Representing Christ

The final words of Jesus that are recorded by Matthew are instructions for His followers to carry out while He is away: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The idea of spreading out all over the world is itself a daunting task, but for many of the early missionaries for Christ, travel and culture shock were only the beginning of their troubles. People were going to HATE them for being Christians: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

This posed a real problem for the early church. Hatred can often lead to violence, and the Roman government had very little tolerance for troublemakers whose religion led to violence. So what could the church do, to maintain its credibility and its political freedom while also standing up for Christ? The book of 1 Peter appears to have been written as an answer to that question.

Peter writes the book specifically to the “aliens” who have been scattered all over the known world for the sake of Christ, and he addresses all kinds of difficult situations that they may encounter.

What if Christ’s people find themselves disagreeing with the governing authorities?
What if a Christian servant finds himself serving an unjust master?
What if a Christian wife finds herself with an unbelieving husband?
What if a Christian finds himself in an argument in which his faith is called into question?
What if there are arguments within the church itself?

All of these situations must have been common for the early church, and any of them could have ended badly for everyone involved, but Peter’s instructions contain a steady theme that runs throughout the book:

Stand up for Jesus Christ, but do so in a way that is above reproach. Do not give them any reason whatsoever to slander your character. Be respectful. Be gentle. Be humble. Demonstrate through your behavior just how beautiful and beneficial your religion really is.

As Jesus said in Matthew 7: “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

The world will judge our message not simply by what we say, but also by how we say it, and what we do to demonstrate it. When we argue on behalf of Christ, let us do it, as Peter says “with gentleness and reverence.”

After all, Jesus Himself is our ultimate example. He was unjustly nailed to a cross.   He could have called ten thousand angels. But instead He responded by praying for our forgiveness and entrusting Himself to the Father.

Scriptures and Thoughts on “Peace”

What is the Biblical concept of peace?
Hebrew:
shalom – based on the concept of “fastening” so as to achieve a stable condition. Implies not only the absence of conflict, but also wholeness, tranquility, stability, spiritual soundness, and good health.

Greek:
eirene – the higher spiritual fulfillment resulting from Christ coming into the world. A harmonious relationship between God and man, man and man, in the state, and in the church. Used as a common greeting in all 13 of the general epistles attributed to Paul.

(Romans 5:1) “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(Mark 9:50) “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

 “So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” (Acts 24:16)

Are there things more important than peace?
Apparently, yes.

(Matthew 10:34-36) “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.”

(Ecclesiastes 3:8) “…a time for war, and a time for peace.”

Bear in mind that being taken advantage of and injured by others is not a peaceful situation. Perhaps this helps explain (Luke 22:36) “whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”

(John 16:33) says “…take heart; I have overcome the world.” Notice, they could have peace not because there was no conflict, but because they had a champion among them who could end the conflict once and for all. Long-term peace is more important that short-term peace.

(Jeremiah 6:13-14) “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, Everyone is greedy for gain, And from the prophet even to the priest Everyone deals falsely. They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” — This seems to indicate that a “superficial” or false peace that seeks to ignore the problems rather than address them is not an acceptable outcome.

(Hebrews 12:14) says “strive for peace with everyone.” Peace ought to be an ultimate goal.

Blessed are the peacemakers, but are there times when it is wise not to get involved?

(Matthew 18:15) “if your brother sins against you…”

(Matthew 5:23) “if your brother has something against you…”

Notice that in both of these cases, you are one of the parties directly involved.
It may be unwise to get mixed up in other people’s business:
(1 Timothy 5:13) warns against the tendency to be “not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention.”

(2 Thessalonians 3:11) also mentions busy-bodies. This word means to “work all-around, i.e. to meddle, going beyond proper boundaries (where a person doesn’t belong); to fixate on what others are doing, instead of doing what the person himself is supposed to do.”

However, there are times for other parties to get involved:
(Philippians 4:2-3) “I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.”

How can we find peace when we are troubled?

Seek in in God.

(2 Thessalonians 3:16) “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

(John 16:33) “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

(John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26) Jesus repeatedly declared peace to His followers. Find peace in what He is done and its significance for our spiritual future.

(Isaiah 26:3) “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Through prayer.

(1 Peter 5:7) “casting all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you.”

