William Barclay is a preacher and writer of some note in the Church of Scotland. His books should be read with discrimination, but they can be very refreshing and informative. I was impressed by his comment on the seventh beatitude. In part, here is what he said: “The blessing is on the peace-makers not necessarily on the peace-lovers. It very often happens that if a man loves peace in the wrong way, he succeeds in making trouble and not peace. We may, for instance, allow a threatening and dangerous situation to develop and our defence is that for peace’s sake we do not want to take any action. There is many a person who thinks he is loving peace, when in fact he is piling up trouble for the future, because he refuses to face the situation and to take the action which the situation demands. The peace which the bible calls blessed does not come from the evasion of issues; it comes from facing them, dealing with them and conquering them. What this beatitude demands is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even when the way to peace is through struggle” (Daily Bible Study, Matthew, I, Westminster Press).
Everybody knows that what Mr. Barclay says here is true. Nations have lost their freedom because representatives sat around a conference table and let the smoke of a phoney peace pipe get in their eyes. We do not need to go back farther than World War II for a classic example of this. Some European statesmen wanted peace so much that they let the mad paper-hanger deceive them and the Nazi swastika became the symbol of bondage for most of Central Europe. The head of our president must rest uneasily on his pillow because his decisions may very well kindle a fire that could destroy half the world in a fortnight. I am glad I do not sit in his chair. In times like these, it must indeed be a lonely place.
The people of this nation want to live in peace. But peace has its price. Sometimes that price is high. What are we willing to pay? What risks are we prepared to take if the way to peace is through struggle? It has been said that the brave often do not live long; the fearful do not live at all.
Peace in Zion
What has been said here concerning peace is no less true as it applies to the church. Sometimes peace must come through struggle. The period of prosperity that began with the Roosevelt’s “new deal” and was accelerated by WW II created an atmosphere that has enabled the church to enjoy an economic growth unprecedented. With the economic growth came a corresponding numerical growth. Word got around that we were the fastest growing religious body in the country. I doubt that this was ever true, but it sounded good. Anyway we came from “across the tracks” out of modest church buildings into magnificent structures whose steeples and windows, in many cases, cost more money than the average church building a generation ago. Nice buildings are fine if they don’t cost too much. But the ones I am thinking about cost too much-not simply in money-but they symbolize a people who have largely forgotten who we are and what makes the church great. Money and expensive buildings didn’t do it. The greatest growth the church ever had, both in numbers and spiritual strength, was at a time when many of the leaders of the church spent a lot of their time in jails; at a time when the very name, Christian, was worth dying for. You cannot buy that with money. If you care about the church it makes your heart ache to see a once great people surrendering their glorious heritage for the fawning recognition of those who have always been enemies of the truth.
On the March
Big money attracts men with big plans. So when we began to feel our financial strength, plans began to materialize whereby money from hundreds of churches could be pooled in one treasury. This would be bigger than anything undertaken since the Missionary Society of 1849. The Missionary Society split the church. This plan would do what the society of 1849 was designed to do. So Broadway church in Lubbock became a “sponsoring church.” Money from churches throughout the country poured into the treasury of this big church. “Missionaries” were sent abroad under the “oversight of the Lubbock church.” Other things were done. A church building was erected in Frankfurt, Germany costing $190,000.00 It has since been sold or taken over by the University of Frankfurt.
Another plan made its appearance that was designed to finance a nation-wide and eventually a world-wide radio broadcast. This too would require money from hundreds of churches, perhaps thousands eventually. Protests from all over the country were heard, butthey fell on deaf ears. The church was on the march. I do not doubt that a sincere desire to save souls was a major factor in their determination to continue this program. The same was true of those who established the Missionary Society. But, whatever their motive, the Herald of Truth is nothing less than an effort to activated the church universal, and it cannot be scripturally defended. Not only that, but it has done more to split the church than any other project. Moreover it is the most overrated of all the projects. I may not get around as much as Brother Cawyer from Highland in Abilene, but I have preached in meetings in 22 states since the Herald of Truth made its debut. I have read what is said about it. I have been where it was broadcast.
Peace at any Price!
But, whether scriptural or not, I think that the Herald of Truth will continue for some time, and likely get bigger. Many people accept it without question. These would accept most anything that some “leading preachers” endorse. Others. have gone along with it, but with considerable misgivings. That is their idea of keeping peace among brethren. Still others know that it cannot be defended scripturally, but they, too, console themselves with the thought that it is better to have peace by compromise than by struggle. Let me say with Mr. Barclay: “What this beatitude demands (blessed are the peacemakers) is not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things and the making of peace even though the making of peace is through struggle.”
Truth Magazine XXI: 40, pp. 633-634
October 13, 1977