By Irven Lee
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt. 5:9). Righteousness is sown in peace by them that make peace. The man who can help calm troubled waters when strife has been disturbing the church is a useful man. Some cause strife where peace had prevailed. This sowing of discord among brethren is one thing the Lord hates (Prov. 6:19). The preacher is almost always a part of the problem or a part of the solution in this matter of strife.
People who are by nature and disposition very disturbing elements in the Lord’s church can never see themselves as they really are. The strife is always, in their sight, the fault of others, and they are only caught up in the unhappy trouble. Evidently there may be many church members caught up in the results of the confusion even though they do not cause it. Those skilled in calming the storm are blessed of God. Young preachers need to know that being able to prepare, organize, and present a sermon is not all there is to the work of an evangelist.
When there was strife at Corinth long ago, there was with it carnality, immorality, irreverence, and babyishness involved. This complicated problem called for the best of several personalities. Paul, Timothy, Titus, and others went to work at once because the church was and is important. Letters were written, trips were made in that day of slow travel, and evidently public and private efforts to set things right. Men with such concern would make things better rather than worse. They ran to the point of strife to help. It seems that some people rush to strife in order to get in on the fight.
Sharp rebukes, teaching, warnings, and exhortation must have been used at Corinth (see 1 Cor. 3). The workers needed wisdom, patience, determination, and a strong conviction. These wonderful men who went to work to find ways of bringing back peace and soundness were no doubt slandered and abused. In Paul’s letters, he was forced to defend himself and his apostleship. This was distasteful to him. Those who were helped may have needed to repent, forgive, and stand firmly for the truth. Being peacemakers is not an easy work.
Some preachers run from the problem to avoid the unpleasant repercussions. Others go to the church in distress to help. Let us thank God for those with patience and courage who work to save the church from the devil’s influence. One who will face the problems and help must be one who “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). He needs the kindness and long suffering this chapter suggests, and he needs love for all the souls on all sides of all controversies. Truth needs to be preached effectively because it can free men of many ills. .The whole truth is always needed.
Some preachers would not be interested at all in going to some place that is in distress. They might be willing to move there after others have things calm again. It is next to impossible for a small church with problems to find a man who will work with it. The devil can have his way there unless there are strong men within the little work who can gradually turn things around. It would appear that more should consider it a challenge to work where it is evident that ,they are especially needed. Many of the strongest congregations ,today were weak -and in distress in the past. Humble then who helped in time of storm may have been forgotten. The Lord will not forget. Peacemakers are called .children of God.
The devil is not asleep. Divisions, factions, and heresies have come in the past; they can be found in the present in many places; and they’ will surely come in the future (I Cor. 11:19). Israel’s history bears this out as well as experience and New Testament teaching (2 Tim. 3:12; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; Matt. 24:11). Discord is one of the devil’s most effective tools. When trouble arises in a body of people, the cowards and weaklings drop out and are scattered. Souls are lost. Think of the stains that must be on the hands of those who are the occasions of stumbling. It will take more than Pilate’s basin of water to remove these stains.
False teachers often bring the division (Rom. 16:17, 18). Envy and jealousy often furnish the occasion of strife. The love of preeminence did not die when Diotrephes died and went to wait for the day of judgment. The love of money, the love for the praise of men, and worldliness may be centers of the problems. Selfishness and ignorance should bear their part of the blame.
There are those who would like just to sit in the cellar until the storm is over. In some cases, these are the very people who have special abilities that could correct the errors of doctrine, rebuke the jealous and worldly elements, and effectively work to bring precious peace; but they choose to look the other way and hope the problems will go away, or they may just try to ignore them to death. They are blown about by the winds of doctrine. A thing that harms the Lord’s church is not to be ignored. Christ must not be crucified afresh and put to an open shame. Some ugly situation that causes His name to be blasphemed and holds the truth in unrighteousness should not be ignored. The old leaven of malice and wickedness should be purged out so that there can be a new lump.
It is an enemy that sows the tares, but a false teacher can often find a following who will defend him and offer him sympathy if his errors are pointed out before all. His followers are deceived so they feel sorry for their wolf in sheep’s clothing who is being separated from the flock according to the scripture (Acts 20:29; Matt. 7:15). Sometimes the deceitful workers appear as ministers of righteousness (2; Cor. 11:13-.15). In. fact, in some casks, the leaders in the church (preachers and elders) are the ones who speak perverse things to draw away disciples. The very ones who should have pointed the way toward heaven use good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple. Those blind leaders and blind followers go out because they are not of the flock (1 John 2:19).
Truth Magazine XXIV: 11, p. 178
March 13, 1980