Peace for Ukraine

Independence Square, Kiev, Ukraine, before and after the 2014 protests.

As I write today, attempts at a truce between the government and protesters in Ukraine have crumbled.  For three months now, protesters have camped out in Kiev’s Independence Square fighting the established government, which has political ties with Russia and therefore rejects the people’s desire to cooperate with the European Union. Recently the conflict has turned bloody, with police officers captured and killed, and snipers firing on civilian protesters.

All is not well in other places around the world, either. Although media attention has turned away for the moment, the Syrian civil war continues to rage, with a strange mingling of government atrocities, Islamic terrorist activity, and civilian uprising.  In Palestine, a bus was bombed last week. Twin bombings took place in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.  And it is certain that if anyone is reading this post a year from now, conflict will be in the picture then as well.

It appears that the world is not getting anywhere closer to lasting peace.  The question we must ask ourselves is, “Why?” What is the cause for conflict between individuals, groups, and nations? What is the solution?

One passage in the Bible, James 4:1, speaks clearly about the source of conflict:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?

The truth is that conflict is sourced within us.  We all have selfish passions, and those passions are at the heart of all conflict.  Further, our lack of peace goes deeper than you might think. Even if you are not in open conflict with other people, you may still have conflict of soul.  Peace, by definition, is not merely a lack of conflict, but a state of rest or quietness of soul. All of us lack peace to some degree.  But why?  What are we missing?

According to the Bible, we were created to live in a perfect world in perfect harmony with nature, other people, and God. But we forfeited that peace when we chose not to obey the rules God put in place to protect that perfect world.  Sin marred the perfection that we once enjoyed.

Ever since that day we have sought satisfaction. And God has sought us.  But many still reject Him and His plan to restore us to peace with Him. Instead they pursue self-satisfaction.  But seeking satisfaction in self is like drinking salt-water while lost at sea.  It only makes you thirstier. And so our passions rage within us and perpetuate the conflict in our souls.

But God has not abandoned us to ourselves. He has revealed the answers to man’s greatest needs in the most amazing book ever written – the Bible. When the whole Bible is read, and its worldview is understood, we find the answers to life’s greatest questions — even questions we had not even thought to ask.  Here are four principles that the Bible teaches about peace:

1. We can experience peace through salvation in Christ.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

Through faith (resting the weight of your soul) in Christ, you can find justification (clearing the record). You are then no longer under the burden and bondage of sin.  A weight is removed from our souls and replaced with hope — a hope that we will share in Christ’s glory when perfection will be restored. Until then, we patiently wait, knowing that God is at work in our lives, even using suffering for good.  We also experience the indwelling of the Spirit of God, pouring God’s love into our hearts.  Salvation is the first and foundational step toward finding peace.

After salvation we must continue to pursue peace by allowing God’s Word to inform your thinking.

2. We can experience peace through reading God’s Word.

Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)

In order to experience this peace, we must love God’s Word, treasure it, and let it inform our thoughts and actions.  And as long as our thinking is aligned with a biblical worldview, life makes sense and peace reigns within.  However, if we let our thinking be influenced by the culture and media of the world around us, we will quickly stumble.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

3. We can experience peace through God-centered thinking.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

We were created to experience a relationship with God, and that is ultimately the only source of the fulfillment we seek.  It gives us purpose in life to realize that we are a part of God’s plan and fulfilling His mission.  It gives us confidence to know that we have His approval which is greater than that of any man.

4. We can experience peace through prayer.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Worry is what happens when our minds are not “stayed” on Him. We become anxious when we value something more than God and try to control our lives in order to grasp tighter that thing / person / security / pleasure. It leads the opposite direction of peace.  Instead, we are to commit everything to God in prayer.  Prayer requires letting go of our lives and entrusting them to God. The act of prayer, more than any other, is the key for Christians to finding peace. If you have difficulty praying, could it be that you are refusing to let go of something in your life?  Is it worth the anxiety and conflict that it causes?

Peace is possible for those who love God and seek Him in His Word.  Ultimately, we will not find perfect peace until the return of the Prince of Peace, who will restore His Kingdom of Righteousness.  But already we can feel it taking root in our lives as we find peace with God through salvation and maintain it through God’s Word, prayer, and God-centered thinking.