Guest post by Rob Tims
I’m a Ronald Reagan guy. Jelly Beans. Sense of humor. Ability to communicate. I mean, I just really, really loved the guy. I still do. If you haven’t been to his library in California, go. It’s pretty wonderful.
If there was a phrase that summarized President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy in the 1980’s, it would be Reagan’s own: “Peace through strength.” Though he was not the first to understand the principle and use the phrase, Reagan stands out in history as a leader loyal to the practice. In his 8 years as President, he increased defense spending by 35%, improved relations with the Soviet Union, oversaw the collapse of communism in that region, declared war on international terrorism, and more. Such actions showed his commitment to the principle of “peace through strength.” Reagan demonstrated that by amassing power and flexing one’s ability to use it against those who would cause harm, peace can be kept.
Critics, however, have tried to point out that a faithful devotee to this policy will inevitably give in to the temptation to put that strength to work. “Peace through strength” eventually becomes “Peace through war,” they argue.
I cannot speak authoritatively to the pros and cons of this foreign policy, but I find it fascinating that the same principle is often at work spiritually, and how it inevitably leads to “war” with God, rather than peace.
To relate to God through the mindset of “peace through strength” is to dictate the terms of your life and relationship with God to Him. It is to say, “I will be the one in this relationship who will tell You how things must go. And to the degree that You allow things to happen according to my plans and expectations, you and I will be at peace. My strength and your submission to it will give me peace.”
The problem, of course, is that God rarely acts according to our demands on Him. We do not have peace in our relationship with God by strong-arming Him into meeting our demands. We have peace with God through His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2), which is a relationship of grace towards us, not strength from us. And such a relationship leads not to a life of our own choosing, but a life of suffering … suffering we rejoice in because it produces perseverance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-4).
Spiritually speaking, “peace through strength” is really “tumult and war.” “Peace through grace” is joy in suffering due to what it produces and where it leads us.
Which are you choosing?
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.