Blessed Are The Peacemakers
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matt. 5.9).
"God is the God of peace; the Messiah is the Prince of peace, his birth was welcomed with the angel's hymn, 'Peace on earth.' He is the great Peacemaker. He made peace through the blood of his cross. They that are his must follow his example" (A. Lukyn Williams, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. XV, p. 174).
The Prince of Peace came during a time of peace (during the Pax Romana) to preach a gospel of peace. Through obedience to His gospel, one obtains peace with God (Rom. 5:1) and learns to live at peace with his fellow man (Rom. 12:18). Truly those who teach the gospel of Christ are the world's greatest peacemakers. They will bring more peace to this world than any who participate in SALT talks or other disarmament discussions.
The Need For Pence
There is a great need for peace in this world. There are many who have no inner peace; the inner turmoil inside of them sometimes leads to total collapse or breakdown. Others cannot get along with their fellow man. Neighbors have fought each other and even killed one another over the placement of a fence between them. Family conflict is one of the most frequent causes of homicide.
Most of these people will not be reached by an article such as this, partially because they will not be exposed to it. This article will largely circulate among brethren. In the circle of Christians, there is still much need for peace and peacemakers.
Churches in many parts of this country have split, not over doctrinal issues, but over "personality conflicts." If I understand, what brethren mean by "personality conflicts," they mean that several strong-willed brethren clashed to such an extent that they decided to divide rather than to work through their disagreements. I know that these differences are different from those of the Paul-Barnabas type (Acts 15) because these brethren, who believe in the same Lord and teach the same gospel, will not announce each other's gospel meetings (although they might on different occasions use the same preacher), recognize one another as faithful brethren, call on each other for prayer, and such like things. Paul and Barnabas did not act this way toward one another.
Some churches isolate themselves from other brethren by having nothing to do with one another. There is no feeling of cooperation and support for each other's work; instead, one feels jealousy and envy at the other's successes while the other feels contempt and manifests arrogance. The result is that the various churches have little if anything to do with one another.
These symptoms are not isolated to one section of the country. They manifest themselves in various cities. Surely, there is a need for modem peacemakers.
Some With Whom There Can Be No Peace
Whatever program of peace is accepted is also a program for division from those who refuse to acknowledge and accept it. Hence, the gospel will prohibit a man being at peace with every man. Here are some men with whom one cannot be at peace:
1. The World. James said ". . .know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" (4:4). Those who are at peace with the world have God as their enemy. Hence, the godly cannot be at peace with the world.
2. False Teachers. Jesus said, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! For so did their fathers to the false prophets" (Lk. 6:26). Those who are at peace with the false teachers of our age - the Leroy Garretts, the Carl Ketchersides, the Guy N. Woods, and other false teachers - are false teachers themselves. They have compromised the gospel in order to be at peace. Godly men cannot be at peace with false teachers.
3. Those With Sinful Dispositions. Sometimes one cannot live at peace with his fellow Christian because his fellow Christian will not let him! When one brother approaches his brother in Christ, seeking to bring about peace, and the brother continues to undermine his influence, destroy his reputation, hold him at arm's length or otherwise isolates himself from him, there is no way to make peace. Those who have sinful attitudes make it impossible to live at peace with them.
Things Which Disrupt Peace
Men sometimes do not understand what disrupts peace. Some charge others with disrupting the peace when, in reality, they are peacemakers. There are times when brethren are divided over an issue. Secretly the brethren knife each other in the back, talk about each other maliciously, and otherwise seek to destroy one another's reputation. A brother comes along who addresses a discussion of the issues and identifies those whom he believes are teaching something wrong in an effort to work through the problem. Many times the brother who openly discusses the issue is charged with disrupting peace. The truth is that the peace was already disrupted and this man was simply trying to restore it. The open discussion of deep-seated problems is not a sinful disruption of peace. If brethren are at peace in error, they need disrupting!
The kinds of things which disrupt peace are: gossip, whispering, self-willed attitudes, selfishness, envy, jealousy, and such like things. False doctrine will also disrupt the peace of the church.
Attributes Of the Peacemaker
The peacemaker must have certain attributes. (1) He must love peace. The man who does not love peace will not be able to live at peace himself, much less to help others obtain peace (2) He tries to live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12:18). (3) He has subdued the works of the flesh in his own life which interfere with peace. (4) He is longsuffering, willing to bear patiently with offences of others in the interests of peace. (5) He is sacrificial. He is willing to suffer mistreatment in the interests of bringing peace. He will sacrifice himself - anything but the truth and righteousness - in the interests of peace.
How To Make Peace
1. Communicate. Peace can never be attained unless brethren start talking to each other. That is why Jesus said, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault" (Matt. 18:15). Communication with each other is necessary for peace to be obtained. Though there are times when breaking contact is necessary, generally he who shuts off contact with his brother builds walls and fences, destroying any opportunities for peace.
2. Pray. Pray about the problem. He who prays for peace with his brother will be ready to work with his brother to solve their differences. Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48); surely we can pray for our brethren with whom we have disagreement.
3. Repent of sins. Those who have committed sins against another must be willing to repent of their sins in order for there to be peace. Jesus said, ". . . 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. And 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" (Matt. 18:15-17). The wicked man's refusal to repent of his sin makes peace with him impossible.
4. Leave room for exercise of judgment. Many brethren cannot get along with each other because they have no tolerance of each other's differences. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on judgment; nevertheless both of them were faithful Christians. That should cause me to expect that some people who do not agree with my judgment might be faithful Christians.
Because some brethren might think that some problem was handled differently than they would have handled it is no reason for one congregation to withdraw from another. Give each other room to exercise his best judgment. Surely the problem is not solved by cutting off communication from one another, building fences, and isolating ourselves.
Surely the time has come for all God-fearing brethren to call a halt to alienating ourselves from one another. We must quit building fences and start building bridges. Those who are afraid of the bridge building probably have reason to prefer the division to reconciliation with their brethren.
The autonomy of the local church is not violated by preachers visiting with each other or elders discussing mutual concerns and problems together. Brethren have nearly quit visiting each other's meetings; some hardly attend their own meeting so we should not expect that they would attend someone else's meeting. Instead of feeling like we are all working on the same team to accomplish the same good, in some areas brethren seem to think that they and on rival teams. Each teach competes with the other for new members, views each other's disciplinary actions with suspicion, and belittles the other in private conversation. Suspicion replaces respect when brethren quit communicating with one another.
Surely brethren have had enough of this are ready for warm, personal relationships with each other. Are there no peacemakers among us who can help in solving these problems?
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 7, pp. 198, 216-217