A BODY OF PEACE – A BODY AT PEACE – PART TWO
In my last blog, I talked about internal peace – being a person at peace. This time, I want to focus on being a church at peace and a church of peace – a body of believers who are at peace with each other and a congregation that fosters peace between brethren.
Being a church of peace and a church at peace is essential so that worshippers can find refuge from the contentious and peace-less world we live in.
In fact, I believe that we have lost many young people in the past because their church congregations lacked peace. Because congregations have sometimes been too much like the world around us, because they sometimes have failed to be a place of refuge from the contentious world we lived in, because they sometimes have been a place where struggles for power, position and control have made them too much like any other business or group in this Satan-led world, church has robbed us of peace instead of inspiring it.
Of course, congregations are just groups of struggling sinners. Therefore, we should not be surprised that sinners struggle together and sometimes hurt one-another. However, I believe it is essential that learn to work together in peace so that we may effectively serve each other and the world at large.
As with any of the requirements of individual believers, those who have accepted positions of leadership (pastor, teacher, song leader, administrator, etc.) have an even greater responsibility when it comes to establishing a church at peace and a church of peace.
James 3:1 warns us, Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. [NIV] Therefore, I say that a peaceful congregation begins with leaders to establish and work toward peace. You probably recall that one of my favorite sayings is “speed of the leader, speed of the pack” and it applies here too. Leadership in the church must set the tone, establish the pattern of behavior and require a peace-loving demeanor from their congregations.
Of course, this does not only apply to pastors, but also to everyone who is in a position of leadership within the congregations – from deacons, to ushers, to Sabbath school teachers and the leaders of volunteer service crews. If I cannot take the heat of being judged more strictly in these matters, I should recuse myself from leadership.
Even with the peace of Jesus, which He gives to us [John 14:27], we have to work toward peace among brethren. It won’t come to our congregations by accident.
Thinking about this, I present some points on promoting a peace-filled congregation, reminding myself, as much as anyone reading this blog, that it is up to each of us to work toward peace – reminding us that any of us/each of us can help to lead a congregation to peace.
Point 1: Remember who is there.
Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” [Matthew 18:20]. We are not just attending with fellow believers – Jesus is there too. We would do well to always be mindful of that.
I have been a part of congregational situations where I wondered if anyone was paying attention to the presence of our Savior in the room. Unfortunately, there have been times when I was the one forgetting that Jesus was present with us.
Why is Jesus there among us? I believe it is because He loves us. But, surely, it is also to be an influence on our gatherings, to lend us each, as individuals, and together as a group His peace and wisdom and patience with one-another.
Whenever I am tempted to be argumentative, proud, “grabby” with power or place in the congregation, or anything less than the humble servant I am called to be, it would behoove me to ask, “If Jesus were visibly standing here, would I act this way or say this thing?” – as my parents used to ask me when I was a child.
When we gather together as a congregation, we must remember that Jesus is there with us. We must let His presence affect what we think, what we say and how we interact with one another.
Point 2: Remember what is in charge.
Remember that Colossians 3:15 [NIV] says, Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
The Greek word translated “rule” here can mean decide, determine, direct, control or rule. But the first application of the word listed in Strong’s is “umpire” or “arbitrate.”
This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. Paul picked a very specific word in this letter to the Colossians and never used it anywhere else in all his writings. I feel that this makes it all the more powerful.
Peace must arbitrate or umpire all of our dealings with fellow believers. I might ask myself, “will these words create peace?” or “will this action create peace?” and “is this desire born of peace?” If the answer is “no,” then I must make an adjustment to my words, actions or desires. Otherwise, peace is not ruling my heart and I will be working against peace within the congregation.
Peace should be in charge of our congregations.
Point 3: Work at it.
Romans 12:18 [ESV] tells us, If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. While this scripture clearly indicated that it may not be possible, it also tells me that I have a responsibility tot work at it.
Maybe I give up too easily on living in peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Perhaps a lot more depends on me, on my willingness to pursue peace, than I want to give myself credit for (or want to take responsibility for). These are points to ponder as I try to foster peace in my congregation.
We are not promised it will be easy. Psalm 34:14 [KJV] Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it. Seeking and pursuing sound like work to me. Clearly, God does not expect peace to come to the body of believers without some work.
Remember that Jesus made this promise to us in John 14:27 [KJV] Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you… Wherever His people are gathered there can be peace. It begins with internal peace – peace with God and with the blessings and talents He has given each of us – peace with the place He has made for each of us to use those gifts in His service. From there, with some focused work at peace, remembering that Jesus is with us – in our midst -- and letting peace be the arbiter or umpire in any situation, I believe we can be a body of peace and a body at peace in all of our congregations.
Once again, I’ll leave you with this blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26 [ESV] 24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
I welcome your comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.