At 5:10 am on November 11, 1918 at a site 30 miles NW of Paris the armistice was signed which would end the first world war. Five hours and 50 minutes later the news reached the front lines and the fighting stopped. That is why on November 11 each year at 11:00 am, we stop to remember.
There is no one here, however, who can remember. None of us were there. I read a sign on a bus in Winnipeg when I was growing up that helped me in this regard. The sign said, "If you can't remember, think!" But what do we think about?
I think about the fact that war is a costly lesson which should motivate us to determine never to engage in war again. How can we make sure that we never again have to pay the price that was paid by those we remember today? How can we be peacemakers?
The armistice was signed and peace was made after WW I, but in 1939 we engaged in war once again. One hundred and ten thousand Canadians have lost their lives in wars in the last 100 years. Add to that number the 55 million in other nations and it becomes clear that war is devastating to human life. Since 1945 more than 150 major armed conflicts have occurred in over 66 countries or territories in the world. How many more have lost their lives in these conflicts? The horror of war and the loss we remember here today reminds us that we don't want this to happen again. War is too destructive!
The Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations affirms this kind of thinking. It says,
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, … unite our strength to maintain international peace and security…”
The cost of war as recognized by us and by the people of all nations of the world invites us to be peacemakers. God also invites us to move in such a direction when he says in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."
When God makes such an invitation, He has a great authority for doing so for God himself is the greatest peacemaker.
We read in Colossians 1:19,20, "For God was pleased …through Christ to reconcile to himself all things,…by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."
The Bible tells us that we were enemies with God. It was not God who alienated himself from us. We, in our self will, alienated ourselves from God when we sinned. Every time we violate the perfect standards of our holy God, we break relationship with him and stand as his enemies.
But God did not want this enmity to continue, so he sent Jesus to this earth and through the supreme sacrifice of his death on the cross, he provided a way for us to become God's friends. He took the initiative to be a peacemaker and to reconcile us to himself.
God is our example as a peacemaker. He made peace with us and we are called to be peacemakers.
But how can we be peacemakers?
In a Peanuts cartoon, there is a picture of Lucy about to hit Charlie Brown. She is standing with her fist clenched and she is shouting, "I'll knock your block off."
Before she gets the blow away he says, "Wait a minute! Hold Everything! We can't carry on like this! We have no right to act this way. The world is filled with problems...people hurting other people...people not understanding other people. Now if we as children can't solve what are relatively minor problems, how can we ever expect to..."
In the next frame, before he finishes his sentence
Lucy wollops him and walks away saying, "I had to hit him quick, he was beginning to make sense."
Peacemaking must begin in the closest relationships in our life and that is where we live, at home, at school, in the sports arena and so on.
The second level of peacemaking must occur in the next circle of relationships and that is in the community. Someone has said, "It's easy to be a peacemaker when it comes to loving the enemy our nation is at war with, or working at reconciling the oppressed in our society. What's tough is applying those same principles when a neighbour ploughs his field two feet over into your alfalfa.”
The Bible says in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
But peacemaking must also move to the next level of relationships and that is within our own nation.
A visit to Montreal a number of years ago to attend a conference permitted me an opportunity to listen to the people of Quebec and hear how they see our country. It is through listening that we will be able to resolve national crises so that they do not become major conflicts.
Finally, being peacemakers also extends to the international scene. Billy Graham said, "I know that nations are not going to suddenly lay down their arms but that does not keep us from doing all we can before it is too late."
For us, being peace makers in the international scene means getting rid of attitudes of revenge against people like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. It means calling for all peaceful means of reconciliation possible.
I once read a quote from the War Amps - "In a war, everyone suffers...we must never let it happen again." That wisdom agrees with God’s wisdom who says, "Blessed are the peacemakers."
St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that it begins with us when he prays, "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace...Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”