September 16, 2007
INTRODUCTION – Everything negative and destructive in our society can be traced back to a lack of the knowledge of God. It is the lack of a true knowledge of the one true God that is at the root of every societal ill we face today.
If there is any aspect or attribute of God that we need to know in our day in this town, in this region, in this state, in this fractured nation, and indeed in our world it is that God is a God of peace. Five times in the New Testament He is proclaimed as the God of peace, such as in Rom. 15:33, where the apostle Paul encourages the church in Rome with this blessing, “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” Jesus Christ is referred to in scripture as the Prince of Peace and as the Lord of Peace.
When in chapter 14 of the book of Romans, Paul describes what the kingdom of God is like – when and wherever it is manifested on the earth, that is – whenever and wherever His kingship and Lordship is recognized and submitted to – he states that it will be characterized by righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Life on this earth was meant to be characterized by peace. The people on this earth that the God of peace created in His image were meant to live lives marked by peace. Relationships on this planet were meant to produce peace, which Biblically by the way is not merely the absence of strife or war, but is rather the experience of all the goodness and blessing of God.
But the reality increasingly in our society is anything but peace. Instead our society reeks of strife, contention, dissension, enmity and hostility. And the average person in our society is increasingly angry, frustrated, anxious, and contentious.
This is reflected in our 50 % divorce rate, and in the high level of contentiousness and bickering among those who haven’t divorced, but whose marriage certainly isn’t characterized by peace. It is reflected in our overflowing prisons. It is reflected in our nation’s politics at every level. And sometimes it is even reflected in Christ’s church.
Someone has said, “Washington has lots of peace monuments. They build one after each war.”
Someone else said, “Peace is merely that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stops to reload.”
In 1945 the United Nations brought itself into existence with this motto: “To have succeeding generations free from the scourge of war.” I guess you can’t fault them for trying, but after 62 years of failure, they really need to change their motto. There has probably never been a minute on this planet since 1945 without war somewhere.
U Thant, the former secretary general of the united nations asked this question while speaking in 1965 before some 67 distinguished scholars and statesmen from 19 nations of the world convened to talk about the requirements for world peace: “What element is lacking so that with all our skill and all our knowledge we still find ourselves in the dark valley of discord and enmity? What is it that inhibits us from going forward together to enjoy the fruits of human endeavor and to reap the harvest of human experience? Why is it that, for all our professed ideals, our hopes, and our skills, peace on earth is still a distant objective seen only dimly through the storms and turmoils of our present difficulties?”
When I see these signs around our town that say “No War” – I sigh – because it is a pipe dream. You can wall paper your house inside and out with those signs and pave our streets with them, and you can sing “imagine” by John Lennon until your voice gives out, but we will continue to argue and fight with each other in our homes and in our sewer meetings – and in our United Nation meetings because we are all born in sin, and one of the things sin does is it creates strife and contention. Sin loves a good fight. Sin magnifies ones’s rights, and convinces us that we deserve to demand them and fight for them. Sin separates us from the God of peace and infects every relationship we have with its poision.
Satan of course is a master at getting families, communities and even nations to turn against one another in contention and strife. That’s why the apostle Paul – after his discussion of how to experience peace and unity in our relationships with the body of Christ, in our marriages, in our families with our children and parents, and in the workplace – reminds us in Eph. 6:12 that “..our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
These evil, diabolical, unseen, but very real spirits live to stimulate arrogance and selfishness and defensiveness and rebellion in individuals, which then translates into strife and contentiousness in relationships, which then eventually translates into fractured families and communities and on and on it goes.
The antidote to contentiousness and strife is of course – peace. But how can we experience more of this peace? And how can we be more effective in helping others experience this peace?
Well as you turn to Matt. 5:9 – – I believe the solution is for the church to start cranking out or producing more peacemakers.
I. The need for peacemakers – the church needs to produce them A. To make peace with those that they themselves are in conflict with – someone has to be willing to stop the tit for tat, and the vicious cycle of blaming and holding grudges that characterize many relationships today. 1. Paul exhorted Titus to exhort his congregation to “Malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”(Titus 3:2)
B. To help bring about peace with others locked in contention and strife, whether in their families, on their teams, on their staffs, etc.
C. To help bring about peace in communities, and even between nations
II. What a peacemaker is or what that looks like A peacemaker is a believer who first of all walks in peace with God through Jesus Christ, and who then by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, moves into a contentious situation, and according to God’s wisdom and truth – defuses it, and brings about true peace.
