Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 7, 2002
Pastor's Column

How to secure peace

By Rev. Bill Baldwin
Evangelical UCC, Lester Prairie

There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says "If you want peace, prepare for war."

I have had that saying in my mind almost continuously since I first read it several months ago. Like almost everyone, I want peace on earth, and especially peace in the United States. I hate violence and any behavior where one person or group takes advantage of another.

Human nature seems to not be able to resist violent conflict for very long. There seems to always be an overwhelming desire to grab for power and control by someone on earth.

Whether it is King Herod in the time of Christ, or the various Roman Caesars, or Adolph Hitler, or Bin Laden, or now Saddam Hussein, someone always wants to make life miserable for someone else.

History shows that peace can never be maintained by being passive and not preparing for war. Every country has to be strong and ready in order to prevent war in the long run.

The very same is true of American freedom. We like to think that when the Revolutionary war was over and the Civil war was finished that American freedom had been secured once and for all.

That kind of thinking is the greatest threat to our freedom. We must prepare to defend freedom continuously.

We must never lose our offensive and defensive edge in this country if we want to remain free. Freedom will always have challengers, always have those who want to take it away or make it less enjoyable.

As Americans we live as if freedom were our birthright, and it isn't. It is our constitutional right as an American citizen to have all the rights of a free nation, but the rest of the world is not necessarily cheering for us because we have the greatest freedom on earth.

We are free because freedom has been hard fought and won through great sacrifice, but that was only a beginning. Once won, freedom needs to be maintained like anything else on earth.

We have all heard of the fall of the Roman empire, haven't we? Rome fell because it took freedom and power for granted and too many people came to expect the good benefits of freedom without continuing to pay for it.

It would be like getting a tune-up done on your car so it was running at peak performance, and then thinking you never had to do anything to it again. Your car would run well for quite awhile, then decline and die.

American freedom is no different. That which we maintain will sustain, and that which we ignore will hit the floor.

Turning my thinking to the local church, the same thinking applies.

Whatever a church once was will not continue to be without fresh commitment to continuous renewal and rebuilding. A church must remake itself again and again over the years. No church is ever the same church it used to be.

With each new generation comes new challenges and new thinking and new expectations. What if the U.S. Army insisted that it continue to use the same weapons and tactics as were used in the Revolutionary War? After all, it got the job done then, and it's the same country as then, so why not?

It would be insanity to think that way, yet churches love to cling to yesterdays tactics to meet today's needs and they wonder where the people are?

The movie "Field of Dreams" had the great line, "If we build it they will come," ­ but that isn't all there is to it.

First it has to be something that people want if it is built.

Somewhere along the way we got the idea that God only likes the King's English from the 1700s, hymns that were written long ago and sung to familiar tunes, and a worship service that lasts less than 60 minutes. I have never found any of that in the Bible, have you?

Worship, and the life of the church, has to be living, vital, active, and responsive to what is happening in the world.

The good news of Jesus Christ can be delivered in many ways in many packages to reach every new generation. We can always find ways to communicate love, regardless of the music style or order of service.

If churches die, they die because they failed to stay sharp and keep focused on why they existed in the first place.

That leads me back to the saying, "If you want peace, prepare for war." It simply means that whatever you want in life must be fought for and prepared for every day. There is no such thing as living on past success in any aspect of life.

It is also important to remember that the saying does not go "if you want peace, go to war." We cannot create a peaceful world by continuing to press war on other countries without incredibly sound reasons.

Likewise, some churches are offensive in the worst way by the way they condemn and attack other churches who are perceived as different.

Be strong, but keep the focus on life and peace and harmony for everyone. An enemy is only anyone who we believe is not behaving according to how we see the world.

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