What Does Peacemaking Look Like, and Why Should Christians Be Peacemakers? #117
Happy Friday, Faithful Friends. Today’s Big Bible Word is Alliteration. Oh wait, it is actually peace-making. Everybody knows that Jesus said that the peacemakers are blessed (for they will be called children of God), but many may not know what it actually means or looks like to be a peacemaker. Today we read Numbers chapter 1, Psalms 35, Ecclesiastes 11 and Titus 3, which is one of the best and most practical chapters on peacemaking in the entire Bible – even if it doesn’t use the actual word peace-maker. Follow the commands in the chapter, and you will be a bringer of peace to almost any situation.
I love how Spurgeon closed a sermon on the Beatitudes many years ago, commending the life of peacemaking to his congregation:
Are any suffering? Let us weep with them. Do we know one who has less love than others? then let us have more, so as to make up the deficiency. Do we perceive faults in a brother? let us admonish him in love and affection. I pray you be peacemakers, everyone. Let the Church go on as it has done for the last eleven years, in holy concord and blessed unity. Let us remember that we cannot keep the unity of the Spirit unless we all believe the truth of God. Let us search our Bibles, therefore, and conform our views and sentiments to the teaching of God’s Word. I have already told you that unity in error is unity in ruin. We want unity in the truth of God through the Spirit of God. This let us seek after; let us live near to Christ, for this is the best way of promoting unity. Divisions in Churches never begin with those full of love to the Saviour. Cold hearts, unholy lives, inconsistent actions, neglected [prayer] closets; these are the seeds which sow schisms in the body; but he who lives near to Jesus, wears his likeness and copies his example, will be, wherever he goes, a sacred bond, a holy link to bind the Church more closely than ever together. May God give us this, and henceforth let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.C. H. Spurgeon, “True Unity Promoted,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 11 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1865), 11.
Spurgeon is absolutely right – disunity and peace-breaking almost never begin with those who are full of love for Jesus. If you love the body of Christ – the people of God – you will be unwilling to do anything that could harm them. Christians should do everything possible to maintain unity in the church! That said, we need to see that this passage in Titus concerns our conduct and treatment of people in the church AND outside of the church. Sometimes I have seen Christians that are overeager to fight, quarrel, argue and otherwise stir up trouble online, and with non-believers. I believe Titus 3 – and many other Bible chapters – steer us away from such behavior. Is your social media a sounding board for complaints or disagreements? Do you regularly ignite arguments with your strong opinions? Are you prone to getting into quarrels with people who just don’t get it, and need to be set straight? Well, I think Titus 3 might have something to say to us – let’s read it!
Remember that Titus is part of the pastoral epistles – letters written by Paul to Timothy and Titus to help them know how to pastor/shepherd and teach Christians in these young churches. It is very clear that the Holy Spirit, speaking through Paul, is urging peace and unity to be critically important facets of any church. Remember these passages back in Timothy:
23 But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, because you know that they breed quarrels. 24 The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, 25 instructing his opponents with gentleness.2 Timothy 2:23-25
The Lord’s servant – you and I! is not allowed to quarrel with people. Instead, we must be gentle and patient. Consider all of the peace-making passages we’ve just read in Titus – it is very clear that Paul is ending this letter with a hope that the church would abound in peace and avoid fighting and controversy and division:
Titus 3:2-3 “to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people 3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.”
Titus 3:9, “But avoid foolish debates, genealogies, quarrels, and disputes about the law, because they are unprofitable and worthless.”
Titus 3:10-11 ” 10 Reject a divisive person after a first and second warning. 11 For you know that such a person has gone astray and is sinning; he is self-condemned.“
The advice is crystal clear: No fighting. No slander. Avoid debates, quarrels, and disputes. Reject divisive people. Be kind. Show gentleness to everybody. As a reminder, this applies to our behavior in church and out of church – with Christians and with everybody. Christians are the last people that should be looking to argue or quarrel online (or anywhere!) – about politics, theology, religions, etc. We are to be a peace-seeking and -peace-loving people. The world has enough debates, quarrels and disputes, says Paul, let’s not add to it, but, rather let us be gentle and, rather than fuss, fight, debate and quarrel, rather “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works for pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14)
Forbearance is a great word that is not used very frequently anymore, except in debt relief. It is almost an archaic word. Are you familiar with it? It means to refrain from exercising a legal right – especially to refrain from enforcing a debt owed. So, in a Christian sense, when we practice forbearance with each other, we are being graceful, overlooking offenses and the need for somebody to pay us back if they have slighted us somehow. Pastor John Piper tells in this little snippet, which we will close with, how the practice of forbearance is helpful for the practice of peace-making and unity building:
He pleads with the church to walk worthy of our calling. Specifically, the way he wants to emphasize is that we be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (v. 3). We walk unworthily of our calling in Christ if we disregard the unity of the body and don’t expend any effort to safeguard what Christ died to obtain. “Be diligent,” Paul says, “Be eager, be earnest” to keep the unity given by the Spirit of God and obtained with the blood of Christ (2:16).John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1990–1999) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
This is Paul’s prison burden for the church at Ephesus. If we have any empathy for a suffering saint, it should make us say, Yes, that is utterly crucial. How, brother Paul? How shall we do this?
His answer is found in verse 2. The character traits that will preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace are humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, and love. So he says that a life worthy of our calling and leading to unity of Spirit is “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love.” If you are humble, you will be gentle, and if you are patient, you will be forbearing or enduring. And if you are gentle and forbearing in love, you will be a peacemaker and a unity preserver. So be diligent and eager to be a humble and patient person by the power of Christ.