III. Examples of Peacemaking in the Church: One of the greatest examples of a peacemaker in the early church was a guy, who formerly was one of the most contentious. Paul wisely knew that for our communities to have a shot at peace, the church in those communities had to model it.
A. Euodia & Syntyche – Phil. 4:2,3 – – for the sake of the work of the gospel This just needed a gentle exhortation
B. Paul with Peter re: siding with Judaizers – for the sake of the truth of the gospel – Gal. 2:11-14 Ex. of how peacemaking sometimes requires bold, courageous confrontation; tremendous harm to the body of Christ and the advance of the gospel was at stake.
IV. Examples of Peacemaking outside the Church or People of God: A. Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament – worked and served under pagan regimes, and yet found great favor with them.
B. Larry Poland and the Master Media Ministry
C. What about in our communities? Well I don’t have any doubt that some believers in our coastal communities have had an impact as we have served as teachers aids, coaches, etc., in the public schools and on the community sports teams. But we have hardly touched the tip of the iceberg of our potential.
IV. Steps towards being a God pleasing peacemaker A. Recognize and deal with the unseen forces first through prayer – Eph. 6:10-12, 18; Matt. 18:18-20
B. Ask God for wisdom – Jas. 3:13-18 – – please note the difference between what earthly wisdom and godly wisdom produce
C. For contention in your own relationships, make sure you do not provide fuel for the fire, and that you do not respond in kind. Prov. 26:20 “For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” Co-workers example at water cooler
Prov. 15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger pacifies contention.” Marriage example
Phil. 4:9 “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
D. With Others’ Contentions: Appeal to the one most likely to value peace and who is least defensive. One of the realities of our seeking to be true disciples of Christ is it is often we who are more mature, who have to humble ourselves and take that first step to bring about peace. Sometimes we have to press our brothers and sisters to step up and humble themselves, because they want to stubbornly hold on to their “right” to hold a grudge.
E. Recognize that being a God pleasing peacemaker will depend on whether you are growing in the other beatitudes, or kingdom characteristics. If you have become poor in spirit – that is – if you truly see yourself day in and day out as one who is in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace If you mourn as a way of life over your sinful condition, and the sin of those around you, If you walk in gentleness and meekness towards others and are slow to lose patience with them and be harsh towards them If you hunger and thirst for more righteousness in your own life If you are merciful towards others – especially towards your weaker brothers and sister – who just seem to always be going one step forward and two steps backward If you are pure in heart – always quick to confess your specific sins – Striving to maintain a cleansed heart before the Lord and others –
Then and only then will you be effective in peacemaking in your family, extended family, neighborhood, workplace, school, community and beyond.
This principle is also reflected in Psalm 85:8—13
V. Some Questions to Ponder: A. So are you saying wherever I find contention am I supposed to jump in and try to defuse it? Not necessarily. Prov. 9:7,8 “He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you.” Just because there is dissension and contentiousness and we are aware of it, does not mean we are to try to solve it. (my ex. with MBHS & SEWER – don’t mention former one)
B. Can we expect groups like Los Osos or the staff at one of our schools, who are experiencing dissension and strife to experience peace when they do not know and bow down to Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace? Only the kingdom of God promises the continual and full experience of peace according to Rom. 14:7.
So the answer is ultimately no. But because we are called to be salt and light in a decaying society, I believe we can still be used to bring about a level of peace that would not be possible apart from our help.
One of the things we need to see change in both Los Osos and Morro Bay is we need true Christians who walk in peace and know the way of peace to be represented on our governing boards.
C. Why if Jesus is the Prince of Peace and died for our peace, did He say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34-39)
D. Aren’t we already called sons of God by the very fact that we are born again by the Spirit of God? Yes, but the experience of that privilege is for those who walk with God and obey His will. Romans 8:14 “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Gal. 3:26 “For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” Huios speaks of dignity, honor and ones’ standing with God.
I am one of the three sons of Bill Nash. I will always be his son. And I became his son by being born of his seed. Now I could take that for granted, and send him a Christmas card every year and otherwise ignore him. AndI would still be his son.
But the privileges and blessings that come from being his son are only experienced if I stay in frequent contact with him. If I honor him and try to please him. And if I maintain a right relationship with him.
A great illustration of this principle is the movie: “The Ultimate Gift” , though it deals more with a grandson, than a son receiving his inheritance.
CONCLUSION – I Thess. 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Heb. 13:20 “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”