Pastor Eric J. Hanson
In this article we shall explore one aspect of relating to others properly; that of being peacemakers.
Peace is a great theme of the Bible. It is mentioned 412 times. Additionally, peacemakers is mentioned 8 times, and peaceable 12 times. Jesus spoke of the desirability of being peacemakers while giving the famous Sermon on the Mount.
Peace is one of those things people assume they understand, yet God looks at peace as existing only within in a context of holiness. This produced some very different approaches to peacemaking than people would normally be comfortable with, on the part of our Lord, during His Earthly ministry.
Isaiah prophetically called Jesus “the Prince of Peace” in 9:6, yet Jesus said “I bring not peace, but a sword”. (Matthew 10:34) Why is this? How is this? What is peace?
Let’s look at some wrong ideas people believe about what constitutes peace. These are far different than the Lord’s true understanding of the make up of peace.
1. Accommodation of the presence of evil, rather than seeking to defeat it equals peace. A well-known example of this, was when the British Prime Minister returned from Germany, feeling that a piece of paper signed by liars, who were bent on World domination, meant that peace was at hand. This 1938 Munich Pact: meant “peace in our time” according to P. M. Neville Chamberlain. -Wrong…
2. The lack of a Hot War in the presence of hatred is mistakenly called peace by some. The capability of “Mutually Assured Destruction” kept the Soviet Union and the United States out of a shooting war with each other during the Cold War era, but we were not at peace, and anyone with common sense knew it.
3. Failure to deal with offenses and sin; pretending that things are fine when they are in fact, not fine, is often mistaken for peace making. This course always eventually leads to telling third parties about the offense, or to bitterness and hidden rancor. Dealing openly and in redemptive love with the person or group who has offended you or sinned against you is far better, even though unpleasant subjects must be discussed.
4. Having real fellowship with those who are not right with God and are headed for Hell, all the while failing to ever confront them on the need they have to get right with God, is sometimes called “being at peace with all men”. After all, there is no controversy happening in the relationship…but they are not at peace with God, and you are not helping them make peace with God.
None of these are peace at all. They do not constitute peace between people, and they do not constitute peace between God and people.
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Confronted and Corrected Evil.
In John Chapters eight through ten, Jesus repeatedly confronted the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He made no effort to get on their “good side”. He was blunt concerning their spiritual condition, as he spoke before the Jerusalem crowd. He did not compromise in any way for the sake of “smooth sailing”.
During this period, he did one of the “Messianic Miracles” which the Pharisees taught that only the Messiah would ever do. He healed a man who had been born blind. If Jesus had spoken kindly of the Pharisees at that point, they would have hailed him as Messiah, but he uncompromisingly refused to have fellowship with them. After matching wits with the Lord, they finally attempted to stone him that very day.
Then He left them and went and raised Lazarus from the dead. The man had been dead four days at the time of his raising. This was another “Messianic Miracle” done by Jesus, right on the heels of the pharisaic rejection of him. The timing of this was very “in your face” from the Pharisees’ point of view. To them, Jesus did not appear to be a peace maker at all. He appeared to be anything but.
Jesus Called People to Leave their Sin
In the first part of John eight, when the Lord beat the Pharisees in their attempt to trap him through their misuse of the woman caught in adultery, his compassionate, life saving ministry to her included a command to leave her life of sin. When he dealt with the Samaritan woman back in chapter four of this same Gospel, he told her plainly that she had had six husbands and was now living with a man she was not married to. He never shunned sinners, whether they were high or low in society, but he always confronted the sin in their lives which was keeping them from having peace with God. He never came close to joining them in their lifestyles of sin either, whether that sin was the religious hypocrisy of the high and mighty, or the fornication or theft of the outcast.
He was always looking for genuine conversion, as illustrated amazingly well by his ministry to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, as recorded in John 3. The previously mentioned story of the Samaritan woman also illustrates Jesus’ concern for genuine conversion to take place.
The “Great Shepherd’s” words and approach to people always had this theme. “Be reconciled to God”. He recognized the truth that there is no peace apart from being right with God, and there is no peace when people look down their noses at others, and reject them or avoid them (as the Jews did the Samaritans). It does not make peace when some people consider themselves to be superior to others, and then fail to relate to them in loving and righteous ways.
SOME THOUGHTS FOR APPLICATION:
1. Dealing with Offenses.
On a personal level, we each must deal with others rightly. It is ungodly to become offended by little things people do because of their humanness. People who have God’s love flowing in them are not looking for reasons to become offended. I Corinthians 13:5 says “Love is not provoked, and keeps no record of wrongs”. Of course, the same passage also says “Love is not rude”. We have no business going around being rude, even though it has become common to act that way in our day. We also have no business going around being brittle, which is to say, easily offended. We are called to have the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in us by God’s grace. Barry McGuire said it real well back in the seventies when he said that we believers are called to be “Shock Absorbers”.
