“Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
I was taught long ago that “If two people agree on everything all the time, one of them is unnecessary.” One should expect to face conflict or difficulty in every relationship. Best friends, spouses, teammates, colleagues; no matter how much you love and care for one another, there will come a time when you don’t see eye-to-eye, when you struggle to get along, and when it may seem easier to just give up and walk away than to stay and work things out.
The same goes for the church. We are, by definition, a community of the redeemed; each of us are sinners who have been saved by grace and called to new life in Jesus Christ. We are striving for the Promised Land, each of us called to encourage, exhort, teach, and pray for one another along this pilgrimage.
There are times when the Church is a thing of beauty, a glimpse into the splendor of the coming Kingdom of God.
Then there are times when it is not. There are times when the Church looks like the triage center of a battlefield hospital, where those wounded by sin and pierced by death come for healing and life, and that healing takes time. There are times when the old wound is aggravated, when we forget that the guy we’re arguing with is our brother in Christ, and we forget who we have been called to be.
Friends, there is no perfect Church. There never has been. Every church that’s mentioned in the Bible had its faults. Even the Church in Ephesus, of whom Paul writes such glowing praise, in the book of Revelation is chastised for having “lost its first love.” The Church in all its glory, is still just a foretaste of the coming reality of Heaven; like an appetizer, always leaving us wanting for just a bit more.
We need to remember that every member, and every leader, of the church is a sinner redeemed by Christ. None of us has reached our destination. None is above reproach. We are all still limping between the “works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
Works of the Flesh
|Fruit of the Spirit|
|Sexual Immorality, Impurity, Sensuality, Idolatry, Sorcery, Enmity, Strife, Jealousy, Fits of Anger, Rivalries, Dissensions, Envy, Drunkenness, Orgies||
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control
As a Church living in the power of the Spirit, peace, not warfare should characterize our relationships.
“We have been called by God to let Christ’s peace rule in our lives as we relate to one another since we are “one body” in Christ. Each member, then, is responsible for the peace and unity of the local church. Each individual makes a difference as to the outcome of any conflict in the church. Imagine what it would be like to be part of a church in which every member thinks of himself as one of God’s own “peace corps.” Each member would face conflict by thinking and acting as a peacemaker. Each would work for a just and righteous peace rather than competing against one another to win a fight or to beat down the opposing party. Every church in the New Testament struggled with maintaining unity and harmony. It is no different today. Without constant peacemaking efforts, all churches will eventually break apart or live in perpetual warfare.”*
*(Adapted from Alexander Strauch, If You Bite and Devour One Another, Lewis and Roth Pub, 2011.)
Where do you stand as a peacemaker in your Church? Do you see those who differ with you as opponents and obstacles to overcome, or as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ? Do you begin by giving others around you the benefit of the doubt, assuming that they have the best of intentions at heart, or has sin so jaded your heart that you automatically assume that everyone is out to get you? Do you freely extend the forgiveness that God has given to you to those around you, or has forgiveness and grace become a commodity to be rationed to only the deserving?
Friends, may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ reign and rule in your hearts and in His Church today!