Hazrat Isa al Masih (Jesus) is recognized by people of all religions as one who has promoted peace with his words and deeds and who has brought much peace to the world. A man once painted a picture of a man with a sword in one hand and a dove in the other. When asked if he could paint a picture of a man holding a dove of peace with both hands, he replied, "I would have to paint a portrait of Jesus". Though we don't know if he ever began this second painting, his words stand out as a testimony to Hazrat Isa's life of peace.Perhaps you have heard one of his most famous teachings. Similar to a saying of the Hadith (written 6 centuries after Hazrat Isa lived on earth) , he taught:
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
(Injil, Book of Matthew, 5:3-10)
When Hazrat Isa lived on this earth, he came teaching about the Kingdom--the Kingdom of God. This kingdom does not divide along political, ethnic, sectarian or even humanly drawn religious lines. It is the Kingdom of God. You can't look around and say with total accuracy that this person is in the kingdom and this person is not. Therefore we cannot say that the West is in God's kingdom and the East is not; nor can we say that the East is in God's kingdom and the West is not. Yes, there are indications about who is in the kingdom, but the kingdom of God is a kingdom whose total membership is only known to God. Each member of that kingdom is ultimately answerable to God. As a result many leaders today have been fearful of him.
In Hazrat Isa's day the religious leaders were fearful and angry at him; the political leaders were fearful and angry at him. Yet, he brought peace of heart to the humble and repentant. But it didn't stop there. Even the proud, arrogant and unrepentant were affected by his life.
One writer in the second century wrote about those who he regarded as members of this kingdom--the kingdom of God,
"They dwell in their own countries simply as sojourners...They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time, they surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men but are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned. They are put to death, but [will be] restored to life. They are poor, yet they made many rich. They possess few things; yet, they abound in all. They are dishonored, but in their very dishonor are glorified...And those who hate them are unable to give any reason for their hatred." (Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 17)
The Bible also gives the same description of people who belong to God's true kingdom. But are these actions unique to the teachings of Hazrat Isa? How exactly do the teachings of Hazrat Isa promote peace?
First, entrance into God's kingdom brings personal peace for the individual. Hazrat Isa taught that the way one gets into the kingdom is by admitting from his or her heart and lips that he or she don't deserve entrance into the kingdom and by believing and following the way God has given to get entrance into his kingdom.
The reason why Hazrat Isa said we don't deserve entrance into the kingdom is because of the fact that every human falls short of God's standard of perfection and sinlessness. Some people may challenge that. But who can say they have never told a lie, stolen even a small item, or looked with lust at another person. Even our own conscience tells us when we break God's standard.
Many don't believe there is any one standard to which God holds them. Others hold strongly to one standard. Yet, they all condemn themselves by criticizing others for failing to live by their standard, written or unwritten, while they themselves fail to keep the same standard.
Second, peace is shown by the individual members of the kingdom toward others around them. The following account is of one man's entrance into the kingdom of God:
When he first entered the kingdom of God, he was possessed by a great love toward his fellow human beings, especially one individual who had been unkind to him and many others. The reason why he was possessed with this love was because he was full of the knowledge of the love of God toward him. For a short time he had been aware that he was a sinful being and therefore separated from God. He didn't know what to do about this. A couple of religious people had given him their advice but in the end he sensed he should simply express to God the need he felt in his heart. Having done that, he sensed a peace that he had been honest with God. He also sensed that God heard and cared. Obviously, he knew this much about God.
Only an hour or two later he was struck with a strong sense of his sin. Verses from the Holy Bible came to his mind. He simply agreed with God in his heart and mind about his sins--falling short of God's requirement of perfection--toward God and other human beings. He realized these acts separated him from God, not simply his fellow human beings. Then he was reminded of the words of the Holy Bible that spoke of God's love for him--how God had sent Jesus Christ to come and die in his place to ransom him from eternity separated from God in hell. He acknowledged this to be true. At that very moment he realized he was no longer separated from God. He had the witness of God in his heart that he was included in God's family--God's kingdom.
The very next day he saw another person struggling with a heavy load. Suddenly a thought came to mind, "Why don't you go help him?" to which he responded in his heart, "Why should I? He's been mean to me all week long." Immediately another thought came, "But didn't Jesus Christ love you when you didn't deserve it?" To that he could not reply. The only way to be true to God and himself was to help the person. He did this out of respect to God and found great joy in the process. Love had conquered. The love of God received had stimulated love for others.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." (Injil, Book of 1 John 4:7-13)
God asks us to love our brother--those who are close to us, agree with us, and are a part of the same kingdom (which is usually quite easy to do)--
"We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." (Injil, Book of 1 John 4:19-21)
...but he also asks us to love our neighbour also (which is again quite easy to do seeing that our neighbours may help us in return when we are in a difficult position).
