Melchizadek Righteousness Peace
. In the old Genesis story Melchizedek is a strange and almost eerie figure. He arrives out of the blue; there is nothing about his life, his birth, his death or his descent. He simply arrives. He gives Abraham bread and wine which to us, reading the passage in the light of what we know, sounds so sacramental. He blesses Abraham. And then he vanishes from the stage of history with the same unexplained suddenness as he arrived. There is little wonder that in the mystery of this story the writer to the Hebrews found a symbol of Christ.
Melchizedek means king of righteousness. Salem means Peace. The order is at once significant and inevitable. Righteousness must always come before peace. Without righteousness there can be no such thing as peace. As Paul has it in Romans 5:1: “Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God.” As he has it again in Romans 14:17: “The kingdom of God is … righteousness, peace and joy.” The order is always the same—first righteousness and then peace.
(i) Men look for peace in escape. But the trouble about escape is that it is always necessary to return. A woman who lived in poverty. She leaves her home one afternoon and goes to a cinema. For an hour or two she escapes into the glamour and the luxury of the world of the film—and then she must go back home.
(ii) An old woman who lived in a terrible slum in Edinburgh called the Pans. Every now and again she would grow disgusted with the surroundings in which she lived and would make a tour of her friends, extracting a penny or two from each. With the proceeds she would get helplessly drunk. When others remonstrated with her she would answer: “Do you grudge me my one chance to get out of the Pans with a sup of whisky?”.
(iii) We should have a hobby, for we need as many retreats for our minds as possible.
(iv) But even there there is the necessity to return. Escape is not wrong; sometimes it is necessary if health and sanity are to be preserved; but it is always a palliative and never a cure.
(ii) There is the peace of evasion. We can find peace by refusing to face our problems—we push them into the back of our mind and seek to draw down the blind on them. However no one ever solved a problem by refusing to look at it. However much we evade it, it is still there. And problems are like diseases—the longer we refuse to face them the worse they get. We may well come to a stage when the disease is incurable and the problem insoluble. Also Psychology tells us that there is a part of the mind which never stops thinking. With our conscious minds we may be evading a problem but our subconscious mind is teasing away at it. The thing is there like a piece of hidden shrapnel in the body; and it can ruin life. So far from bringing peace, evasion is most destructive of peace.
(iii) There is the way of compromise. It is possible to arrive at some kind of peace by arriving at some kind of compromise. We can se ek peace by toning down some principle or by an uneasy agreement in which neither party is fully satisfied. We may compromise for long but the time comes when we must stand up and be counted if we want to sleep at nights. Compromise means the loose ends of things unsolved. Compromise, therefore, inevitably means tension, even if a more or less hidden tension; tension inevitably means a gnawing worry; and therefore compromise really is the enemy of peace.
(iv) There is the way of righteousness, or, to put it otherwise, the way of the will of God. There is no real peace for any one until he has said: “Thy will be done.” But once we have said that, peace floods our soul. It happened even to Jesus. He went into the Garden with a soul under such tension that he sweated blood. In the Garden he accepted God’s will and came out at peace. To take the way of righteousness, to accept God’s will is to remove the root of dis-peace and find the way to lasting peace.