“Peace, Peace, When There Is No Peace”
In September of 1938, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England, met with Adolf Hitler over the growing concern of Hitler’s aggression in Europe. Leading up to this meeting the English people were preparing anxiously for war. They had reason for angst given their recent experience in the first World War as well as the aggressive maneuverings on the part of Hitler. Intending to head off a second round of international conflict, Chamberlain sat down with the Fuhrer.
As a result of the gathering, Chamberlain announced to the world that international conflict was avoided. He made his rounds proclaiming: “Peace for our time.” The British were jubilant. Although other territory in Europe had been ceded to Hitler’s advances, it seemed that the English Isles were safe. The enemy would not be bothering them. They could continue in comfort and ease. So they thought.
We look back on this and wonder how Chamberlain could not have recognized that Hitler had no desire for peace. In fact, within a year Chamberlain would be forced to declare war on Hitler and Germany. Did so much change in that year, or had Chamberlain simply failed to recognize the true intentions of his enemy? Hindsight gives us the answer to that question. Chamberlain didn’t recognize the intentions of his enemy and simply declaring peace didn’t bring about actual peace.
A Ringing Indictment
In Jeremiah 8:10-11, the prophet of God declared: “Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wounds of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” These words are echoed additionally in other places in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah’s words are a ringing indictment of the spiritual lives and spiritual leaders of God’s people. The threat to Israel, the people of God, was coming not from without but from within. The threat came from those within the people of God who lived in sin and from the spiritual leaders providing cover for sin. These false prophets were telling the people that everything was alright, that the people’s approach to God and their way of life was somehow pleasing to God. The false prophets’ misleading message of “peace” communicated to the people that nothing needed to be changed.
Jeremiah’s righteous anger was directed at people living without God’s perspective and without a sense of urgency. Everything was not alright even though the spiritual leaders communicated otherwise.
A Similar Juncture
We find ourselves at a similar juncture to the people of Jeremiah’s day. We are living and acting as though we are at peace when the reality and the climate around us would suggest otherwise.
In our age of distraction and entertainment, we act as though everything is okay, including many of our spiritual leaders, who are attempting to entertain and placate with trivial matters, giving the sense that all is well.
All is not well. To top it off, we have lost our sense of urgency, which is the byproduct of living as though we are in peace time rather than war time. We are distracted and living for ourselves rather than focused on the things of God.
Our enemy has tricked us into believing that we are not at war. So far his schemes are working.
We might not be at war with a foreign nation, but we are at war with a foreign kingdom, the kingdom of this world that is under the control of our enemy, the devil.
No Neutral Ground
You see, people act differently in peace time than they do in war time. During peace time, we can afford to be distracted. Tensions are decreased; urgency is dialed down. During peace time, we can relax and take advantage of luxuries that maybe we couldn’t take advantage of during war time. We have the luxury of entertainment and distraction. Peace time is calm and tranquil, easier, and more comfortable. It’s more fun.
As believers in Jesus, we must remember that peace time doesn’t come until we are dead or until Jesus returns.
Praise God that when Jesus invades our lives with spiritual salvation and redemption, we get a taste of peace. We no longer have that internal conflict that once was there when our souls were at war with God.
But, even though the internal conflict is won, the external conflict isn’t over. We are to live at war against the kingdom of this world. We are to see ourselves as liberators fighting against the enemy that enslaves, oppresses, and destroys.
C.S. Lewis: “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
We are in war time. Our enemy is attacking us personally, corporately, nationally, and globally. He is staking claim in our lives, families, communities, and our world. And, the people of God for the most part are living and acting like we are in peace time.
We must wake up to the reality of spiritual conflict. We are in a fight, and we must pick up our spiritual arms and get to fighting.
We must face the fact that we are desperate for God, and we must urgently and passionately pursue Him.
Live with urgency; Seek the Lord; pray. It’s past time for us to engage in the spiritual fight of our lives and for the spiritual lives of those around us.
Blake Newsom, Ph.D. serves as Associate Professor of Expository Preaching and Director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Previously, he served as Dean of the Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as Senior Pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, AL.