"You shall love your neighbour as yourself." (Matthew 19:19b)
But even further, he asks us to love our enemies, not those whom we hate but those who hate us and who we might be tempted to hate. This is much more difficult to do.
"You have heard that it was said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Injil, Book of Matthew 5:38-48)
Hazrat Isa did this from a personal position devoid of political or economic power or the possibility of selfish human influence. He also died for the cause of peace. Because he refused to cause harm to others or encourage his followers to harm others, he willingly gave up his life even when accused unjustly.
"Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.' Pilate therefore said to Him, 'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.'" (Injil, Book of John 18:36-37)
Are Hazrat Isa's followers doing this today? Many people who claim to be his followers are not doing this today because they really aren't his followers. Others simply don't realize the promises that God gives to those who follow the message he gave to Hazrat Isa. They fail to realize that when they give up their own selfish power, God's power is seen. As a result God is praised, remembered and glorified, but the people involved realize they have seen the work of God and they sense his real presence. Therefore they fulfill the purpose for which God put them here on earth--to experience God in truth. It is the sense of God's presence that brings repentance and the power to live a life pleasing to him.
Furthermore, to my knowledge, Hazrat Isa is unique in this. By giving up his very life, he gave the greatest expression of love that any man can give, setting the greatest example of peace and love for others. Because he knew he was at peace with God, and he was without sin and therefore acceptable to God, Hazrat Isa willingly went to the cross to pay the debt we all owe to God for breaking his law. As Hazrat Isa took his final breaths on the cross, he said the Greek word "tetelestai", literally meaning "it is finished" or "the debt has been cancelled." He was the ransom, the payment, for all who choose to believe on him past, present and future! And in his resurrection three days later, Hazrat Isa cleared the way for the greatest power for an actual life of love.
The only thing that keeps us out of God's kingdom is sin--failing to match up to his standard of perfection. The just result of sin is death and death is the greatest enemy and greatest fear for the common man. When love is required, the follower of Hazrat Isa has an example that causes him to love to the point of death, not dying in physical aggression toward others but dying if necessary because he chose to live in peace with his fellow man. But in that example he has the assurance that death is not the end, that as Hazrat Isa rose from the dead, he too will rise to eternity with God on the Day of Resurrection.
These very facts cause anger in the hearts of some people. Some are jealous of the peace they see in the followers of Hazrat Isa, yet they don't have the faith in God and the courage to join them. Others have been taught that these facts are wrong. However, the true follower of Hazrat Isa presses on knowing that he must follow the truth that he has experienced, proving the way of peace.
Many have found that the way to peace is to believe in the promises God has given through trust in the life and work of Hazrat Isa. It brings peace with God to the individual but also puts him at peace with others because the person who truly repents and believes in Hazrat Isa realizes that God, in his mercy, has put a new spirit within him or her. This action by God immediately gives the person a new family, a new kingdom, a new life and a new character. This brings peace in a number of ways:
Societies that have truly embraced Hazrat Isa's teachings and experienced God's peace, have been affected in mass by the example of those who live out these truths. They have not only provided a good place for themselves to live but have also shown love on those who have not chosen this way of peace.
Judging vs. Not Judging
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me remove the speck out of your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother's eye." (Injil, Book of Matthew 7:1-5)
Compassion vs. Aggression
"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. 'Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Injil, Book of Romans 1:17-25)
Power vs. God's Favour
"But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd." (Injil, Book of Matthew 9:36)
Honour vs. Shame
"who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Injil, Book of Hebrews 12:2)
Good vs. Evil
"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness." (Injil, Book of 1 Timothy 6:9-11)
These are the sins that are listed right alongside sexual immorality.
"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Injil, Book of Galatians 5:19-21)
Pride vs. Humility
(for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, `I shall have peace, even though I walk in the imagination of my heart' as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven. (Tawrat, Book of Deuteronomy 29:16-20)
There may never be lasting peace in this world. We also know that from the beginning of time true prophets of God have been unjustly killed. But each individual has a responsibility to promote peace so that his own soul will not come under God's judgment. This is a human responsibility not just the responsibility of Jews or Christians or Muslims or Hindus or Sikhs, but for everyone. It is a true statement that if God were to punish men as they deserved, he would not leave a single human being alive on this earth. The decisions we sense God is asking us may not be easy decisions, but we need to study carefully what God has revealed to us as human beings and then humbly follow it. We all need to examine our own actions before God and pray with the Hazrat Dawud (David),
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting." (Zabur, Book of Psalms 139)
As I write, I am praying this prayer myself. God doesn't always reveal these things in a moment. But it is my desire that as local communities and as a worldwide community we might all do this. That is why I write these things here. Then together as fellow human beings from various ethnic backgrounds, we will set an example of holiness and avoid any fulfillment of the famous proverb, "Advice for others; himself, a man of disgrace." May we encourage one another in these things and follow the way God has revealed to live in peace in this world.