Friday, September 2, 2011

The God of Peace

Anna has recently learned that I have this bad habit when I'm in a church service or Bible study. The pastor or study leader will have us turn to a particular passage, and after I read it, I sometimes keep going. I can get so into what I'm reading that before I know it, I'm on the next page and not really paying attention to what is being said. This seems like a good trait for personal study: not so great when you're supposed to be learning from someone else. Anyway, this is only to explain to you how I came to notice the particular passage this note is focusing on. I was in church, and Pastor Pat was reading from Romans: I can't even remember where, exactly. I got caught up, and soon I was at the very end, reading Romans 16:20: "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet." This verse, with it's sense of an inherently peaceful crushing of Satan, got me so excited that I had to grab a pencil and jot a couple things down. Here they are, expanded.

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet." "The God of Peace" isn't a terribly well-known title for God, but most people, when thinking about God, do have this sort of assumption of peacefulness. When we think about peace, we think of... I don't know, clouds drifting slowly across the sky. Green meadows. Bunnies. That kind of thing. "Crushing" does not usually come into it. "Crushing" anything, whether it's Satan or only a soda can, seems like an inherently violent act, jarring us out of our daydream of bunnies frolicking in green meadows while clouds drift lazily by over-head. And indeed crushing is an inherently violent act. It is a forceful suppression and breaking-down of something. And yet it is apparently not opposed to peacefulness.

Paul deliberately uses this title. He does not say "The God of righteousness," or "the God of wrath." He purposely says "the God of peace," and that means that he sees the crushing of Satan as an inherently peaceful thing. It is not enough to look at this and grudgingly admit that crushing may not be contradictory to the peace of God. We must look at this and see that the crushing of evil is a necessary, integral part of God's peace. God would not be "the God of peace" if he did not crush Satan under the feet of his saints. At some point in the history of our world, God will crush Satan, and his peace will be fulfilled.

Nor is this some purely abstract theological truth with no bearing on ourselves. This is a fundamental truth of how the world works. There are people, even Christians (in some cases, especially Christians) who advocate "peace at any cost"--they will make any sacrifice or any compromise in order to "keep the peace" with evil. This passage shows that true peace cannot exist in the presence of evil. A peace that is achieved by allowing evil to remain is no peace at all--ultimately, then, "peace at any cost" results, at best, in the absence of peace. At worst, it results in the victory of evil. This applies to the church, both individual churches and the visible church as a whole. This applies to nations. This applies to our physical world. And ultimately this applies to everything, visible and invisible. Peace will not be achieved while evil remains at large.

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