winwinRemember the Marshall plan? Named after the then U.S. Secretary of State, George C. Marshall(1947), it was a financial aid programme funded by the United States, “for the recovery of war-devastated Europe: former Allies, belligerents and neutrals…all that had suffered damage and privation during the war…” (Martin Gilbert)

The rationale for the Marshall plan was given by President Truman:”Twice within our generation, world wars have taught us that we cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of the world…” The Marshall plan probably did more to topple the Soviet Communist Bloc than all the armaments produced by the West during the Cold War. It seems prudent to bear this in mind as bombs fall yet again, this time in Afghanistan.

The attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon cannot be justified by any system of ethics. Arguably, the U.S.’ present war against “terrorism” is a “just” war. There may be just wars. But there are no good wars. Its so easy to bomb and kill. Its so much harder to make peace.

Yet September 11 and its aftermath may yet have a redeeming function–if it is seen as a wake up call, telling us that life as usual cannot continue. We cannot have a world where a small fraction enjoys the fruits and rewards of the ”new economy” while millions go without the basics of life and of human dignity.

Paradoxically this sad divide may have been easier to maintain in a pre-global age. But not in a connected world where “the rich man and lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31) and those they represent are fully aware of how the other half lives.

The bombs will stop sometime and someone will declare that the war has been won. If we are to win the peace as well, as Fareed Zakaria reminds us, “The United States (and others) must help Islam enter the modern world.” He goes on to say:

“It sounds like an impossible challenge, and it certainly is not one we ( the U.S.) would have chosen. But America – indeed the whole world – faces a dire security threat that will not be resolved unless we can stop the political, economic and cultural collapse that lies at the roots of Arab rage.” Newsweek,October 15, 2001, International Edition,26.

Should Christians be concerned to help Islam enter the modern world? Yes, if it would help address any legitimate roots of Islamic rage. Yes, if we to take seriously Paul”s words in 1 Timothy 2: 1-4:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” NRSV

But make no mistake. The only real and final solution to the deepest problems of humankind is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed recent events should also be a fresh kick in the pants for all bible believing Christians to recommit themselves to the task of missions and evangelism, albeit with a sensitivity that is careful to separate the gospel from our cultural baggage.

Ultimately, the wars and the rumours of wars will only cease when Christ returns. Indeed when I hear someone pray that God should stop all wars and conflicts in this world I always wonder if the person praying realizes that he or she is actually praying for Christ to return at that very moment.

Crying for Christ to return and to wind up this chapter of human history may not be that bad an idea. But as long as He chooses to tarry, we must do all we can:

To minimize the conflicts of a fallen world.

To preach the gospel that is the only guarantee of entry to the new heavens and the new world.