If You Have Been Sinned Against
If we have been genuinely sinned against and need to do something about it, in order to clear things up, we have a clearly outlined process given to us by the Lord in Matthew 18:15-17. Please read that little passage now. note: The process of reconciliation and healing NEVER starts with telling a third party about the offender.
Failing to Deal With Offences
Many people attempt to hold genuine received offenses inside themselves, rather than dealing forthrightly and in love with the one who has offended and/or harmed them. This process of “holding it in” causes them to become bristly around that offending person. This is very common with married couples unfortunately. Often other people can see this “bad fruit” dynamic operating in married couples. Often it happens that people who are holding hurt and wounding in, (thinking that they are making peace), explode one day and tell the other person off or express anger against them all out of proportion to some little thing which happened at that moment.
This is not just a dynamic which operates with married couples. It operates with anyone who has become offended with another brother or sister in Christ, who then fails to deal correctly with the situation.
Another common wrong response to offence is to avoid the other person, inflicting great pain in this way. Wounded people may leave a spouse, leave a church, or ignore a friend. Many times, they tell other people (who are not directly involved) how bad the offenses and the offender are. Sometimes people do a combination of the above wrong responses. None of this makes peace. Only the Matthew 18 process, entered into in love, can bring a peaceable result to these situations.
2. Not Being Ashamed of the Gospel
On another level, as individuals, we believers need to share the truth about getting right with God with those around us who have not yet given their life to Christ. It is not peacemaking to be silent about their eternal peril. It is simply avoidance of possible rejection of what we have to share, or avoidance of their possible rejection of us personally should we speak up. If you find that you do not ever share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in your life who do not know Him, you need to repent of this. Ask God for loving boldness to share the truth that all people need to get right with God through Jesus Christ.
3. Dealing With Sin in Fellow Christians
A third level in which we act as true peacemakers, or avoid doing so in order to not “make waves”, is confronting ongoing sin in the lives of those who are Christians. Many hide behind the command in Romans to not judge. However this command has to do with matters of personal conviction such as eating meat or drinking a glass of wine. We are not to judge people with respect to such things. This command is not dealing with the naming of clear choices to sin, such as fornication or appearance of fornication by means of a couple living together when not married.
In I Corinthians the church was failing to confront clear sin. Perhaps they misused the scripture by saying “We’re not supposed to judge”. Paul corrected them about this in no uncertain terms! He commanded them to put the unrepentant sinning member out of the Church fellowship. Confronting plain sin is not entering into ungodly judgment. It is, in truth, being a peacemaker by bringing sin out of the dark and into the light, so as to bring peace between God and a brother or sister, if that person then repents of their sin. By the way, the sinning brother in Corinth did repent when the church dealt with him.
Galatians 6:1 tells us to do this confronting in a humble way, remembering that we too can be tempted by sin. We also must be careful to use the Matthew 18 process, starting with a one on one sharing. But, we do have a responsibility to confront a sinning brother or sister with the aim of bringing repentance, thus peace toward God.
4. The Church in Society
On a corporate level, there are times when it is right for the Church to speak out on certain issues. It is not being a peacemaker to be silent when the world calls evil good and calls good evil. Like the Lord before us, and all the prophets in the Bible, we are called to act as a conscience in the community around us. We will often find ourselves on the unpopular side of controversies. When this happens, we must speak the truth in love. We must avoid the two errors often made at such times.
Error #1: Become strident and angry, coming across as haters,
Error #2: Say nothing; just withdraw from public discourse because of opposition or a faulty understanding of what it means to be separate from the World.
God’s courage and love help us to be peacemakers in the civic arena by calling our society toward godliness. Evil people in the culture often attempt to twist our words. That unfortunate reality does not take away our corporate responsibility, as the Church, to bring light into the darkness, and to preserve the culture with salt, so as to stop spoilage and corruption.
1. Peace is brought about when barriers to proper relationships between people are removed.
2. Peace is brought about when individuals get truly right with God by leaving sin behind and following Jesus Christ genuinely. Peace is brought about when people genuinely repent of their sin against God or against other people.
3. Peace is promoted by the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in a believer’s heart. Peace grows out of “Loving the Lord your God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself”.
God’s courage and love will move us to proper actions and attitudes in all of the above-mentioned arenas of life. It is the Lord’s energy that can empower this! We can enter joyfully into the God given responsibility to proclaim and bring peace between people and other people, and peace between people and God. The Lord, the ultimate truthful and forthright peacemaker, said “Blessed are the peacemakers”.