The speed of current world events has taken many people by surprise – from politicians to the public, and from analysts to activists. With the pace of change comes a dawning realisation: many measures seen as a “last resort” are now very firmly on the table.
Warfare, in particular, has excruciating tools at its disposal to inflict pain on an enemy and even the whole population of a country. These are not just limited to the hammer blow of a nuclear missile exploding in a major city; you can escalate with strategic and tactical use of all sorts of means. But warfare itself has been seen as a last resort by most European governments for the last 80 years. There are numerous treaties and policies which aim to exclude this pain for as long as possible, in favour of diplomacy or even tough justice.
If Biblical prophecy is anything to go by, the world still has a fair amount of pain lined up. Although we now see a total capsize of political systems in some areas, this is nothing compared to the absolute destruction which humans will bring to their own countries. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of the end for many governments and powers!
But the Bible is not a last resort of the type seen in warfare. We cannot fall into the trap of thinking that it is only relevant when there is no other path. Instead, we can look at it the other way round: we think all the other paths are irrelevant because we have the Biblical account.
Believers through the ages have held the Bible as an unerring guide in times of peace as well as war. It is ever so tempting to lead a life of self-reliance when times are good. But this is a trap we must not fall into.
The Gospel of Luke has two important lessons in its chapter 12. The first comes between verses 13 and 21. In this passage, Jesus reminds his listeners of a poor “peacetime” attitude – fostering this idea that people can plan everything for themselves, and find goodness in their material possessions.
War itself often revolves around material conflicts, although this is by no means always the case, as we can see at the time of writing. Nevertheless, materialism and sibling philosophies will often provoke envy and greed, but also a false sense of satisfaction when somebody “achieves” what they are looking for.
We also think about the concerns which people hold when they are told that their nation, land or wealth is under threat. It seems only too natural to fret, worry and lie awake at night.
When it comes to sorrow about the loss of life and limb, this is entirely understandable, as we process the grief and wonder if we will be able to strengthen ourselves, our families and our friends.
However, whether it is about the lives of ourselves and those dear to us, or providing for ourselves, Luke (and the rest of the Bible) can offer something so much better. From verse 22, we see how the smallest metaphors can give confidence in all that God can do. And God is not just a Deity who gives His believers enough food, water, clothing and shelter; the promise to the faithful changes their world entirely.
Take a moment to reflect on the contrast with the art of camouflage. For many years, armies have used camouflage to conceal their troops in the face of the enemy. In this way, humans have used the patterns of nature to hide their forces who wish to destroy each other.
But rather than using natural life to cover up great brutality, God uses it to reveal how even the tiniest parts of His Creation are symbols of His provision.
“When all else fails?” “A last resort?” “Bottom of the pile?”
None of these phrases express what faith in God should be. Instead, because all else fails, build on God’s Word. When boots are on the ground, use it as your foundation from the ground upwards.