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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blessed are the Peacemakers

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God"
- Mt 5:9

But what do you do when you cannot make peace?

Some of you who have read me for a while may think I am about to rant about Hezbollah and Israel. That might be appropriate, but it is not what is on my heart today. What is on my heart is the state of my church.

Over the past several months there have been those who intentionally spread dissention within the church. Why? Simply read Jude 11.

Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion

From Barnes' Notes on the New Testament:

Woe unto them! See Mat 11:21.

For they have gone in the way of Cain. Ge 4:5-12. That is, they have evinced disobedience and rebellion as he did; they have shown that they are proud, corrupt, and wicked. The apostle does not specify the points in which they had imitated the example of Cain, but it was probably in such things as these--pride, haughtiness, the hatred of religion, restlessness under the restraints of virtue, envy that others were more favoured, and a spirit of hatred of the brethren (comp. 1Jn 3:15) which would lead to murder.

And ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward. The word rendered ran greedily--execuyhsan, from ekcew--means to pour out; and then, when spoken of persons, that they are poured out, or that they rush tumultuously on an object, that is, that they give themselves up to anything. The idea here is, that all restraint was relaxed, and that they rushed on tumultuously to any course of life that promised gain. See Barnes "2Pe 2:15".

And perished. They perish, or they will perish. The result is so certain that the apostle, speaks of it as if it were already done. The thought seems to have lain in his mind in this manner: he thinks of them as having the same character as Korah, and then at once thinks of them as destroyed in the same manner, or as if it were already done. They are identified with him in their character and doom. The word rendered perish (apollumi) is often used to denote future punishment, Mat 10:28,39 18:14 Mr 1:24 Lu 13:3,5 Joh 3:15,16 John 10:28 2Th 2:10 2Pe 3:9.

In the gainsaying of Core. Of Korah, Nu 16:1-30. The word gainsaying here means properly contradiction, or speaking against; then controversy, question, strife; then contumely, reproach, or rebellion. The idea here seems to be, that they were guilty of insubordination; of possessing a restless and dissatisfied spirit; of a desire to rule, etc.

It was envy that others were more favored, pride in not having more say in the direction of things not under their stewardship, desire for gain, a rebellious spirit, and a seditious character. Not all had all of these traits, but the leaders did. Charles Spurgeon writes about what the inevitable result of this type of dissention leads to:

If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution."
--Exodus 22:6

But what restitution can he make who casts abroad the fire-brands of error, or the coals of lasciviousness, and sets men's souls on a blaze with the fire of hell? The guilt is beyond estimate, and the result is irretrievable. If such an offender be forgiven, what grief it will cause him in the retrospect, since he cannot undo the mischief which he has done! An ill example may kindle a flame which years of amended character cannot quench. To burn the food of man is bad enough, but how much worse to destroy the soul! It may be useful to us to reflect how far we may have been guilty in the past, and to enquire whether, even in the present, there may not be evil in us which has a tendency to bring damage to the souls of our relatives, friends, or neighbours.

The fire of strife is a terrible evil when it breaks out in a Christian church. Where converts were multiplied, and God was glorified, jealousy and envy do the devil's work most effectually. Where the golden grain was being housed, to reward the toil of the great Boaz, the fire of enmity comes in and leaves little else but smoke and a heap of blackness. Woe unto those by whom offences come. May they never come through us, for although we cannot make restitution, we shall certainly be the chief sufferers if we are the chief offenders. Those who feed the fire deserve just censure, but he who first kindles it is most to blame. Discord usually takes first hold upon the thorns; it is nurtured among the hypocrites and base professors in the church, and away it goes among the righteous, blown by the winds of hell, and no one knows where it may end. O Thou Lord and giver of peace, make us peacemakers, and never let us aid and abet the men of strife, or even unintentionally cause the least division among Thy people.

I sat in a place where, although I had pressed to be a peacemaker with several up until today, I was forced to choose one side or the other. I was pressed to tears as I agonized over choosing to support the dismissal of a man I count as a friend and a brother, who has prayed for me and I for him. However, since he had at one time allied himself with the seditious group, and was being propped up by them as their leader, he had to go for the benefit of the body. I could not be sure of exactly what he had done, but I knew for sure that not only was he sympathetic to the seditious, he never attempted to stop the sedition, even though he has the charisma, skills and following to do so.

If I am ever asked why he resigned, I will state what I believe to be the truth - he sought to do what was best for the church, and did not want to be tarred with the paint of a leader of mutineers.

Sometimes, you have to choose sides. Really, you always do, if it is a matter of any import. Not choosing simply puts you passively on one side. The choice to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ is the same. If you don't choose, you choose instead to deny Him. Are you ready to make that wager? For you make it whether you wish to or not.


  • It only takes one side to wage war and many sides to maintain peace, which is why peace will always be the hard way, the way of most work and most effort. But it is good work; the best work, really. Sometimes you really do need to choose sides, but how do you know you really have reached that point and aren't just doing what is easiest?

    I used to carry a coin with me that had the Serenity Prayer printed on one side. It said:

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/09/2006 01:35:00 PM  

  • Mark,
    I would argue that "what is easiest" is almost always "do nothing", which means to choose no sides. Whatever leads to the least amount of conflict is what appeals to the vast majority of us. That's why helping behavior is so uncommon - it's easiest to do nothing and hope it all works out instead of making a hard choice and working through it.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/10/2006 09:36:00 AM  

  • True, but "do nothing" doesn't lead to peace, as you well know. Getting everyone together in a room, working out all the differences, figuring out where the common ground lies, what can change, what should not change, etc., etc. THAT is hard work. That is why it is called peacemaking.

    That said, "do nothing" is only the easiest choice when you are an outside observer. If someone gets in your face, insults your wife and kids and tries pushing you around, what is easier: Slug the guy or turn the other cheek? Obviously, that answer depends on the personality of the person involved, but for most men, and I'm fairly certain in your case, "slug the guy" is easier whereas "turn the other cheek" requires a huge amount of self discipline.

    If you want to know what is easiest and natural, watch kids at a playground. You'll find bullies, those truly intimidated and those that fight back. What is rare are those that legitimately "turn the other cheek" and those that play peacemaker.

    Of course, I have absolutely no idea about the details of what you wrote about, so all of this may make no sense in your case at all.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/10/2006 01:53:00 PM  

  • After hitting "publish" I realize I come across as disagreeing with you more than I think I do. Many people do, in fact, ignore problems, let things fester and "do nothing". This is the nature of a codependent you find supporting an alcoholic, for example.

    My point is there are many ways to do something and not all of them involve picking sides. If you see two people fighting you can assume one is the good guy and help, or you can step in-between them to break it up.

    I should also point out that just because you pick a side it doesn't mean the remaining course of action is pre-determined. Pointing a gun at someone is not the same as pulling the trigger.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/10/2006 02:11:00 PM  

  • Good insight, all, Mark. What do you do when one party refuses to have peace made? That was my lot, and a sad one at that.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/15/2006 04:30:00 PM  

  • I don't know, does 4GW apply to church politics? :-)

    Obviously, the angel is in the details; there is no generic answer to these things. But much like divorce is by definition failure, when conflicts like this divide us, somewhere along the line we failed.

    By Blogger Mark, at 8/16/2006 02:49:00 AM  

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