What would it be like? What would it look like? How different would the world operate if humankind could all get on the same page?
These are questions many people have stopped asking. The dream of world peace is just that for most people: a dream that tantalizes the fancy for a moment, only to disappear quickly as we wake up to reality.
The Bible has two stories about world peace. One is world peace on humankind’s terms; the other is world peace on God’s terms. The first account is in Genesis 11:1-9.
All humans spoke the same language, and were striving for the same goal: to build a city for themselves with a tower to the heavens. They were out to make a name for themselves, a human culture centered on self-actualization. The tower of Babel wasn’t so much about reaching heaven; it was about invading it. The Serpent’s voice still echoed in their minds “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open, and you will be like God.”
God mercifully wrecked our plans. The Tower of Babel was a monument of confusion. It was humankind’s attempt to become gods, to live out world peace without the God of peace. We lost a common language, but we are better for it. A single language is only useful if those speaking it tell the truth. If human communication perpetuates the lie that we can be gods, it’s better to misunderstand one another. In this context, confusion is mercy. If we’re going to speak lies to each other, a language barrier is an act of God’s mercy.
When God reached out to humanity, he didn’t do it from afar. God didn’t sit in the heavens and send a lighting bolt of confusion to thwart human progress. He came down (Genesis 11:5) because the myth of progress had us on a road to self-destruction.
God coming down in mercy is at the center of the Bible’s second story of world peace. Jesus came down and hung on a cross to ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9). God’s mercy dispersed us into nations with different languages; God’s grace will put us back together again.
Human-centered world peace built a monument of arrogant confusion and ended in disintegration. God-centered world peace is the end of the story. Because of Jesus the story will end, not with humankind’s tower of arrogance reaching into the heavens, but with God’s heaven coming to earth.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.