Meditations for Troubled Times
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18)
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
“For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.’” (1 Peter 3:10-11)
Once upon a time, there was a Calvinist stranded on a deserted island in the South Pacific. About thirty years later, he was found by some fisherman, and they noticed he had built three huts. They asked if there were more people with him. He told them that the hut in the middle was his home and that the hut on the left was the church he used to attend, but he no longer liked the people. The hut on the right was the church he attended now. I’m sure you’ve heard variations of this story, and it would be humorous if it wasn’t often true for some of us.
Then there are these questions:
Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace? All communing members at Grace Church have answered yes to this question. Ruling elders and deacons also answer yes to a further question: Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity and edification of the Church? Not only this, but ministers of the gospel also answer yes to a similar question: Do you promised to be zealous and faithful in maintaining truths of the Gospel and the peace and unity of the Church, whatever persecution or opposition may arise unto you on that account?
And they all lived happily ever after, right?
What are the reasons for these questions? Scripture ties our participation as a body of Christ to strive, study and be zealous for peace. Conflict in churches leads to a coolness toward evangelism. Some of you men may remember the book study by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert on “What Is the Mission of the Church?” One of the chapters studied covered various views about seeking Shalom (peace). Is this the use of the word peace in the verses referenced above, or is it something else? I believe the context of these verses is a different aspect of peace. These verses deal more with the day-to-day relationships of brothers and sisters in Christ. What specifically does this look like in our daily lives. Is it a matter of giving in and “letting the wookie win”?
As we’ve been learning from the messages from Luke 12:49-14, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, disrupted the theology of the church leaders. This is where the purity aspect of our membership vows comes in. There is no peace without purity of doctrine. A young assistant pastor asked his senior pastor what he was to do if he disagreed with him. The pastor answered, “Bring your Bible and talk to me.” “Yes, but what if this is not a doctrinal issue? What if I really don’t like the way I’m being treated by another believer?” Jesus makes it clear:
“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
This is the only time that God puts up a stop sign to worship.
It seems Paul faced this with Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2-3 as he exhorted these two women who worked with him to get it together for the Lord’s sake. We have other conflicts recorded in Scripture, and these are good things to study to learn how to deal with one another without manipulation. Here is the wonderful truth: The Holy Spirit, the Comforter, is present to help us in our struggles with one another. Jesus has not left us alone. (See John 14:18, 25-27.)
Here are two excellent resources on this topic which your elders have used in working through people’s conflicts:
- “The Peacemaker” by Ken Sande (with the companion workbook)
- “From Forgiven to Forgiving” by Jay Adams.
We received a wonderful benediction Sunday night: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)