(Philippians 4:6-7) “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What does “the peace that passes understanding” mean?

(Romans 8:26-27) “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Could this be relate?

 How can a church or a family in turmoil work for peace?

Follow the protocols of Matthew 5, Matthew 18, and Romans 14

Notice that being in Christ and in the Spirit together are key:

(Philippians 2:1-2) “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. “

(Romans 14:17) “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And Romans 14 is all about making peace by “accepting those who are weak in the faith.” Sort of like our concept of being the bigger person.

(Romans 15:13) “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

(Galatians 5) “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…”

(Ephesians 4:1-3) “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

(Ephesians 2:14, 17) Jesus is our peace, and He came and preached peace. He made peace possible.

It will require work:
(1 Peter 3:8-11)Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For ‘Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”

(Hebrews 12:14) “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

Compromise and perhaps the wisdom to keep a healthy distance:

(Genesis 13:8-9) “Then Abram said to Lot, ‘Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left.’”

Think also of the example of Abigail and Nabal,

Or of Solomon and the two mothers

(Romans 12:18) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Sometimes it may simply not be possible.

(Numbers 6:24-26) “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Elijah’s Discouragement

The Bible introduces us to the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 17, and we are immediately left with the impression that he is a bold and powerful man of God. The story begins with Elijah declaring to the king of Israel, “surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah’s following actions include raising up a widow’s son from a terminal illness, mocking 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah as they stand by in embarrassment, calling down fire from heaven on an altar to the true God, and personally slaying the prophets of Baal who flee when public opinion turns against them.

There is not much that could be considered a sign of weakness in Elijah through these impressive events. He seems larger than life. But then things change suddenly.

“Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.’ And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested for himself that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take my life, for I am not better than my fathers.’” (1 Kings 19:1-4)

It seems like Elijah had held it together as long as he could. He had tried to stand strong and turn the people to God in a country that had completely gone astray. But he saw no fruit from his efforts, and he saw no one to help him, and he saw no reason to go on. He just wanted to die.

Thus Elijah journeyed forty days into the wilderness to seek God’s answer to this situation. God’s answer must have been so reassuring. He tells Elijah to go and anoint Hazael and Jehu as new kings and Elisha as a new prophet to carry on his work when he is gone.

“…It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18)

Elijah may have felt like all of his efforts had been for nothing, and that death was preferable to more of his worthless, lonely striving. But that was not the truth of the situation. He was doing an important work in a very difficult time for Israel, and there were others, who he had not considered or perhaps had never even met, who were ready to work alongside him and take over when his time really was finished. Though Elijah had said in verse 14, “I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away,” there were actually 7,000 others who were also faithful to God.

Do not be discouraged when your genuine efforts seem unfruitful. It could be that, like Elijah, you are doing an important work simply by carrying on the tradition that many others, who you may never have even met, will carry on.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Jesus of Nazareth preached to the crowds: “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  From this we can see that both Jesus and God the Father esteem those who diffuse tension and bring understanding between conflicting people or groups.

On another occasion, Jesus told us “you have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

Make no mistake about it, we certainly recognize on a personal as well as a national level that peace is not a state so desirable that no sacrifice is too great to achieve it.  There are more important things than peace.  We cannot sacrifice truth to obtain it.

One of my professors put it this way: turning the other cheek is not a prescription for how to respond when children are being murdered, it is an example of how we should respond when our honor is called into question.

And we, like all peoples throughout history, certainly do value our honor.

Yes, Jesus acknowledge that His message would at times result not in peace but the sword.  He even acknowledged that family members would turn on each other because of Him (Matthew 10:34-36).  But His word makes it clear that we must do all that we possibly can to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18).

This would include, as already mentioned, responding with dignity and nonviolence rather than retaliation when out honor is challenged.  It would also include being wise about when, where, and how we share the truth.  Consider these Biblical principles for dealing with conflict:

The way in which a truth is spoken can affect how it is received: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Our speech should never be lacking in grace: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Colossians 4:6)

Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all: “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Even a friendly “good morning” does more harm than good when poorly timed: “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him.” (Proverbs 27:14)

May it be the prayer of all Christians that we can speak the truth in love.  To sacrifice truth is to misrepresent Christ to ourselves.  To sacrifice love is to misrepresent Christ to those we would seek to persuade.

Peace Handshake