Those are the words of Daniel Hill, secretary of Peace Association of Friends in America in his 1872 annual report to the yearly meetings. Human activity in the years to follow proved him right, though not in the way he meant. The world was about to embark on a new era — one of mechanized death and wholesale slaughter of civilians on a scale that no one in 1872 could imagine. The numbers of wars and rumors of wars is hard to fathom even today.
Which gives a Quaker pause. What is the worth of working for peace if, after doing so for 350 plus years (in the case of the Quakers), it has made no difference in the world?
Or has it? When somebody asked Winston Churchill how he could be such an evil man and still say that his faith was important, Churchill is reported to have replied, “Madam, imagine how awful I should be were I not a Christian.” Indeed, that might be a point for us to consider — how awful might the world be if we, in the face of seeming futility, did not proclaim and work for the way of peace?
The Quakers have always held that the way of peace was an integral part of Christian faith and could not be separated from the heart of the gospel. As Robert Barclay said “Whoever can reconcile ‘Resist not evil,’ with ‘Resist violence by force,’ … and ‘Love thine enemies’ with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword,’… may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, … and good with evil.”
Strong words to back a strong conviction. Why then, should people of faith work for peace today? Ron Mock, Associate Professor of Political Science and Peace Studies at George Fox College, once wrote three essential teachings which are the basis for working for peace today:
1) the belief that we are intended by God to have an eternal loving relationship, even with our enemies
2) the belief that forgiveness is even more central to relationships than is justice of revenge
3) the belief that an omnipotent and loving God will always, without exception, provide a way to give
everyone means to meet their needs, if we can only find it and follow it.
These are all teachings which call for action. We are called to be active in the cause of peace. Jesus does not call us to passivity. Jesus does not say “Blessed are the pacifists.” Instead He says “Blessed are the peace-makers.” Peace-making is action — love in action.
The way of love as a way of life, the way of the peace-maker, finds its foundation ultimately in trusting God and to remember, in the words from the 1959 edition of Christian Faith and Practice, “that God is not alone the God of things as they are but the God of things as they are meant to be.”
If we are children of the God of things as they are meant to be, and followers and friends of Jesus, then we must ask the Spirit for power to live lives of peace and to work for peace. We must try what Love will do in the assurance that if we do we will find greater peace in our lives, neighborhoods and world. And the hope contained in Daniel Hill’s words may finally be realized.