The world is apparently getting more peaceful. Sounds strange doesn’t it? But that is precisely the argument of a new book that has just come out called The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Recently the author has supplemented the press for his new book by writing an op-ed for the New York Times summarizing some of his views. You can check it out here.
After reading the article and a brief synopis of the book I feel like the author is truly onto something, at least on a macro level. Wars aren’t what they used to be. Countries’ borders change through violent takeover much less frequently than 100 years ago. It simply does not pay to be at war like it once did and so many countries have pursued a path of trade instead. There may be a few outliers but this does appear to be an overall trend.
Arguably violence has declined on the macro level. However on the micro, person to person level it is as bad as ever. Sex trafficking is rampant just about everywhere, including the United States. Rape is a weapon of war amongst feuding militias in Congo. Dictators like Mugabe, Assad and formerly Kim and Quaddafi murder their own citizens with complete impunity to remain in their positions of powers. This violence may not change national borders but it wreaks no less havoc on the lives and souls of millions.
On Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, who we believe was and is the Son of God. What does his admittedly humble, but nonetheless stunning entrance onto our planet mean for us? With the theme of peace in my mind I want to offer a few thoughts.
As Christians we are called first to love God and then one another. I am always amazed at how people complicate what is really a very simple and straightforward faith. Jesus himself said these were the first two commandants. Through these two basic principles our entire faith, worldview and life should come out clearly. We may not have the political power to change the literal shape of nations but we have the spiritual power to ease pain and suffering. I am not talking about healing people, though it may on occasion take that form. I’m talking about treating people, all people with inherent dignity and value because they have a creator just like we do. How insulting it must be to God when we hate each other enough to raise our words, our fists, our weapons in anger and contempt? How could we have botched his wonderful creation with such evil?
As humans we separate ourselves. We are not humans: we are Christian or Muslim, rich or poor, smart or stupid, gay or straight, Western or Eastern. Our very nature seems to be to foster division. But that is not what Jesus intends at all. For in Him there is no, “Jew and Greek, slave or free, male or female.” God did not come to earth to condemn it, he came to save it. Every time we encourage, participate in, or sit silently by while another act of violence takes place, we forget that.
I am not naive. I am not against war in all circumstances. There is evil in this world and some I would argue at times deserves to be stopped by any means necessary. But this Christmas as we ponder the incredible paradox of Emmanuel, “GOD WITH US”, let us recommit ourselves to the love and peace that Jesus paid such a high price for us to know. Let us love not just our neighbor as ourselves but everyone we may happen to meet. Let’s make less of ourselves so that God may be seen all the more clearly. Lets create such a movement that one day an author would not just be writing about macro trends toward peace but micro ones. Let us love as Jesus loves.