The teachings of the
testaments vary somewhat in their approach to peace, with less emphasis being
placed on forgiveness and love in the Old Testament. It is important to note at
this point, that the entirety of the Old Testament is very violent. The
Israelites are constantly engaged in conflict, fighting to establish a country.
However, it can observed, that this conflict, is seen as a struggle for peace. The
Israelites strove for peace, though, in doing so, there was a great deal of
conflict, and, as so often happens, this conflict was violent. In the Old
Testament, it is portrayed that God was on the side of the Israelites, and thus
was violent in many of his actions. Therefore it is not surprising that
commentators have said that God as represented in the Old Testament is a God of
violence, not peace. This portrayal of God as a God of violence is perhaps based
on the view of God as protecting his people from enemies, and thereby giving
Conflict, the absence of
peace, is portrayed in the first book of the bible, Genesis, when, firstly, Adam
and Eve are cast out of paradise by God, resulting from a conflict, and, later,
when Cain murders Abel. Peace with your family is discussed several times
within the bible, honouring thy mother and thy father is considered so
important that it is even included in the Ten Commandments.
The striving for peace is presented
in Exodus. The Israelites, imprisoned in Egypt, are effectively, in conflict
with the Egyptians. Conflict continues, even after the Israelites have fled Egypt.
Firstly the conflict occurs amongst the Israelites themselves. As Moses ascends
Mount Sinai, the Israelites construct a golden
calf in order to worship. Upon descending the mount, Moses, angered by this
act, destroys the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.
The Ten Commandments
proclaim that thou shalt not kill, and thus they can be observed to be
promoting peace, as killing is conflict, the opposite of peace.
Peace with God is an important
element in the Christian scriptures. God instructs the Israelites on how to be
at peace with him in the first four commandments. Peace is often used within
the New Testament in association with God as well, notably; the Christian God
is referred to as “The God of Peace” in 1st Thespians 5:23.
An interesting quote
concerning peace with God is the line from Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of
God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through
Jesus Christ”. It can be understood from this, that, to achieve the peace of
God and for you to “keep” that peace, you must follow the teachings of Jesus.
The concept of personal
peace is explored frequently in the New Testament, notably in John 14:27 and
16:33 Jesus says unto his followers, “My peace I give to you” and “…that in me
you may have peace”. This concept of Jesus giving his peace unto others is
symbolic of God giving peace to all people.
Matthew 5:9 shows the importance
given to peace in the scriptures “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall
be called sons of God”. This idea, that peacemakers are so close to God that
they shall be called his sons highlights exactly how important peace is to
When Peter came to Jesus and
asked how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me, the response from Jesus that forgiveness should have no
boundaries encapsulates the concept of striving for peace in personal
Despite the importance with
which peace is viewed, the concept of righteous anger is also explored within
the testaments. Two notable example of righteous anger are recounted in the New
Testament. Firstly in Mark 3:5 when Jesus entered the synagogue at Capernaum and
was greatly angered by the hard hearted people, and secondly when he entered
the temple in Jerusalem and cast out the money lenders and people who sold
doves Mark 10:15, “And they came to Jerusalem and Jesus went into the temple, and
began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and over-threw the
tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves”. Thus it
can be observed, that, there is righteous anger, and therefore, righteous
conflict. This can be considered the justification behind many of the “just
wars” fought in the name of Christianity. And this brings us to the next facet
of Christianity that must be looked at in terms of its struggle of peace.