When Paul listed peace as one of the nine fruit of the Spirit, he was primarily thinking about peace with other people. He had already warned the people of Galatia of “biting and devouring each other (5:15) giving an exhaustive list that included hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy. All of these are opposite to the peace he thought should be part of the Christian’s character and lives.
Peace is one of the most important aspects of the Christian life. We see that in how often it is mentioned in the Bible. Here are a few:
Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers…”
Romans 12:18 – “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with one another…”
Romans 14:19 – “Make every effort to do what leads to peace…”
Colossians 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…”
Hebrews 12:14 – “Make every effort to live at peace with all men…”
1 Peter 3:10.11 – “Whoever would love life and see good days… must seek peace and pursue it…”
Do you notice how each writer describes the importance of peace? “Make every effort.” “Pursue peace.” It is like searching for something precious and leaving no stone unturned in the process.
Now one misunderstanding of pursuing peace is that in doing so, we ignore problems such as sin and error. That is not what any of the biblical writers intended. The appearance of peace without truth leads to false peace where there is a bondage to fear; where everyone walks on eggshells rather in the freedom true peace brings.
So what are some practical things we can do to make this truth a reality in our lives?
Firstly, we need to remember that we are a part of the same body, the church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the amazing metaphor of the human body to illustrate how we relate to one another. There will be times we won’t “get along” and disagree, but if we keep at the forefront that we are related, it will help us find the common ground and restore the peace. Paul emphasizes it even more in Romans 12:5 where he says, “Each member belongs to all the others.”
Secondly, we need to remember that this body we are a part of belongs to Christ. Too often I hear people refer to the church as “my” church. Although there may be a temporal truth to that, the reality is Christ is the Head of the Church… it is His. It is His glory and honour that is at stake when conflict arises in the church. Too often we forget that thinking only of our rights or need to be right. We not only represent ourselves to the world, we are also ambassadors for Him!
Thirdly, we need to remember that the cause of discord is often ourselves. One of the missing components of conflict is usually humility. I have seen time and time again where finger pointing and accusations are thrown towards others without first examining what is in the accuser’s heart. Rarely is a conflict ever 100% one person’s fault. Pursuing peace means we need to be willing to look at our own lives and see what role we may have played in bringing the conflict to where it is.
Lastly, we need to be willing to take the initiative to restoring peace. This is often the most difficult because it requires us to lay down our pride. It makes no difference if you have been wronged or you have wronged others, as followers of Christ, we must take the initiative if we know there is disharmony. In Matthew 5:23,24 Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” In other words, if there is a problem, deal with it. Jesus’ emphasis here is clear… pursuing peace with another believer takes priority over worship!
Now in reading this we might think this only applies to only relationships between Christians. Not so. The writer of Hebrews tells us to “Make every effort to live at peace with ALL men (emphasis mine)”. All is a pretty inclusive word.
I believe many of the same practical applications apply. If there is a wrong, take the first step and talk to the person and try to make things right again. As Christians, when we are wronged by the “world” we are quick to call down judgement from God on them. I would encourage each of us to show grace and love to everyone in the hopes of glorifying God and restoring peace.
We know that peace is something we will never fully experience until Christ returns or we go to Him. But in the meantime, let us live our lives as an example to others, both believers and unbelievers, of people who know what true peace is. True peace comes from knowing the Source of peace and that is Jesus Christ, the One who came so that we could experience that peace with God and practice that same peace with one another.