I was on a visit to the Peace Palace, earlier this year, when I inadvertently disturbed the peace.
The Peace Palace is home of the International Court of Justice (the judicial entity of the United Nations) in The Hague, Netherlands, and a primary setting for my new book, Trial and Error (see p. 4). I was there doing research, and took a grand tour of that magnificent structure – its great halls, intricate tiles, sweeping arches, and wide stairways. At the top of one of those stairways, I looked across and saw a statue of a bearded, robed figure, holding a cross.
"Isn’t that Jesus?" I asked.
The question seemed to stun our tour guide, who up to now had been speaking with reverent awe as she offered detailed information on every aspect of the palace. She hurriedly dismissed the question, telling me we could talk about it a little later. But, after the tour, she didn’t mention it again. So I did. Again, she seemed embarrassed.
"I apologize that you had to see an image that reminded you of a religious personality," she said. "This is a place of peace, not a place for religion or division. That is not a statue of Jesus, as you may think."
She could never quite bring herself to tell me who else she thought it might be. She did tell me that the statue was a replica of an original (pictured, right) that stands in the Andes Mountains, sculpted there to remind the world of the peace between Chile and Argentina – a peace accomplished, in part, by international mediation efforts over a period of years.
The statue, then, was intended as a tribute to the secular peacemakers, she assured me – not to the One the Bible describes as "the Prince of Peace." (I later learned that this statue that wasn’t Jesus is called "Christ the Redeemer of the Andes.")
What lingers with me, all these months later, is how clearly that tour guide’s reaction mirrors the world in which our children and grandchildren are coming of age. We live in an era at once determined to deny the reality of Jesus, and horrified that so many of us refuse to become complicit in that denial. We live in a world that wants peace without God, and truth without Jesus Christ.
May God give us the grace to know Christ when we see Him … and the courage not to deny Him before those who will not see.
John 15:5 Apart from Christ, we can do nothing.