A Meditation for Peace
By Chaplain Herman Keizer '65 BD'68

Chaplain (Col.) Herman Keizer, Jr.
Chaplain Herman Keizer, Jr., a 33-year military veteran, served as Command Chaplain of the U.S. European Command during which he established chaplaincies in Central European nations. Just prior to retirement from the military, he worked as an advisor in the State Department monitoring religious freedom in Africa and the Balkans. He currently serves as director of chapliancy ministries for the Christian Reformed Church.

Micah 4:2 (NIV)
Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
      to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
      so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
      the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
      and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
      and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
      nor will they train for war anymore.

Psalm 46:8-11 (NIV)
Come and see the works of the Lord,
      the desolation he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth;
      he breaks the bow and shatters the spear,
      he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still and know that I am God;
      I will be exalted among the nations,
      I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
      the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The Bible’s visions for world peace lie in the future. Disarmament, a life of agrarian plenty, non-aggression among former enemies and generations not schooled for war are the Old Testament’s promises for the “end of days.” Wars and rumors of wars are always with us. Our expectations and yearnings for peace seem as dreams that cannot be fulfilled in our present time. That makes me sad, because I would like to have peace in my lifetime—true shalom—not just the absence of war.

I am amazed at the language used in the Bible concerning the path to peace. The passage in Isaiah is so important that it is repeated almost word for word by the prophet Micah. Two mighty men of God speak the same words. Time to pay attention! Shalom requires that nations beat their swords and their spears. The picture that runs through my head is that of a scene in the blacksmith’s refinery, where swords and spears are heated in the hot fire and placed on the anvil and then beaten with a heavy hammer held by the muscular hand of the smith. The heat from the fire and the heat of powerful exertion have the perspiration running off the smith’s body. There is a violence present here and a massive effort of skill and will to mold the instruments of war into the instruments of peace.

The passage in the Psalms is equally a picture of violence. God brings desolation to the earth. Then he makes wars to cease by warring on the instruments of war. He breaks the bow, shatters the spear and burns the shields—a sight that brings fear and trembling to anyone watching the violent disarmament of the world by God. The whimpers of fright and the shuddering cries of those totally vulnerable are silenced only when we hear the comfort of “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Even the end of war is a war. How can this bring hope and peace?

In the great mystery of his dealing with his world and with his people, God has already brought in the “end of time”—“the last days.” In Jesus Christ, God has won the victory over the principalities and powers, over the sin that taints everything, over death and hell. He has won the greatest victory and has brought peace.

We need to think very seriously about the reality of that peace and about our being peacemakers in the world. The Christian church has articulated some powerful and important statements on war. The just war and the pacifist traditions have articulated the right of the state to exercise the use of force and have demanded that this use of force be constrained by the power of moral discourse and in accord with strict moral criteria.

The pacifist tradition has developed a richer set of tools to prevent the outbreak of violence than have those in the just war traditions. The pacifists have worked hard on techniques and programs that attempt to resolve conflict and bring reconciliation. It is time for both of these traditions to address the issue of peace seriously.

How can we who are in the loving shalom of a victorious Christ work to bring peace and reconciliation to our world? Because God was “in Christ reconciling the world to himself,” reconciliation is a public and political activity. The entire world moans, waiting for the deliverance that has come and is coming.

How does peace happen? How much thought have you ever given that question? We all study the causes and paths to war; which of us can articulate the causes and paths to peace? It is time for all of us to think about peace because we have once again seen the tremendous power of the sword and the spear. We know how they work. Now we need to study in the heat of the blacksmith’s shop how to beat these instruments of war and transform them into instruments for peace. Let us set about finding ways to learn war no more. We will not always win the battle for peace, but we must always strive to be peacemakers.

Forgive us, Lord, for our resorting to war, especially because we have not worked for peace. Help us learn ways to study for war no more but to study your reconciling strategy for your world. Help us love Jesus enough to honor his victory in our lives, our families, our churches and our world. Help us to be still and know that you are God, exalted among the nations and in the earth. Make us peacemakers. Amen.