Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Living in peace

‎Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

The Bible, and especially the New Testament has a lot to say about peace. We all know that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and we all know that Jesus spoke about the Meek inheriting the earth, (Matthew 5:5) and we may even know Paul spoke much about it as well in his letters. But balancing this word, 'peace' with our everyday lives is a real challenge. Here are some points to ponder.

1) We must live in harmony and peace with brothers and sisters in Christ.
The quote from Peter is talking about living in harmony or peace, within the context of believers. So to extend that to all people would not be accurate. What Peter is encouraging here is Christian harmony with each other. The rest of the New Testament is consistent with this view. We should get along with everyone (to an extent) but particularly with people who are Christ's followers.

This makes sense. If we are continually at each others throats, we will be ineffective at encouraging other people to follow Christ. It would be silly of us to expect to expand the Kingdom if we ourselves can not get along. And it is important to acknowledge that when we do have issues, they are mostly ego-based and silly, prideful arguments. That is one reason Jesus attempts to nip this in the bud by telling His disciples that whoever wished to be great among them, must be the servant of all of them. (Mark 9:35)

2) We must live in peace with everyone*
Paul seems to be making that point in Romans 12 and 13. However this has very specific restrictions or conditions.

It's fairly easy to live in peace with people who think and act like you. When I was in Seminary, every morning we gathered in the chapel for worship; we started every class with prayer; we constantly talked about spiritual things. I thought, "Wow. This is how heaven must be like!" But Jesus did not call us to stay in seminaries or in cloistered Christian communities until He returned. He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" --Matthew 28:19 and "...you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." --Acts 1:8

So in a very real respect by doing the Lord's work, we put ourselves in harm's way. Everyday. We put ourselves into situations which are fraught with danger and conflict and there is very little we can do about that. But Jesus also gives us a clue when he says in Matthew 10:34-35 "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'-" Paul continues this in Romans 12:18, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Neither Jesus nor Paul are expecting us to find peace at all times. In fact Jesus says specifically that was not the reason why He came in the first place. He came to establish God's Kingdom on earth and if we are out doing likewise, as He commands, we will not have peace either.

So in fact, there is this tension in the New Testament. One one hand we are to live as God's people in peace, but on the other hand, if we are truly God's People, doing God's work, then we will not have peace, nor will we live in harmony with every person. I do not view this as contradictory nor incompatible or unachievable however. It simply is our lit in life. If we choose the path of a disciple of Christ, we must expect that we will have conflict from time to time. Which brings us to the final and most important point.

3) We must first and foremost live in peace with God.
Henry David Thoreau was a naturalist and author. When he was dying his aunt came to see him. She was a good Christian. She asked him, "Henry, have you made your peace with God?" He answered, "I didn't know that we had ever quarreled."

My college English teacher tried to portray Thoreau as a wise and learned man, but this story shows what a fool he really was. I think that many people think the same way; that they have no quarrel with God, when in fact they do. We all do. Not so much because of what we have done, but of what we did not do...could not do. Pay for our sins.

Paul in Romans says this: Romans 5:1 "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ". If we do not have peace with God, all is for nothing. We could be the most peaceful, calm and loving person in the world, get along with everyone we meet, live in complete harmony with others, but it would count as naught.

I am not saying it's easy to live in harmony and peace with others. I am saying we need not stop trying because it is hard. It's supposed to be hard. That's why we have the Lord. And if you do not have the Lord, examine your own life and make a decision today. Choose life. Choose love. Choose peace with God through Jesus Christ. There is no other way. Do it today.

Blessings All!

--EDL