Hiroo Onoda fought the Second World War for thirty-two years. Though the war ended in 1945, a few scattered enclaves of Japanese soldiers had no way to know this. Onoda was one of the last of these holdouts. Cut off from his home, constantly on guard, he battled with police and sabotaged farms at the edge of the Philippine wilderness for twenty-nine more years.
Onoda’s war continued until Norio Suzuki left Japan and came after him. Suzuki joked that finding Onoda in the jungle would be like finding the Abominable Snowman—but find him he did. Still, Onoda would not surrender without orders from his superior officer. Within weeks, Japan sent Onoda’s former commander, a Major cum bookseller, to the Philippines. On March 9th, 1974, Major Taniguchi delivered the news: Japan was at peace—and had been for decades. Finally, Onoda surrendered, and the Philippines pardoned him for his actions.
Like Onoda, all of us were once at war. In sin, an old cycle is at work. Strife leads to strife. We are enemies of God (Romans 5:10), enemies of our neighbor (Ephesians 2:12), and even our own nature is at war within us (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:23). But Christ has triumphed over sin. First, through Him, we are reconciled to God. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). That peace is the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.
Like Onoda’s commander, the Holy Spirit comes to us in our wilderness and gives us peace. With the fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit starts a new cycle. We love because God loves us. We have peace with God, so we find peace with our neighbor. “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:13–14). The Holy Spirit leads us and bears fruit in our life, so we do not gratify our sinful nature (Galatians 5:16), and by the Spirit, we are able to have peace with ourselves.
In that way, we are different from Onoda. His commander brought news that peace had come through defeat. His war was lost. The Holy Spirit comes to us to tell us that our war is won. The peace of the Holy Spirit is the peace of Christ’s triumph, not over us, but over our enemies of sin and death. We are not defeated; instead, the Holy Spirit gives us a conqueror’s share in Christ’s victory and peace. Peace between us and God. Peace inside for the believer. Peace within the Church. Peace for the nations. We do not stand guard any longer but surrender to the Holy Spirit as the guardian of our hearts. And because of Christ Jesus, the peace of God, “which transcends all understanding,” continues to guard our hearts and minds, granting us His perfect peace (Philippians 4:7).
Written by David Chaniott