The Kingdom of Peace
Jesus Christ is generally recognized as one who has promoted and lived peace and who has brought much peace to the world.
When Jesus Christ lived on this earth, he came teaching about the Kingdom--the Kingdom of God. This was a kingdom that did not divide along religious, ethnic, or sectarian lines. It was the Kingdom of God. You couldn't look around and say with total accuracy that this person is in the kingdom and this person isn't. Yes, there were indications about who was in the kingdom, but basically the kingdom of God was a kingdom whose total membership was only known to God. And each member of that kingdom was ultimately answerable to God. As a result many leaders were fearful of him which caused them to be angry at him. The religious leaders were fearful and angry at him. The political leaders were fearful and angry at him. So did Jesus really bring peace? Yes, he brought peace of heart to the humble and repentant. But it didn't stop there. Even the proud, arrogant and unrepentant were affected by his life.
One writer in the second century wrote about those who he regarded as members of this kingdom--the kingdom of God, " 'They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners ... They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they made many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified ... And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred.' " (Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 17) The Bible also gives the same description of people who belong to God's true kingdom.
But are these actions unique to the teachings of Christ? How exactly do the teachings of Christ promote peace?
First, we need to look at what Jesus taught about how to get into the kingdom and see two ways this promotes peace. First, it brings personal peace for the individual with regard to being in the kingdom. Jesus taught that the way we get into the kingdom is to admit from our heart that we don't deserve it. The reason why Jesus said we don't deserve it is because of the universal knowledge that every human falls short of God's standard. Some people may challenge that. They may say they don't believe in sin or even in God. But I find these same people criticizing others for failing in one thing or another, yet they themselves fail in the same things. So even though they don't believe in God or a violation of God's commandments, they have adopted an unwritten standard which may or may not change from time to time. Nevertheless, in the process they themselves have set themselves up as lords over other people and have judged them according to their own standard. What this does is condemn and bring judgment upon themselves, because sooner or later they will commit the same error and will stand condemned by their own words on the day of judgment when all is revealed.
Second, peace is shown by the individual members of the kingdom toward others around them. The following account is of one man's entrance into the kingdom of God. When he first entered the kingdom of God. He was possessed by a great love toward my fellow human beings, especially one individual who had been unkind to him and many others. The reason why he was possessed with this love was because he was full of the knowledge of the love of God toward him. For a short time he had been aware that he was a sinful being and therefore separated from God. He didn't know what to do about this. A couple of religious people had given him their advice but in the end he sensed he should simply express to God what he felt the need of my heart was. Having done that he sensed a peace that he had been honest with God. He also sensed that God heard and cared. Obviously, he knew this much about God. Only an hour or two later he was struck with a strong sense of his sin. Verses from the Holy Bible came to his mind. He simply agreed with God in his heart and mind. Then he was reminded of the words of the Holy Bible that spoke of God's love for him--how God had sent Jesus Christ to come and die in his place to ransom him from eternity separated from God in hell. He acknowledged this to be true. At that very moment he realized he was no longer separated from God. He was included in God's family--God's kingdom. The very next day he saw another person struggling with a heavy load. Suddenly a thought came to mind, "Why don't you go help him?" to which he responded in his heart, "Why should I? He's been mean to me all week long." Immediately another thought came, "But didn't Jesus Christ love you when you didn't deserve it?" To that he could not reply. The only way to be true to God and himself was to help the person. He did this out of respect to God and found great joy in the process. Love had conquered. The love of God received had stimulated love for others. This is the experience of the author who writes this. It is also the revelation of God to mankind.
1 John 4:7-13
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
God not only asks us to love our brother, those who are close to us, agree with us, and are apart of the same kingdom (which is usually quite easy to do) ...
1 John 4:19-21
We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, "I love God,'' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.
... but he also asks us to love our neighbour also (which is again quite easy to do seeing that our neighbours may help us in return when we are in a difficult position).
" 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.' "
But even further, he asks us to love our enemies, not those whom we hate but those who hate us and who we might be tempted to hate. This is much more difficult to do.
"You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
People may argue that other religious leaders have also encouraged their followers to love their enemies. That is certainly true. Yet Jesus did this from a personal position of no political or economic power or influence. He also died for the cause of peace. Because he refused to cause harm to others or encourage his followers to harm others, he willingly gave up his life even when accused unjustly.
Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.'' Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?'' Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.''
Are Jesus' followers doing this today? Many people who claim to be Jesus' followers are not doing this today because they really aren't his followers. Others are his followers but in this area aren't following him or haven't realized the promises that God gives to those who follow these instructions. They fail to realize the promises God has given to them, that when we give up our own power, God steps in and exerts his power. When we allow him to do this, people see that it is God at work. As a result God is praised, remembered and glorified; but also the person realizes they have seen the work of God and they sense the presence of God. Therefore they fulfill the purpose that God put them here on earth for, to experience God in truth. It is the sense of God's presence that brings repentance and the power to live a life pleasing to God.
Furthermore, Jesus Christ is unique in this. By giving up his very life, he gave the greatest expression of love that any man can give, setting the greatest example of love for others. Yet in his resurrection he cleared the way for the greatest power for a life of love, because the only thing that keeps us out of God's kingdom is sin. The just result of sin is death and death is the greatest enemy and greatest fear for the common man. When love is required, the follower of Jesus has an example that causes him to love to the point of death, not dying in physical aggression toward others but dying because he chose to live in peace with his fellow man. But in that example he has the assurance that death is not the end, that as Jesus Christ rose from the dead, he too will rise to eternity with God on the Day of Resurrection. These very facts cause anger in the hearts of some people. They are jealous of the peace they see in the followers of Christ, yet they don't have the faith in God and the courage to join them. However, the true follower of Jesus Christ presses on knowing that he must follow truth.
The way to peace is to believe the promises of God that he has given through trust in the life and work of Jesus Christ. It brings peace with God to the individual but also puts him at peace with others. Societies that have truly embraced Jesus' teachings on peace have been affected in mass by this truth, have not only provided a good place for themselves to live but have also shown love on those who have not chosen this way of peace.
The author welcomes responses to MEMSUAH@aol.com.
Articles by Memsuah Mansoor
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