“Peace, if possible, truth at all costs.”: Martin Luther
The quote at the beginning seems to be a good motivation but can it really be lived? Or let me rephrase the question: Should we really keep truth above peace? After all peace is the most important in any society.
“With firm faith in our hearts, to sustain us along the hard road to victory, we will find our way to a secure peace, for the ultimate benefit of all humanity.”: Harry Tuman, 33rd president of the United States of America.1
As the society is growing with everyone being driven by emotions rather than truth as basis, it has now become a trend of subjectivity of truth and to maintain peace by repeating the slogan "You keep your truth, I will keep mine."
With such an approach rising, the Christian is being attacked for their exclusive truth claims. The "Jesus is the only way" being the most hurtful to the "peacekeepers".
Jesus himself said "Blessed are the peacemakers"2. This should act as a motivation for Christians to make sure that they do not engage in preaching or thoughts that cause hindrance in peace.
Let us first examine the teaching of Jesus himself and then we will see the relevance of truth in maintaining peace.
Who is a peacemaker?
The word used by Jesus in Matthew 5:9 which is only once used to describe peacemaker is "εἰρηνοποιοί". This word has a specific meaning which means “to declare God's terms which makes someone whole.” It means that when Jesus talks about peacemaking, he is talking about sharing the message, if I may dare, the exclusive message of God's truth which reconciles people to him. Hence, when a Christian is engaging in discussion about Jesus, Bible and the truth of it, he is actually following what Jesus asked him to do.
Coming to the relevancy of truth with peace. Peace without truth is neither fruitful, nor sustainable. For example: Just so peace prevails, a doctor lies to his patient who is terminally ill. The repercussion will be that patient will continue to suffer and at the end would go ahead and look for different medical advice and would be very angry at the doctor who lied. At the end the truth was inevitable death which the patient will face.
Imagine a peace treaty being signed between 2 nations and treaty is not based on truth (rather on lies). This might end up in a war again.
We can see from these 2 examples that truth is very much essential for peace. I would rephrase Justice D.Y. Chandrachud,
"The relationship that truth shares with [peace] is that of both a sword and a shield. The scope for extensive deliberation, particularly in the age of social media, exposes multiple “truths” so much so that it seems like we live in an “age of lies”, and that shakes the very foundation of a [peace]."
It may not be wrong to say that truth is the protector or shield of peace. If lies are rampant in a society, then peace can never be maintained. But it may also be noted that truth acts as a weapon to slay away the lies which are making it difficult to achieve a peaceful society. Hence, to proclaim that we should not preach or speak the truth just because it offends someone is a false notion.
Coming back to the original question from where we started. What should we pursue? I think we need to take a look at the Bible. The Bible commands us that our “message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that any opponent will be ashamed, because he doesn’t have anything bad to say about us.”3
“Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct he should show that his works are done in the gentleness that comes from wisdom.”4 We are asked to work with gentleness. Hence, implying that our discussions or preaching must not reach to a point where gentleness is lost. Truth may be sewed into the heart of a person instead of ripping their heart apart from sword of truth.
So, I will end with this. Speak truth with meekness so that Truth Shall Prevail (Satyamev Jayate)5 and peace may be achieved.
- Matthew 5:9, NIV
- Titus 2:8, CSB
- James 3:13, CSB
- National Motto of India