In 1914, troops in WWI were engaged in deadly trench warfare on the European front. On Christmas Day, they paused for a truce. Peace descended on those killing fields. Christmas hymns were sung in places. Gifts were exchanged. The conflict soon resumed. War and peace were side by side. In Matthew 10 the Lord said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” And yet He says in the Heavenly Doctrine, “He came to bring peace and remove strife” (Heavenly Secrets 10490:4). How do we make sense of this seeming contradiction?
We can find many historical examples where warfare and peace have stood side by side. Allegiances can change quickly. Almost overnight our friends can become our enemies and vice versa. Is it really possible that one day we will succeed in having a harmonious planet where all will live in permanent peace? For many reasons, on the natural level, it is difficult to argue against having a safer and more secure society for everyone. And yet,... almost every story ever written entails some degree of conflict that must be resolved. Opposition brings tension and stirs a desire for resolution. And most of the time conflict involves some form of evil and good in combat.
This is true of our spiritual or mental lives as well. Just as we say, “war is hell” we read in the Writings: “Spiritual conflicts,... are temptations that those who are to be regenerated must undergo.” And temptations, “Refer to the strife a person experiences between the evils and falsities which come from hell and the forms of good and truth which come from the Lord” (AC 10490 emphasis added). Life on earth offers many seeming contradictions. How could soldiers shoot at each other on one day and sing together on the very next? Juxtaposing such experiences can stimulate all of us to think more deeply about our assumptions and the workings of the Lord’s Providence.
As we prepare for Christmas, let us pray for peace and goodwill to come into our world and for the patience, fortitude, understanding and strength to see us through the trials which will come... no must come.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14: 27)