Pray for Peace, Prepare for War

By Graham Glover

“We will pray for peace every day, but at the same time, the U.S. Army will prepare for war.”

(Army Chief of Staff, General Mark A. Milley, 9 October 2017)

These words, spoken by the most senior uniformed Army officer, could have been spoken by a theologian. They might even make for a good introduction to a sermon.

Although spoken in reference to the tenuous situation in North Korea, GEN Milley’s words could just as easily be used to reference our spiritual situation.

Commending the Soldiers and Units of the US Army to be ready for the realities of war, GEN Milley reminds us (military and civilian alike) that we are to daily pray for peace – that peace is and will always remain our desired end state. And so it is that all of us should also recognize the spiritual realities of the world in which we live. A world that is ripe with sin that infects each and every one of us. A sinful state that is seen on a daily basis in the misdeeds that each of us commit. None of us are immune to these misdeeds and all of us are to blame for the wretched state of affairs in our world. We are all guilty of contributing to the culture of discontent that plagues us all. And yet despite the stark reality of our fallen, sinful world, all of us should find hope not only in the world that is to come, but also in the sinful lives that we daily struggle to overcome. For as we are called to prayer, to prostrate ourselves before the One who redeems us from our sinful state, we encounter lives that are forgiven and made new. As we cry out to the One that paid the price for our sins, we rejoice in the freedom we now have to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord and one another.

GEN Milley’s words also remind us that despite our best efforts, people will continue to fail. War, as tragic as it is, and as much as we wish it could be avoided, will always be a reality in our world. This is why we must be ready to confront our enemies. This is why we can never let our guard down. Our Army is ready. And so is the Church. As Christians, we know that true peace will come only with the Second Advent of our Lord and the new heaven and new earth that it will bring. We know that until this glorious day comes, that wars and rumors of war will be as constant as the sun rising and setting. But we also know that as we face these wars – both temporal and spiritual, that God has given us ample resources to assist. He has given us the State to yield the sword, but more importantly, He has given us His Word and Sacraments to sustain us in the midst of these battles. In them we encounter the One made flesh among us. In them we receive everything we need to overcome the evils of this world.

So pray my dear friends. Pray for peace. Pray that the evil of our world would be no more. But above all, trust in God. Trust that He provides – that He hears our cries for mercy and our desire for peace. Pray and prepare. Prepare with His gifts. Prepare with His grace, given for you.

5 thoughts on “Pray for Peace, Prepare for War

  1. Pastor, how would you counsel regarding temporal preparation? What role does the church have in instructing and supporting efforts of temporal preparation by the household of faith? Here I am thinking the instruction regarding the duty of fathers in particular to provide for their family and the duty of all Christians to work for the common good of the household of faith. In my opinion we live in a time and culture that is generally ignorant of the practical wisdom of preparing for difficult times, and we tend to run our congregations as our households are run. In other words we are fast and loose with our temporal riches just as we are with our spiritual riches.

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    1. Boniface, thanks for your input. You raise an important question on preparing the household of faith and highlight an even more important point about the time and culture we live in. It seems to me that you rightly note the answer, that is: a healthy catechesis that is rooted in the home.

      I was reminded of this when we sang, “Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain” this morning.

      (vs. 1): Lord, help us ever to retrain
      The Catechesim’s doctrine plain
      As Luther taught the Word of truth
      In simple style to tender youth.

      (vs. 3): Hear us, dear Father, when we pray
      For needed help from day to day
      That as your children we may live,
      Whom You baptized and so received.

      The riches are there. The goods are in place. The Church has and freely gives Christ’s Word and Sacraments. The Family can sustain this in the Catechism.

      We don’t need to look far. We have everything we need.

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  2. Pastor, I was getting at more practical elements of financially supporting a family without being consumed by the rat race or personal ambition, while also intentionally leading and supporting efforts of charity in the local congregation. The way I hear and read the doctrine of vocation commonly portrayed these questions are subsumed into a kind of autonomous and unintentional love of neighbor, which practically looks like hyper-individualism and atomized Christians “living out their vocations” in a life not unlike that of the typical American pagan.

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  3. Boniface, again, excellent insight and again, I concur. It is one the tragedies of Christendom (in the West in particular, and the United States especially) that this is the case. What’s the answer or rather, how do we combat this hyper-individualism that infects even our catechesis? Well, that might require another blog post (or two).

    To begin that conversation, I’d first ask you how you would define our neighbor? That is, are they those that are members of our particular parish, those in our literal neighborhood, or those in our general geographic vicinity? This feeds how we understand who we support and probably, how we support them.

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    1. I would say there is both a broad and narrow sense in defining the neighbor. Broadly, my neighbor is anyone who stands in need of spiritual or bodily service, and I am a neighbor by showing mercy. In the reality of a limited world there is a narrow sense that only those who I actually encounter in my family, congregation, and civic community, along with what I have heard Rev. H.R. Curtis call the “occasional neighbor” can actually be served in a tangible and, I think if rightly understood, even a virtuous way. Here I am thinking of a C.S. Lewis quote about the farther away the object of your charity is the less virtue the action has. E.g. Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House or texting “help” to the Red Cross to donate $10 to disaster relief efforts of some kind that are halfway around the world. Basically, what is my sphere(s) of influence?

      Ultimately, what I think gets lost is the whole notion of stewardship as a matter of doctrine and faithfulness that has implications in both the left and right hand kingdoms. This means the importance of planning, intention, and discipline necessary to run households and households of faith well is rarely discussed, therefore even more rarely applied. Paul teaching that we ought to have made up our mind on such matters, and that this kind of discussion and management is not at odds with cheerful, generous, and faithful giving, seems important but neglected. So we tend to run our congregations as we run our homes, which I think means a kind of ironic blend of fearful clutching and idolatry of wealth with loose and frivolous consumption that neglects to take the long view.

      I fear I’m veering off topic a bit and failing to articulate things well, but I did find something important in the original post that resonated with my recent thoughts on how ill prepared our homes and congregations are. Thanks for taking the time to engage a bit.

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