The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 44

Are You A Peacemaker?

The world we live in today is in a constant state of turmoil, We read about conflicts and wars happening everywhere. There is political unrest and upheaval in many countries, even in countries very near to our country that is experiencing much peace for now. In a country nearby, people had to live under a curfew imposed on them when the Army took over and force demonstrators to stay in their homes. Now it has come under military rule, awaiting elections for a new government. Further away, we hear of the strikes between the Palestinians and Israelis which have resulted in many deaths on both sides. And more recently, we hear of militants claiming many lives among minority groups or opposing parties. A few countries are now engaged in talks and plans to solve the conflict between the militants and those who are being wiped out by them.

We may not be involved in wars or political conflicts, but we are often involved in conflicts in our daily lives. At home, conflicts arise between spouses, parents and children, and in-laws. In the office, there is often conflict between employers and employees, bosses and their subordinates. Conflicts may also arise between neighbours, friends and even acquaintances.

Sometimes, conflicts arise in the church too. The Apostle Paul refers to Christians wrestling “not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph 6:12). He also makes mention of those who create problems in church, referring to “Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme (speak evil)” (1 Tim 1:20).

There are many ways of handling conflicts. Ken Sande in his book “Peacemakers” proposes three different ways of handling conflict. The first two adds more problems to it while the third is the best.

First, we can be “peace-fakers.” We can deny that there is conflict or actually run away to avoid dealing with the problem. It is an escapist’s route that does not contribute any solution to the existing difficulty. It may be known as a hiding one’s head in the sand or turning a blind eye to matters that call for our attention.

Second, we can be “peace-breakers.” Some people have the tendency to prefer to win an argument rather than to save a friendship. By doing so, they can be rude, physically abusive, and even violent. These argumentative people seem to thrive on conflict and problems, even in a peaceful ambience. But, whether one is a peace-faker or a peace-breaker, their vain attempts stir up more trouble than render any solution to the conflict.

Third, we can explore the middle ground, presumably the best resolution in the face of conflict. Jesus calls us to be “peace-makers,” a proactive form of seeking peace that will also preserve unity.

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

There are consequences for such actions. Listen to James, the brother of Jesus: “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (peacemakers) – James 3:18.

Peace is to personify God’s people. As disciples of Christ, we are to be known as peace-makers.

Making peace is to permeate every aspect of our church life, and this ultimately leads to unity in the church.

Peacemakers are deeply concerned for relationships more than peace-breakers (Eph 4:1-3). James 3:17 clearly tell us, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” Thus, true seekers of peace would quickly overlook the many offences and differences that may be present. It is their discretion to overlook any transgression (Prov 19:11), and help all to work towards peace, if some are facing difficulty in keeping it.

Would we like to develop the skills of a peacemaker so that we can be used by God to promote true unity and reconciliation when conflict disrupts the church, our family, or our workplace? If so, there are seven steps you can take to become a more effective peacemaker.

The following solution is an extract from a meaningful article by Pastor Bill Brian:

1. Let us choose unity than division

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, which was racked by division and disagreement.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.” (1 Cor 1:10)

There are times when division over the fundamental truths of Scripture will occur. But even during these debates and discussions, the unity of the church should be our highest concern:

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph 4:3)

Paul gives us an example in Philippians of how to handle conflict in a Biblical, Christ-honoring manner.

2. Two sisters in conflict

Throughout the letter to the church at Philippi, Paul stresses unity. No less than six times, he encourages the believers to abandon their selfishness and serve others.

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27)

In other words, the Apostle Paul is urging the Philippians by saying: Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Phil 2:2-5)

In the conflict between 2 sisters in the Philippian Church, the Apostle Paul moves from the theoretical to the practical. He pleaded with them:

“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life”. (Phil 4:2-3).

Imagine sitting in the congregation listening to Paul’s letter being read. There are two persons, sitting on opposite sides of the room, listening intently, Each of them is surrounded by their supporters. They both gave a hearty “Amen” when Paul said that he was “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

Paul did not mean to embarrass them by naming them, but did not hesitate to deal with this divisiveness head on.

