Last week, we talked about having a biblical view of conflict. We said that conflict is an opportunity for three things. Do you remember what those were? (glorify God, serve others, and grow to be more like Christ) This week, we’re going to talk about the importance of peacemaking. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” You must pursue peace.
I’m going to give you three reasons to pursue peace.
Because Peace Matters to God
If you want to have a good marriage, you need to learn what’s important to your spouse. Elise knows that it’s important to me that the laundry is done. I know that it’s important to her that we talk. Elise knows that I often want to talk about theology or ministry philosophy. And I know that she likes to talk about nap times and allergies and home school curriculum. If my eyes glaze over every time one of those topics comes up, I am not loving my wife very well. And if she never gets around to the laundry because something else is always more important, she’s not loving me very well.
The same principle applies to work. One of my jobs as associate pastor is to figure out what is most important to Pastor Kit and do that. If it’s important to him that the website be up to date, that needs to be high on my priority list, etc.
In the same way, if we say that we love God and are submitted to Him, we better value what He values. But how do we know that God values peace?
- Peace is a part of God’s character. He is frequently referred to in Scripture as “the God of peace” (Judg 6:24; Rom 15:33; 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 4:9; Heb 13:20-21).
- It is one of the greatest blessings He gives to those who follow Him (Num 6:23-27; Prov 16:7; Isa 2:4; John 14:27; Rom 5:1; Gal 5:22-23).
- He repeatedly commands His people to pursue peace and promises to bless those who do (Ps 34:14; Jer 29:7; Mat 5:9; Rom 14:19; Col 3:15; Heb 12:14).
- He describes His covenants with His people in terms of peace (Num 25:12; Isa 54:10; Ezek 37:26).
- Every NT epistle includes a command to live at peace with one another.
- Jesus is called “the Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:6). His mission from start to finish was peacemaking.
Sometimes I’ll realize how important something is to my wife and get convicted about it. I’ll realize, “She’s pouring her heart out to me about the kids or whatever, and I’m not even really listening.” It should be convicting when we fail to value what our spouses value. But it should be far more convicting when we fail to value what God values. If we love and fear our heavenly Father, then we must be committed to peacemaking.
Because You Cannot Have Peace in Your Heart without Peace with God and Peace with Others
The Bible refers to three types of peace.
Peace with God
According to Colossians 1:21, before salvation, we were not only alienated from God, but we were His enemies. We were at war with Him. That’s why God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins–in order to bring about reconciliation. Isaiah 53:5 says, “The chastisement for our peace was upon Him.” He suffered so that we could enjoy peace with God.
Peace with Others
Christ’s death did more than just clear the way for peace with God; it also cleared the way for peace with others. We see this in Ephesians 2:11-18, in which Paul says that the blood of Christ brings Jews and Greeks together. It unites people of all different backgrounds within the family of God.
The peace we enjoy with others can also be called “unity.” Ps 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Unity is more than just the absence of conflict. It is also the presence of love, understanding, goodwill, and teamwork.
Let me ask you a question: do we have room to grow in unity here at Life Point Baptist Church? (Yes!) Just because there aren’t any outward conflicts raging (at least that I know of) doesn’t mean that we grow in unity, understanding each other better, loving each other more, and working together more effectively. When I was in high school, my youth pastor had two types of youth activities that he would run: evangelistic activities and unity-building activities. That meant that at least half of our activities were for the soul purpose of building camaraderie, and I think that was right. What steps are you taking to build unity in your marriage? How about in your family? What about in this church? It is essential that we continue to pursue unity, even when there is no outward conflict.
Peace within Myself
Peace within myself is a sense of wholeness, contentment, or serenity. This is the kind of peace everyone wants, right? Doesn’t everyone want to feel content? Unfortunately, many people are looking for peace in all the wrong places.
What are some of the things people look to for peace? (healthy living, essential oils, Plexus, yoga, financial security, insurance, isolation, camping, fishing, counseling, psychology, drugs, alcohol, etc.) What’s the problem with all of those things? Peace is a gift that only God can give! Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Isaiah 32:17 says, “The work of righteousness will be peace, And the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” You see, peace in my heart is a byproduct of righteousness! Isaiah 57:21 says, “‘There is no peace,’ Says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”
That means that you cannot have peace within yourself apart from peace with God and peace with others! If you refuse to get right with God or with others, then you will never be at rest. The three forms of peace are inseparably linked. It’s a package deal.
Many people desperately want to be happy and content. They deal with anxiety, they’re stressed out all the time, and they just want it to stop! But when you try to talk to them about their relationship with God and others, they just shut you down. “I could never take those steps with that person; you don’t know what they’ve done to me.” And yet they want peace in their hearts. You see, what they really want is instant results without putting in the effort. It’s like a person who says, “I want to lose weight, but I’m not going to diet or exercise.” I’m sorry; it doesn’t work that way.
Because Our Witness Depends on It (John 17:20-23)
One of the most remarkable indications of how important peace is to God is this prayer of Jesus prior to His crucifixion. Of all of the things that He could have prayed for, Jesus prayed that His followers would be unified. Why? There are lots of reasons why it’s important for believers to be unified, but in this prayer, Jesus is specifically thinking about our witness. He wants us to be united so that the world may know and believe that God sent Him.
What message are we sending to the world by our unity or lack thereof? Jesus said earlier, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Sometimes we don’t act very much like disciples, do we? If you are currently in conflict with another believer, you must pursue peace wholeheartedly, because Christ’s glory depends on it. Not that you can detract from God’s innate glory, but your actions can certainly damage His reputation before a watching world.
Also, if you are currently in conflict with a fellow believer, your actions affect all of us! It’s not just your own witness that’s damaged! People look at your life and say, “If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want any part of it!” And that hurts my ability to witness, too! That’s one of the reasons we ought to be peacemakers, and bring other people together. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” We’ll talk about that more in a later lesson.
The hymn says, “So with one voice we’ll sing to the Lord, And with one heart we’ll live out His word, ‘Till the whole earth sees the Redeemer has come, For He dwells in the presence of His people.”
Ephesians 4:1-3 says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” The word for “endeavoring” means to strive eagerly, earnestly, and diligently. It means to be zealous or to make every effort. That means that half-hearted attempts at peacemaking don’t count.
Sometimes I’ll tell Felicity to do something like move the little stool in the bathroom so that she can wash her hands, and she’ll say, “I can’t!” I’ll say, “Yes you can, Felicity! Try!” So she’ll walk over and she’ll grab onto that stool and she’ll grunt and make a big show, maybe even fall on the ground, and then say, “See! I can’t do it!”
Some people try the same trick when it comes to peacemaking. They give it a token effort. Maybe they try once (sort of) to talk to the person (kind of) and they don’t feel like it gets them anywhere so they throw up their hands and say, “See God! I can’t do it!” But the problem is not that they can’t; it’s that they don’t want to. If we’re going to please God in this area, then we’ve got to go into it with the determination to give it everything we’ve got. It’s going to be hard at times, and we’re going to get discouraged, but we must make every effort.