How do you define peace?
That was the question I asked our 3K -6th grade students in our Veterans Day Chapel this Friday.
Calm…Patience…Loving…Kindness…were just some of the many answers I received. While these words may not accurately define peace, I noted how treating others calmly, patiently, lovingly, and kindly as God’s image-bearers would definitely lead to peace.
Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines peace as, “freedom from war…from fear, terror, anger, anxiety.” The context sentence Webster used for the definition was straight from Scripture (a common practice in his original dictionary)—“Great peace have they that love thy law.”—Psalm 119:165
Reflecting on Veterans Day and the desire for peace in our world reminded me of attending my older brother’s graduation from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. The college was founded in 1901 and has produced distinguished alums such as Generals John J. Pershing (1905), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1927), and Omar Bradley (1934).
What I found most intriguing was that the college was conceived, “Not to promote war but to preserve peace by intelligent and adequate preparation to repel aggression.”
After asking for a show of hands from students, faculty, and parents whose family members had served or are currently serving in the military, I affirmed how our troops need our prayers—not only to keep the peace in the many volatile areas they are stationed—but for peace in their souls as well.
A Barna Poll on the U.S. military recently reported the number one reason why our troops turn to Scripture: “Service men and women who read the Bible…say they might read the Bible for many reasons, but the most common is for comfort (37%), and understandably so, given the peace or security its pages may bring to those taking great risks for their fellow Americans.”
I shared with my students how I had never before associated peace with training at a war college. But the Army War College’s mission statement gave me a renewed outlook on the important role our military has played over the years in seeking to keep peace around the world in places like Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
Along these lines, my brother—now a Brigadier General in the Army Reserves—serves as the Director of Operations for all “U.S. Forces Korea during wartime actions to support the Commander by analyzing complex situations, assisting in making and implementing decisions, controlling operational direction for ground, naval, air, and special operations forces assigned to, or under the operational control of Commander.”
His Commander—General Vincent Brooks–is the Commander of the United Nations Command, the Combined Forces Command, and the U.S. Forces Korea. A graduate of West Point, General Brooks was the “First Captain of the U.S. Corps of Cadets–the top military leadership position a cadet at West Point can hold. He is the first African American to be selected for this position in West Point’s history.”
Having led a brilliant and distinguished career over his 36 years as a commissioned officer, General Brooks is now commanding one of the hottest spots in the world—the border between North and South Korea.
The preparation of men such as General Brooks and my brother was a good segue to challenge our students on how they can be prepared for the spiritual battles they face each day from not only the evil one–the devil–but our own brokenness and sin as well.
The Apostle Paul used the imagery of a Roman soldier when he challenged the Church of Ephesus on how to stand up to sin and the devil by equipping ourselves with the armor of God.
Put on the full armor of God…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Having God’s Word, we can know truth from falsehood, be right with God, and experience the peace that the Gospel of Christ brings. And with our faith in Christ, we can block the devil’s temptations and snares, resting assured in our salvation—praying at all times and being on the alert.
For when we clothe ourselves in the spiritual armor of God, we can resist the anxiety and fear that can so easily overwhelm us and claim “His peace that passes all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6-8)
That is my prayer for all of us—but particularly our soldiers on this Veterans Day.