Love without Bread

BREAD IS AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE

Bread is an instrument of good will, love and peace.  It is unfortunate that it has become and shall be so even more a tool to buy favors and subdue other human beings.  Illegal ways are used to secure bread.  The devil wanted Jesus to use his power to turn stones into bread.  Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Mt. 4:4).  Man has used bread for different reasons.

King Solomon mastered the use of bread and enjoyed the longest time of peace with Israel’s enemies.  He turned them into friends.  His policy was, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov. 25:21).  Solomon, unlike his father David, ceased fighting with fire and heating it up with oil.  A person with a full stomach had no reason to be angry.  The first impulse has been to starve the enemy.  Take their bread away and create more hate.  Jesus went several steps farther.  Bread alone will not always appease the one that has the upper hand.  A favorable attitude and readiness to comply may have to accompany bread.  These words came out of the Lord’s mouth, “You have heard it said, ‘Eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you, ‘Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if some one wants your shirt, give him your jacket also.  If someone wants you to go a mile, go with him two.  Give to the one that demands, and do not turn away him that wants to borrow from you’” (Mt. 5:38-42).  Of course this is unfair, but it can release hostile tensions and save lives.  I lived under three systems where I did not dare open my mouth.

The Arameans were threatening Israel constantly, but Elisha the prophet kept the king of Israel informed.  It angered the king of Aram and he sent a substantial contingent to apprehend the prophet.  Elisha blinded or hypnotized these soldiers and led them into Samaria.  When they opened their eyes, they were trapped.  The king of Israel wanted to execute them but Elisha asked, “Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow?  Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and sent them back to their master.” The king of Israel did as the prophet had suggested and the Arameans no longer bothered Israel (II Ki. 6:8-23).  During Joshua’s conquet of Canaan we have this incident of a people, the Gibeonites. “But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception.  They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended.  The men put worn sandals on their feet and wore old clothes.  All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy.  Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, ‘we come from a distant country to make a treaty with us” (Jos. 9).  In spite of their deception, the treaty was upheld.  Bread or food saved these people’s lives.

At the end of World War II a bottle of wine saved a town from being destroyed.  We had ran from the Russians and settled briefly in a town called Bruchstedt, Turingen where my mother gave birth to my youngest brother.  I was fifteen and held my brother in my arms when I heard strange noises on the road.  I opened the door and looked into the barrel of a gun held by a man with a strange uniform and I heard him say, “boy and baby.” I closed the door and called my parents and said, ”The American are here.”  Immediately my folks hung out a white sheet in the upstairs window and within minutes the whole street had had white sheets hanging out of windows.  Our father went outside and found a soldier that could speak Polish and after a few words, a bottle of wine appeared and they were having a toast.  The partying did not last long.  The Americans disappeared as quietly as they had come.  In the morning, German tanks with SS soldiers were back in town.  The Americans had withdrawn far enough and the Germans followed and ran out of fuel and ammunition about a kilometer from town.  Not a sing shell was aimed at the town and no one was hurt.  As I reminisce, there is no doubt in my mind that the white bed sheets and a bottle of wine saved the town.  Unfortunately, we ran again when the Americans handed the territory over to the Russians.  At the end of 1945, we settled in the American zone and lived in a house that was damaged and civilians had died.  No white flags or wine had welcomed the Americans in this town.

Isaiah the prophet had this vision when bread and not guns would lead to peace and understanding among all peoples (Isa. 2:1-5). “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.  Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the maintain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob.  He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his path.’ The law will go out of Zion, the word of God from Jerusalem.  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.  They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up swords against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” Jesus had come to introduce such a time but could not do it.  He too brought or caused the sword to continue division and destruction (Mt. 10:34). 

God left that mission to us.  We can turn and we must turn weapons of war into farming equipment in order to raise bread and feed each other.  If we do not change, we shall see tragic results of horror the world has never seen.  According to Revelation two thirds of humanity will be exterminated mostly by starvation (Rev. 9:5-8).  From my own past I remember when we became hungry.  It was when we were separated from our land and raising our own crops that we became dependant on others to feed and keep us from starving.  The first thing we looked for in a new environment was some garden space to plant some essentials like potatoes, beats and some vegetables.  It was amazing how little gardens could put some food on tables among us displaced by the war.  The locals endorsed our efforts and it led to a lasting peace among us.  We had not come to be fed, but to feed ourselves.  With that attitude, we were able to gain the friendship of the local residence.  Our story of survival was similar to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, except that we were in far larger numbers that sought exile in West Germany.  It was an enormous strain on the residence and the refugees that had to merge and get along on far less land than Germany had before the war.

Jeremiah had the unpleasant task to inform the Jewish Exiles how to survive in unfriendly Babylon.   He informed them that it was God’s will that they do as instructed for their own sake. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may have sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:4-7).  The Jews did listen to Jeremiah the second time.  The first time, he had counseled them to go peacefully to Babylon and they listened to the false prophets of hope instead to Jeremiah and suffered needlessly. 

This time the Jews obeyed Jeremiah and the results speak for themselves.  This is what Cyrus king of Persia decreed, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judah.  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; for he is the God who is in Jerusalem and let each survivor, in whatever place he lives, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2-4).  It was when the subdued people proved themselves valuable to their captives by contributing to the economy and in leadership that they warmed their hearts into the kings and were rewarded for their cooperation.  

Bread did then and still can today bring not only peace between hostile people but also establish relationship that last.  Not all the Jews returned from exile and those that did caused trouble when they forced the inhabitants to separate from their Gentile mates (Ezra 9-10).  Instead of building families and healing wounds of separation, Ezra and Nehemiah closed the door to the people who felt obligated to their own children they had fathered with Gentile partners.  They had returned to the land but not to raise bread.  They spent their resources on building a temple and the wall of a city instead of feeding the people.  Similar to what Solomon had done, these leaders impoverished their own people by overspending on religious structures and political fences and created suspicion with their neighbors by separating from them.  The sad part was then and still is today that people persist in believing that they please their God, when in actually the Creator’s commands nullify their actions and so does human nature itself.  Jesus came to bring peace, but man has turned his peace into a sword (Jn. 14:27; Mt. 10:34).  God had his angels announce that He was offering all mankind peace and good will (Lk. 2:14).  Peace is the evidence whether one comes from God or is a child of God because they can break bread with all men (Mt. 10:13; Mt. 5:9).  However, before we can break bread, we have to raise it; it does not grow by itself.