Those Who Pursue Peace
IF YOUR heart yearns for a time when the earth will be free from the ravages of war, the inspired words, “Seek peace and pursue it,” are timely words for you. (1 Pet. 3:11) It is not just a matter of seeking to be at peace with one’s fellowman, but we must first come to be at peace with God, harmonizing our lives with his Word. Then we will find that we are able to live at peace with our fellowman, and we will come in line for life in God’s peaceful new system of things, now near at hand.
So it is with keen interest that lovers of peace read what God’s own Word the Bible foretold would take place in our day: “And he [Jehovah God] will certainly render judgment among many peoples, and set matters straight respecting mighty nations far away. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war any more.”—Mic. 4:3.
In bringing about a fulfillment of these words one might expect the clergy to be taking the lead in responding to God’s direction, but the facts show that religious leaders have repeatedly given their blessing to the wanton butchery of human life. The backing that Adolf Hitler received from the Catholic and Lutheran clergy is a well-known part of the modern record. The same is true of support given by the Vatican to Fascist Mussolini; and the Protestant clergy worldwide have shown no less willingness in praying for the success of war waged by their respective countries.
Neither have “non-Christian” religious leaders been less enthusiastic in this regard. In countries such as Japan the Shinto and most Buddhist groups played an important part in conditioning the minds of the people to believe that the wholesale slaughter of humans in another land was the will of the gods, and that to die for the emperor was the greatest honor a man could have. No wonder that in “Christian” and “heathen” lands the confidence of the masses in the religious leaders who pray for peace on the one hand and bless war on the other has been badly shaken.
Understandably, the Bible book of Revelation clumps all such false religion together under the symbol of a woman drunk with human blood, calls her “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth,” and says that she bears responsibility for the blood of “all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”—Rev. 17:5, 6; 18:24.
Disappointing as this failure of religious leaders has been, there are Christians around the world who have remained free from this bloodguilt and who heed God’s command to pursue peace, conforming their lives to his command to “beat their swords into plowshares.” On this the South African Voice of April 5, 1964, comments: “The stand taken by the churches in South Africa on the matter of military service . . . has changed to such an extent that actually only one religious group remain adamant in its ‘rebellion’ against [it]. . . . From intensive research by Die STEM it appears that only the Witnesses of Jehovah still positively refuse to endorse military training and compulsory military service . . . [They] remain uncompromising in their stand against military training or waging war.”
Actually, Jehovah’s witnesses are not in “rebellion” against the activities of any government, but they do maintain uncompromising neutrality as to the world’s political and military affairs, as they follow the Scriptural injunction to ‘seek peace and pursue it.’ They are not pacifists. They do not oppose any government’s program of military conscription or demonstrate against it, but they submit themselves to God’s arrangement of things. Of them the Bible says: “Though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage warfare according to what we are in the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly.”—2 Cor. 10:3-5.
In commenting on this position of Jehovah’s witnesses at the time of the sentencing of a young member of this group recently to five years in prison in the United States, an item published in the Evening Journal (Wilmington, Delaware, March 5, 1964) frankly said: “It is true that this religious group does not protest such treatment at the hands of the federal government and expects to be persecuted for its beliefs, but what does it do to us, the rest of society, to condemn a man for five years because of the character of his religious convictions?
“This issue goes to the heart of our Constitution and the civil and religious liberties it proclaims. It is an issue which doubly pricks our conscience because of the high integrity and exemplary life of young men like Mr. Silvernail, and because there is such universal agreement these days that the world could not survive another all-out war. . . . It is important to realize that for some people religious conviction goes deep enough that their conscience does not permit them to cooperate with any part of the system of war and preparation for war.” They conscientiously heed the Bible’s command to pursue peace.
Their pursuit of peace goes far beyond avoiding involvement in the wars of the nations of the world. Following the sound counsel of God’s Word enables them to prevent personal misunderstandings from giving rise to lasting resentment and a spirit of uncooperativeness. It makes it possible for them to work out domestic problems in such a way that family ties are strengthened. Because they have been made new in the force actuating their minds, they are not drawn into the world’s racial squabbles and its economic strife. They enjoy a worldwide unity that knows no social, racial or national distinctions. So it is as a united people that they carry to people everywhere the good news concerning the kingdom of God, by which God himself will make “wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.”—Ps. 46:9; Eph. 4:20-24.
You, too, can enjoy such peace. It is the lot of those who listen and submit to the judgments of “the God who gives peace.” (Rom. 16:20) This you can do by studying his Word, sharing its truths and associating with those who have proved themselves to be the friends of peace.