Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. (John 14:27)
If there would be a geographical area on earth where the highest density of human conflict, violence, and bloodshed has occurred - in ancient history, in more modern history, and continuing today -- what might that area be? This is the same general area where the above words of Jesus were spoken. What happened?
The region of the Golan Heights has been, is now, and likely always will be the epitome of conflict between people and nations over political control, rights, and ownership. Nations have attempted to work out treaties, agreements, promises, whatever seemingly with one hand holding a pen and the other a hidden knife. Why does conflict and chaos seem so entrenched in this region? Perhaps it is because it was prophesied to happen (Gen. 16:11-12) and because the answer, that had been provided to change the outcome, Jesus, was rejected and asked to leave - go away - get outta town - leave us alone - we don't want you around here; you mess everything up.
Mark 5:1-20 relates an event in Jesus' ministry of the healing of a man possessed by a legion of demons. The demons had made the man powerful and fearsome, and he was uncontrollable. Jesus cast the demons out of the man and allowed them to enter a herd of pigs. The possessed pigs ran down the hill, over the cliff, and into the sea where they perished. The people who lived in the area came out to investigate, and, upon seeing the healed man, who had been possessed, and the deviled ham in the water, they were afraid.
"Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region." (vs. 17).
And He did. He got back into the boat and left. (vs. 18)
This region to the east side of the Sea of Galilee is the Golan Heights. About 2000 years ago, the people of that region wanted the Prince of Peace to go away and leave them alone. "We don't want your kind around here." Jesus did leave, physically and symbolically, and it doesn't seem like He has ever been invited to return. The words of Jesus give peace, but in the world there will be trouble (John 16:33).
So, what about the region called the Golan Heights? What rules - the peace of Christ or the trouble of the world? What filled the vacuum created when Jesus was asked to get out? Could those spirits of 2000 years ago still inhabit the area? By what power could the influence of demonic elements be driven out?
So, what other regions or territories could the Golan Heights symbolically represent? How about where we live?
How many families have virtually nothing but a consistent generational conflict produced by the consequences of self-perpetuating bad decisions? Alcohol, drugs, crime, prison, abuse - just one stupid thing after another. Jesus is not the Prince of Peace in their lives. And, if asked, it's certainly never their fault - they're the victims. On the other hand, many families have had generations of blessings after a key family patriarch allowed Jesus to enter their life, thereby introducing peace and changing the future course for those who would follow.
What about a society that can determine its future destiny by present choices? What about a society that decides for itself whether Jesus is invited to stay or told to leave? What about a society that increasingly tells Jesus to "make like a tree and get outta here?"
The past President of the United States said "American is no longer a Christian nation," and some people got upset. Why? It's not true because he said it; he said it because it's true.
It's promoted like an agenda. Let's get Jesus out of the schools; let's get Jesus out of the books; let's get it forbidden to pray publicly in Jesus' name; let's get rid of prayer altogether (unless it's addressed to some other deity, or non-deity). Let's get Jesus out of our vocabulary, unless it's used as profanity in the media. Let's get nativity scenes off any public property - certainly governmental, but also schools, libraries, and firehouses. Let's get Jesus out of Christmas and have a "Holiday Season." Now, the "reason for the season" is consumer debt. Let's get Jesus out of any consideration of people for public office - elected or appointed. Let's make it offensive to someone to have to hear the name of Jesus uttered in their presence, unless it's embedded in a curse word. Let's complain about Jesus represented in name, in appearance in paintings, pictures, or statues; let's complain about God being on our coins and in our pledge. Let's wonder why our government is so functionless and why greed and pride and self-idolatry prevail. Let's promote anything anti-religious in the media and put an evil slant even on good things that might be related to Christianity.
Let's wonder why there are school shootings and political calls to confiscate guns and beheadings that are called "workplace violence." Let's make peace by not offending anybody no matter what they might say or do - as long as it doesn't promote anything like that Jesus person. Let's wonder why the destruction of the home continues - until it begins to become the "norm."
Let's allow and even promote Satan worship because we don't want to appear like fundamentalists or bigots. Let's live in fear because someone might call us that name or another one.
So, as a society, let's just purge ourselves of this Jesus person. We're afraid of Him (capitals are mine); He interferes with our lifestyle, economics, and choices; we are smarter than that. So, we don't plead with Him to get outta here; we tell Him. Oh, yeah, and we're sweeping out our church buildings, too.
What fills the vacuum that is created when Jesus is told to leave? What happens when Jesus is not recognized as the Prince of Peace ... but maybe more like Beelzebub? (Mark 3:20-30). Uh, oh, better read verse 29.
Well, one could say, "The world is doing it to itself. At least the church isn't saying 'Jesus be gone.'"
And just what makes that statement correct? Who has been called to be the presence of Jesus on earth? Who is supposed to make up the body of Christ? Is the body of Christ shaped like a million parcels of real estate?
The church doesn't create the vacuum, like saying, "Let there be vacuum." The church allows the vacuum to happen because the church does not fulfill its mission to be the presence of Jesus - the body of Christ - the temple for the Spirit of God - the kingdom of God on earth. Vacuum exists when the influence of the Spirit of God in the church is not present.
This could be a horror movie. Instead of "Lord of the Flies" it could be "Spirits of the Pigs" or "When Pigs Fly." See the moonlit shapes of the ugly demonic critters as they claw their way back over the cliff and slither around looking for someone to possess who has removed Jesus from their life. The demons of the region had ruled until Jesus arrived and exercised His authority over them. What did the demons do when the people in the city asked Jesus to leave? The demons asked Jesus to not send them out of the region, so did the demons return after they finished the bacon? Speculation - has peace ever come to that region or not? Maybe the demons stayed in the region. Maybe they came back. Maybe the influence is still there.
What do we want for ourselves and for our children and their children? Order, peace, justice, righteousness, and true freedom, or chaos, conflict, discrimination, and bondage? What is on the increase; what is trending up? Is it peace or conflict?
On Friday, September 26, 2014, the Wall Street Journal published an article "Mass Shootings On the Rise," describing casualties in active-shooter incidents increasing 1-2 orders of magnitude since 2000. "The FBI said more gunmen have tried to kill large numbers of people in recent years, with shooters seeking 'an act of catastrophic violence.'" And those data didn't count violence using knives or bombs.
We still have choices, but it is the beneficial and positive outcomes of our choices that are becoming less probable. A choice to continue good will have a high probably of producing a good outcome. However, a choice requiring a turnaround and recovery from a history of bad choices expends a lot of energy trying to correct things, and the remaining benefit quality is reduced.
"Keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Eph. 4:3). Any unity in the Golan Heights? Any bond of peace? Any unity in the church? First Church of the Golan Heights? Has the church headed toward unity or toward creating more division over that last 100 years? 200 years? 2000 years?
"If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:23
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Tit. 1:4; Philemon 1:3; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 1:4-5)