COLLINS COLUMN: Peace Beyond Understanding

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, June 4, 2024

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“I ain’t gonna study war no more, ain’t gonna study war to more…”

You may have sung some version of this song. Many of us sang “Down by the Riverside” at some time in church camp or around a campfire. If you are old enough, you may remember the folk singer Pete Seeger singing this song as a protest to the Vietnam war. Some version of this song was sung first as a Black spiritual song before the Civil War, but the theme of the song dates back to the Old Testament prophet Micah.

It may be hard to imagine as we live in a world filled with conflicts, tensions, and wars between different nations but God has a plan that is much better than violence as a way to solve problems between individuals and nations. His plan is that there will come a day when everyone walks in the name of the Lord and every burden has been lifted. But God’s plan doesn’t come through legislation, though we may at times see incremental progress through policy. God’s plan comes about as his followers trust in his promises and do the work of making disciples as he told us to do.

Micah 4 opens with a powerful line: “It shall come to pass in the latter days.” There isn’t an if or but to Micah’s prophecy. The prophet indicates there will be a time when God fulfills his perfect plan for humanity. God is working his plan even now. Our problem is that we fail to focus on doing our part in God’s great plan, and we continually wander off to what we think is most urgent, or worse, to what we think might work better.

Micah described a time when Jerusalem and the temple would be restored. It was restored, only to later be destroyed again. And yes, the book of Revelation talks of “a holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” As Revelation 21 continues, we learn that there is no temple in this heavenly city because the temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb.

As we read the book of Acts and the epistles, it is clear that between the ancient temple and the future temple described in Revelation, we live in a moment where we as believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God lives in us and through us in daily expanding his kingdom as we disciple the nations.

Micah is bringing prophecy both concerning the expansion of the God’s kingdom as “all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the Lord will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore.’”

As we embrace our calling as disciples committed to making disciples, God’s kingdom expands. As the church, the body of Christ, acts more and more like Jesus, we will see glimpses of Micah’s prophecy being fulfilled now, and we will eventually see it fulfilled when Jesus returns. At times now we will enjoy moments of sitting under the vine that Micah spoke of. Jesus said that he is the vine, and we are the branches. The more we abide in Christ, the more we experience his provision as our source of life.

One day there will be no more hatred, no more need for weapons, and no more war. But don’t be surprised that when we get to heaven, we won’t begin to experience the joy of what God started in the Garden of Eden. We might just need our gardening tools as we live in the glory of a new heaven and earth.

Father, thank you for reminders all through the scripture that our suffering and struggle here will one day be over. As we await your return, fill us with your Holy Spirit and courage to eagerly share our faith in Jesus as our Lord and king. We long to see the new heaven and earth at once. Until then, Lord, we will continue to lay down our burdens, knowing that one day there will be no study of war as we live in harmony with you, with each other, and with all of creation. In Jesus’ name, amen.