The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, The Call of the Child.
Jesus, in what is often called The Great Commission, called us to make disciples of all nations. That is frequently interpreted to mean that we should disciple some people from every nation. Which is true. But I believe it also means that each of us should live in such a way that we disciple the nation in which we live. By that, I mean that our lifestyle should influence our culture to become more like the culture in the Kingdom of Heaven. And that kingdom is ruled by the Prince of Peace. The role of the peacemaker is essential in discipling a nation.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
(1 Tim 2:1–2)
Paul wrote these words in a far more savage culture than most of us in modern Western society have experienced. Many gods were worshiped, and those gods (whom Paul described as demons) craved sacrifice—preferably human sacrifice. There were the blatant sacrifices of parents who “passed their children through the fire.” But there were also the less obvious sacrifices of public executions, gladiator fights, and warfare. That kind of worship empowers demonic influence in society. Which, in turn, leads to a society where people feast their eyes on evil and entertain themselves with human death. This makes fertile ground for persecution of Christians.*
Against this backdrop, Paul urged that we pray in every possible manner for all people, and especially those who govern—with a very specific goal: A peaceful society. Without doubt, the ways of peace are powerful for reversing the demonic influence in society. The people Paul urges us to pray for are not necessarily good people. They may, in fact, be quite evil. And yet Paul urges us to pray for them—not against them, not as if they were enemies—but for them.
This is what sets our God apart from other gods. There are other religions where the god is professed to be a god of love. But our God loves his enemies, blesses those who don’t deserve it, turns the other cheek, and defeats evil through weakness and foolishness.
It took a few centuries of persecution, suffering, and martyrdom before this weakness toppled the idolatry of the Roman Empire. Today, at least in most Western democracies, we see so little persecution and martyrdom that we live in the illusion that a peaceful society is normal. But it is not. Unless the children of Father God actively and visibly live as peacemakers in their society, the peace to which we have become so accustomed will evaporate. And our cultures will lose sight of the revelation of the God of Peace. We already see our cultures moving in that direction. But do we respond as peacemakers? Are we meeting the challenge? Are we walking into The Call of the Child?
Peace is not about right and wrong. It is inherent in the nature of peacemaking that peace be freely offered to those who do not deserve it, and who might not respond in kind. Anything less than that is less than true peace.
* For a good portrayal of what this looked like in the third century, I recommend the historical novel, Perpetua by Amy Peterson.