North versus South, and then the End
It has been almost one hundred and fifty years since the Civil War in the United States. God knows how many other civil wars have been fought in other countries and cultures since that conflagration carved a permanent scar on the souls or all involved while at the same time installing rifts between regions and peoples that persist into this day and age. One might even argue that civil conflict is one of humankind's most remarkable and self-perpetuating talents. We are good at fighting in general, and when that fighting is between brothers, sisters and cousins it is often expressed at its most brutal and most durable levels. I know folks in both the North and the South who are still fighting battles their great-great-great-great grandfathers originally took up arms to fight in both word and deed.
When I read the words of Daniel's and John's concluding chapters, I find myself reflecting on the truth that these impressions rendered are not of things that will occur...or even that they depict events that have already happened in a future-past sort of tense. They more accurately describe our own human state of being...our penchant to discover, foster and maintain brokenness in our societies over and against a vision of a state of peace fully expressed in communion and covenant with God--the vision of a heaven-descended city of perfected proportion and estate--that is eventually rolled out over what is left in the settled dust of our inveterate squabbling.
It isn't easy to come to a place wherein we as a society find unity in the understanding that life without God's peace is ultimately unsustaianable. Sure, our resistance to that peace is considerable and enduring...but Daniel's and John's visions are the perfect opportunity to get our hearts and minds ready to at least ponder the alternative to civil war...that there might be peace and reconciliation that in God's time that heals us of our recidivism of tending to hold "the other" in contempt.
Eventually...and I do love that word, eventually... we will know a peace which passes all understanding. We just have to allow God in to those peace talks for it to truly endure. Until we see God in the other, and not the other as an opponent, peace will only be a promise, a vision. The heavenly city, adorned as the bride of the lamb, will have to wait for a time, at least until we learn to set down civil conflict. Until then it will be North versus South, East versus West.