines a patient and gets the diagnosis wrong, then his efforts are going to be useless at best. At worst, he’ll have a dead patient. You can’t cure a disease if you haven’t diagnosed it correctly.
The point of the U.N. was so that nations could sit down and discuss their grievances with each other. But is a lack of understanding the cause of most wars?
Um, no. The cause of most wars is because evil people do evil things. It’s a heart issue. What James said about the micro situation in the churches is just as true in the macro level: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” That’s the problem.
This misunderstanding is so beautifully illustrated in their motto. They took as their slogan (so to speak) a verse from today’s reading, a promise that one day the nations of the world will “beat their swords into plowshares.” The nations will take all their resources which are used to kill people and turn them into more productive uses, like producing food.
That would be wonderful, but when is it going to happen? Once we all sit down and truly understand each other? No, it'll happen at the end of human history (as we know it) and Christ returns to set up his Kingdom. Until we see that happen, there will be no lasting peace in the world. Until the nature of mankind is radically changed (from the inside-out), nothing will really change on the outside either. When the nations of the world are willing to listen to what the Lord is saying (as pictured here), true peace will come. Not until then.
How does this apply to us?
First and foremost, we need to keep our expectations realistic concerning peace in the world. If you have a hundred people in a room, you know what you have? A hundred sinners. If you get 10,000 in a room together, what do you have? 10,000 people who have sinful natures whose first instinct is towards selfishness and other antisocial behavior. When you hear someone talk about the hope that we’ll eventually bring about a world without war or cruelty or poverty, you know that person is lacking in wisdom.
But I can’t leave on that note. Even if we aren’t going to see perfect peace in this world, we can see peace in our personal lives. Wherever our Savior reigns, there is perfect peace. In your home, in your family, and especially in your relationship with God, you can bend that sword into a plowshare right now. Just trust and obey, and you’ll see it.
Lord Jesus, that’s what I want in my life. I’m submitting my life to you, right here and right now. If there are any areas of rebellion, then I’m throwing up the white flag right now.
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