Eyes on the Prize
Another Black History Month has come, accompanied by the third anniversary of the inauguration of the nation’s first Black president.
At this midpoint of his tenure, are there accomplishments to make us proud and to celebrate during this Black History Month?
For some, this is an easy question to answer based on their political alignment. Some would give a resounding yes, and others a booming no. The latter group cite the $1.6 trillion added to the deficit as proof positive. Nevertheless, health-care reform, financial reform, help to the banking and car industries to boost the economy, averting a depression—the stock markets are rebounding and the recession seems to have passed—indicate progress for the former.
Few would disagree that these are difficult times that would challenge any president. Nothing seems to come easy for this president. Receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize that should have been a highlight brought challenges. Given since 1901, Nobel Awards are named for Alfred Nobel, the Swede who invented dynamite. Nobel’s will directed that the Peace Prize be given “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Receipt of this prestigious award placed President Obama among stalwarts such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Obama’s award was for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” after only 10 months in office. This is fascinating.
Significantly, he is one of only eight African and African-Americans to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He is one of only three African-Americans to receive it—the others are Ralph J. Bunche, and Martin Luther King, Jr. President Obama is one of three sitting U.S. presidents to receive this recognition (a total of four presidents). Special for Black history is that as the only African- American president he is one of one to receive the honor, becoming a good role model at a time when they are hard to find—especially for African-American youth.
However, what does all of this mean for the prospect of world peace? President Obama’s Nobel acceptance speech admits challenges to peace. It acknowledges “the hard truth: we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations—acting individually or in concert—will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.” This significant statement admits peace isn’t only outside of the reach of humans; it isn’t theirs to give.
Because the human heart “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), no one can know it. That’s why Jesus predicted wars and rumors of war (Matthew 24:6). That’s also why human response to each other is unpredictable, making it ne-cessary for the United Nations to monitor international conflict. We need God’s transforming power to remold our minds from within to do what’s right.
President Obama is correct, for true peace is the gift of God, and lasting peace will come only when Christ returns and establishes everlasting peace. This isn’t pessimism; it’s realism. As the president’s acceptance speech admits, history records endless attempts at peace. Yet it remains elusive despite the many organizations established to assure it. Humans still haven’t learned what Dr. King observed and President Obama quoted: “violence never brings permanent peace and solves no social problems.” That takes Jesus, the Prince of Peace!
The president’s Nobel acceptance speech gives three thoughtful delineations of what’s required to ensure peace. Though eloquently presented, they lack the most essential ingredient—God. King Arthur got it telling Sir Bedivere: “Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of” (Tennyson, The Passing of Arthur I: 414).
Micah got it, asking, “What does the Lord require of you” (Micah 6:8). His answer is still germane: “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
While we salute the president for his Nobel Prize and the committee for its efforts in promoting peace, we await the day when we “shall beat swords . . . into plowshares . . . spears into pruning hooks; [when] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). That will be a glorious day! Everlasting blessedness will reign! “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). There’ll be nothing to hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain. At last we’ll have change we can believe in—eternal change— “for affliction shall not rise up the second time” (Nahum 1:9).