In his 1951 farewell address to the United States Congress, General Douglas MacArthur grimly stated his thoughts about the global conflicts in which he had played a major role. Speaking as a life-long military man—a commander in some of modern history’s fiercest battles—he put the entire weight of his experience into his observation that, although mankind has from the beginning of time sought peace, all efforts for international peace have ultimately failed. Chillingly, he warned: “If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.”
Mankind has not yet devised that system, and we find ourselves today in a world at war. Conflicts rage throughout many parts of the globe, from insurgency and guerilla combat in the developing world, to full scale war and nation-wide uprisings in the Middle East, a few of which have involved some of the mightiest governments in the world. According to research done by the staff of the online military data website GlobalSecurity.org, there are currently more than 50 ongoing wars and conflicts of various sizes. Many of these, such as the Syrian Civil War and the ongoing difficulties in the Ukraine, have made headlines. Others have been in and out of the news for years, like North Korea’s continuing hostilities towards its neighbors, and have been simmering pots of violence that have brewed for decades.
Untold amounts of money and resources are poured down the fiery maw of war, and this great cost is overshadowed by the vast price tag of human life that is shoveled into this furnace—with the price too often paid by far more civilians than soldiers.
What is going on in the world? Is all this fighting the “normal” condition of human life? What is the solution, and is there a hope on the horizon for an end to it all—an end that the world can actually look forward to, rather than the all-too-real possibility of nuclear or biological disaster?
When we turn to the Bible, we see an answer to every question. The inspired word of God tells us what is happening, and what is to come.
The Apostle James was inspired to admonish an audience living in a similar age of violence, and his warnings were clear and sharp: violence and war are the results of wrong desire, and wrong motives (James 4:1). We are warned that our own hearts deceive us, from individuals to mighty empires (Jeremiah 17:9), and sadly enough it is all too often true that our greatest wars are covered by the greatest excuses. At the same time, however, we know that God sees through even the best of human reasoning, because He alone knows our hearts (Jeremiah 17:10). The prophet Isaiah was inspired anciently to write what even the great “man-of-war” Douglas MacArthur was able to recognize in recent history, that the “way of peace” is not known to man (Isaiah 59:8).
God knows that the way of peace is not through the governments of this age, their policies, or the revolutions and philosophies of men. No matter the cause, no matter how noble or desperate the reasons, all that we do only adds volumes to an encyclopedic history of violence. Questions of right and wrong are lost in the reciprocal shedding of blood. We need something greater than human beings can provide for themselves. That is why God long ago set in motion a great plan to redeem mankind from the works of war and strife, and to bring about a time of divine rule on this earth, under Jesus Christ and the resurrected saints,when planet Earth will finally learn the ways of peace, not war. Then, the whole world will receive God’s promise of rest (Hebrews 4:1).