Where is peace to be found? From within, or without, or both?

I recently participated in a multi-faith symposium on the topic of fasting. (For my presentation of the Christian position on fasting, here) After the presentations there was a Q & A with the presenters taking questions from the audience. One of the questions was, “What do you think is the answer to bringing peace to the world?”

The imam’s response/solution to the problem of violence, unrest, man’s inhumanity to man, was that of promoting dialogue between religious faiths, similar to the one we were participating in that evening. Through such dialogue, the world would be brought to a peaceful existence.

The rabbi’s response was similar, that through our own human efforts of showing love and respect to one another we would find peace at the end of the road.

Although I agree in part with both the imam and rabbi regarding the positive effects of loving and respecting one another and the need for dialogue, history has shown that on their own these measures have proven to fall demonstrably short of bringing a solution to the conflict in the world, whether it be between countries, religions, families, etc. One need only look back on the millennia of mankind trying to achieve peace through dialogue, peace treaties (most of which were ultimately broken), UN resolutions [1], etc., which, although well meaning, have failed, hence, the ongoing global violence and conflict that prompted the original question. The reason that these types of approaches have failed, and continue to fail, is that they fail to address the root of the problem–the brokenness of the human heart. As former U.S. President Herbert Hoover so aptly put it, “Peace is not made at the council table or by treaties, but in the hearts of men.” It was for this reason that when the microphone was passed to me I presented a different approach and answer to the question.

I began by stating that although these initiatives were good and needed, they will not bring a lasting solution to the problem; only a regenerated, transformed heart will do that, and that can only come through the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ himself. I then went on to highlight the root of the problem—the broken condition of the heart of man. I quoted several references from the New Testament beginning with James 4:1-3:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this; that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 
Then to Jesus’ expose of the condition of the human heart from Mark 7:20-23:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

 
Because of time constraints, I concluded my response by stating the Christian worldview’s solution to the problem-the transformation of the heart that Jesus promised to bring to those who truly desire it.

When addressing the issue of peace, John Paul ll makes a clear affirmation as to where peace must first be founded:

“Peace is a value and a universal duty founded on a rational and moral order of society that has its roots in God himself, “the first source of being, the essential truth and the supreme good” … To prevent conflicts and violence, it is absolutely necessary that peace begin to take root as a value rooted deep within the heart of every person. In this way it can spread to families and to the different associations within society until the whole of the political community is involved. Peace is, consequently, the fruit of that harmony structured into human society by its Divine Founder.”[2]

 
Preeminent missiologist, Frank Ellinwood, explains the uniqueness of the inner transformation of the Christian faith:

Christianity, then, is not a record, a history of what was said and done eighteen centuries ago: it is not a body of doctrines and precepts: it is the living power of God in the soul of man. The written Word is the sword of this Divine Spirit. The renewed soul is begotten of the Spirit and it is instinct with the indwelling of the Spirit. No other system makes any claim to such an influence as that of the Holy Ghost…The dead heart must be quickened and renewed and only Christianity reveals the Transforming Power.[3]

 
In His conversation with one of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus gave the ‘blueprint’ for the transformation of the human heart:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God…For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:1-5; 16-17)

 
As the ‘salt and light’ of the world, which Jesus has called each of His followers to be, we must continue to present with all boldness where true and lasting peace can be found, that of a ‘born again’ and transformed heart through the redemptive work of the person of Jesus Christ. In doing so, we will be witnesses of the ‘way, the truth and the life,’ and thereby bring peace to the hearts and lives of those to whom we are ambassadors for Christ (John 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:20). (For more on the Christian calling as ‘salt & light’, here)

Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life. Ravi Zacharias

 
References
[1] Can the UN Bring Peace to the World, here
[2] Pope John Paul ll, World Day of Peace Message, 1990
[3] Frank F. Ellinwood, The Divine Supremacy of the Christian Faith, here

The following talk from Andy Bannister succinctly highlights the source of the world’s ills as well as the remedy-that of the inner transformation that only Jesus can bring.

Does Religion Poison Everything–Andy Bannister

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