C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity gave one of his vivid illustrations about how things work in God’s universe. I sort of re-state it and adapt it to what I call: “Three Categories of World Peace”
- Peace between people
- Peace within persons
- Peace with the proprietor
Imagine a fleet of ships sailing in formation toward an intended destination. The voyage is only a success if three things take place – representing three aspects of peace.
First of all, they can’t collide and sink one another. They have to be on a course of peace with each other, a route that not only works for each individual ship, but for the whole convoy. They have to “get along” with each other, and even though the sea is vast, it isn’t immense enough to accommodate the selfish wills of each ship in it. They must have peace between ships.
Secondly, in order for the voyage to be successful, each ship has to be seaworthy, with each of her parts in working order. Each individual vessel has to be functional within itself, otherwise there’s the threat of damaging the original mission. You can’t have the one without the other. If there isn’t peace between the ships and they constantly collide with the others, none will remain afloat for long. On the other hand, if the steering mechanism is dysfunctional they won’t be able to avoid collisions between them. Each ship has to be at peace with itself for the voyage of the whole to be achieved.
Thirdly, the course itself and destination of the fleet has to be addressed. However functional each vessel is within itself or how impressive their unison as they sit in the deep, the journey will be a failure if the owner intended the fleet to reach New York and it actually arrived in San Francisco. The owner of all the vessels has to be consulted and each ship follow the course he has set.
This is the way it is with human morality and the three aspects of peace. It only works when all three of the elements are taken into account. First, we have to get along with each other (at peace among ourselves). All sane people want this, though we don’t all agree as to how to get there. Second, each of us must be in working order within ourselves (at peace within ourselves). There are about as many theories as to how to achieve this sort of peace as there are people in the world. Third, we have to submit to the plan and purpose of the owner of the fleet (at peace with the one giving the orders).
The first sort of peace is what seems to get most of the attention in our world. Almost everyone wants people to get along and have social harmony (world peace). It’s the other two that are debated and neglected. And unless I’m mistaken, those are key to the first. Successful social relations aren’t possible among people who aren’t well within themselves, and to be personally well requires an accurate assessment of the journey and who’s in charge of it.
There’s the person who says that a certain attitude or action of his own “… can’t be wrong if it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” As long as his ship doesn’t sink any others, what’s the big deal? Whatever his own life’s course and his own individual working order is his own business. But what he fails to see is that his vessel, if it doesn’t sail straight because of its own brokenness will eventually run into others in the fleet and do irreparable damage. If people remain twisted and dysfunctional within themselves, no matter what code of social conduct they agree to, they won’t be able to keep code and will inevitably hurt one another. We have to have peace within ourselves in order to achieve it among ourselves. Whatever social or political system we concoct to improve our chances of peace on earth without cutting away at our fundamental selfish nature, is doomed to failure. Thus, morality on the inside of each of us is key to harmony among us.
But the most important question is, “Who owns these ships? Is there an owner or is each ship in charge of its own course? And if there is a proprietor, what’s his intended destination for his convoy?” There’s no doubt that this makes a difference in the path I take. If someone else made me and owns me, then I am responsible to him in how I conduct myself with his property (me!). And if I do have a maker/proprietor, then it befits me to be at peace with him by keeping my own vessel in ship-shape and stay the course he’s given me and get along with others of like kind.
Peace, then, is between ships, on board each ship, and between each ship and its owner. Until we see personal and social peace, global peace is a pipe dream.
Even so, come quickly Prince of Peace!
3 Replies to “Three Prerequisites to World Peace”
Great post and a fascinating analogy. Thanks.
Barney – I always appreciated how you make the complex easy for me to understand! Along the same vein I recently added this video to the Praize.com Teachings – http://www.praize.com/videos/Detailed/Mark_Gungor/You_Matter__J1480.html about how God is orchestrating everything & everyone all the time.
Be Blessed, JIM
Reblogged this on Musing the Mysteries and commented:
I’m reblogging this from over three years ago. It seems to me that Mr. Lewis, who shared the original metaphor during WWII, would be quite disappointed with our progress toward personal, social, or global peace.