What Apostle Paul said can be paraphrased in this way: “I urge you Euodia and Syntyche to iron out their differences and make up. God doesn’t want his children holding grudges” (Phil 4:2)

He implores both of these two persons to “agree with each other in the Lord.” The word “agree” in the Greek has to do with harmony, like musical notes in a chord. In other words, Paul tells them to stop making noise and start making some music. He urges them to live in one accord with each other. Notice that they are to come to a resolution “in the Lord.” Paul uses this common phrase nine times in four chapters. They do not have to agree on every detail, but they do have to, for the sake of unity in the church, discard their disagreements. This takes spiritual maturity, humility, and a close walk with the Lord. Paul assumes both of these women have what it take to solve this crisis.

Also observe how Paul describes these two persons in positive terms:

  • They laboured with Paul in the cause of the Gospel
  • They worked with Clement and the rest of the believers in their church
  • They struggled against the opposition. The word picture is that of gladiators fighting side by side.
  • Their names are written in the Book of Life. In Biblical times, each city had a roll that contained all the names of individuals who had the right of citizenship.

3. There will be the Valley of Peace

If it is true that we are called to be peacemakers, not just peacekeepers, then how do we do it? If peace is something that does not come naturally, how do we learn it? I believe the answers are found in the word PEACE.

4. Pursue peace at all costs

If it is possible, as much as lieth (dependeth) in you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18)

Who is responsible for seeking peace? You and I are. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure there is peace in the church. Peace in among believers is not something that the leaders can dish out; but it is something that all believers need to work at. We are to make “every effort”: “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” (Romans 14:19)

The unity of the church and the effectiveness of our witness is at stake. it is our commitment to Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; cf. Eph 2:14-17) that gives us the desire to live in peace. Paul wrote to the church in Colosse: “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col 3:15).

5. Express yourself Biblically

If we read more of the Bible, and follow God’s Word, we would all be more at peace. Listen to the words of Solomon the wise king:

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Paul encouraged the believers at the church at Colosse to “let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt…” (Col 4:6).

Do our words wound or bring healing? Is our vocabulary vicious or do our adjectives affirm others? Try healing words this week. Try to go one entire day without saying anything negative about anyone. Difficult, but we all need to learn to do that.

6. Ask yourself the question – “Is this worth it?”

Is it really worth getting yourself upset over a trivial matter? Perhaps, we should view each ‘offence’ in the light of Christ’s sufferings on the cross. In many situations, the best way to resolve a conflict is to simply overlook an offence. There are some of us who really need to learn this skill. It is so easy to repeat someone’s flaws, especially if you get upset with someone. Sometimes, the misunderstanding could be due to gossip. But how do we learn this skill of overlooking the offence? You learn the skill by applying God’s Word to your situation. If someone has offended you, remember the Bible says, “Forgive others”, then practise forgiving.

7. Confess Your Sins

First we need to confess our sins to our Saviour. 1 Jn 1:9 says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We should put this verse to memory. Once our hearts are right with God, we can then plan to confess our sins to one another.

“Seven A’s of Confession”:

  • Address everyone involved
  • Avoid the words “if, but, or maybe”
  • Admit specifically (both attitudes and actions)
  • Acknowledge the hurt
  • Accept the consequences
  • Alter your behaviour
  • Ask for forgiveness and allow time

James tells us that confession is good for more than just the soul:
“Confess your faults one to each other, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16). It is true that some of our daily headaches and heartaches may be due to anger and an unforgiving spirit. But, our God is able to heal relationships through confession, humility, and prayer.

8. Engage a mediator

“Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” (Mat 18:15-17)

Charles Swindoll writes that “if you choose mediation remember,
– the ultimate goal is restoration, not discipline
– the right attitude is grace, not force
– the common ground is Christ, not logic, politics, tradition, or your will.”

Therefore, as true followers of Christ, let us in all that we can do, with every effort and whatever means we have, let us restore peace, promote it and make peace in Christ.

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing 14 Sep 2014)

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