I watched my friends go off to war
What do they keep on fighting for? (Billy Joel – ‘Leningrad’)
If only the act of solemn remembrance held each November 11th at the eleventh hour would secure a lasting cessation of hostilities on our planet.
If only the pledge; ‘never again’ would become more than just a forlorn hope.
If only the current generation of war widows and orphaned children could be the last to suffer the loss of loved ones in violent struggle.
If only servicemen and women could be relieved of their grim duty of fighting for the defence of their countries and families.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them, and by this time next year armed conflict will have lengthened the wretched roll calls of the names of the fallen.
Is this it? Is humanity trapped in an endless cycle of strife? Will the wreaths of poppies serve as just another witness to our remorse or is there hope of a permanent cessation of hostilities?
First the bad news – under human rule, no. The Bible supplies the reason why:
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. (James 4v1-2)
At the root of most human aggression is a desire to seize what does not belong. Supremacy, land, wealth, natural resources and the like. Sometimes these motives are cloaked in ideology or religious dogma but the underlying cause of conflict is depressingly consistent.
Caught between the intents of politicians and those waging war are the real victims – the civilian populations forced to flee for their lives as once again human barbarity reveals itself in its unfettered ugliness.
As James in his letter observes in the next chapter:
You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you. (James 5v6)
But now for the good news – it will end. Just as the Bible tells us the stark reason for aggression, so it tells us the remedy. In fact God’s remedy for the evil that mankind inflicts upon the world is found in almost every place you could turn to, but as we have quoted James’ letter twice, let him answer again:
Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. (James 5v7-8)
A farmer waits patiently for harvest time. He cannot hurry the crops – they will ripen when they are ready. He looks after them, because they are valuable to him.
Harvest is a scriptural metaphor for judgment. God has set a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by His Son Jesus Christ. That day will come and with it the absolute end of human rule with all its associated warfare and waste of life and limb. Jesus will set up a kingdom to rule this earth with Jerusalem as its capital and men and women chosen from all ages of human history to participate in the government of it.
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple 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 ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. (Isaiah 2v2-4)
Notice that the devices of destruction will be transformed into implements of food production. The ruinous expenditure of weapons of conflict will cease and the wealth diverted to feeding the hungry and downtrodden.