Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Sunday, 08 September 2013


By Jim Jordal

 "Don't think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn't come to send peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man at odds against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn't worthy of me. He who doesn't take his cross and follow after me, isn't worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it; and he who loses his life for my sake will find it."

Matthew 10:39-42 WEB

We often hope and pray for peace for ourselves and our family, church, and nation. But we usually treat peace as a gift from God, with no cost to us or to those finding peace.

What is the price of spiritual peace within a nation, church, family, or individual? The price of peace is justice, for, as Martin Luther King said, "Without justice there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it." This is true of individuals as well as larger groups like organizations and nations.

Today let’s look at peace within a church. Ideally, peace can mean a blessed sense of cooperation, sharing, brotherhood, discipleship, challenge, and spiritual growth within the group as we follow wherever the Lord leads. This form of peace is exemplified in the early church described in the Acts of the Apostles. And it is still possible today!

Peace can also mean the absence of conflict and discord. This sort of peace is delusionary because it is based, not on truth or obedience, but upon a temporary absence of disruptive behaviors. Matthew 18 contains a process for dealing with such situations. It tells us to resolutely face serious divisive behavior in a loving but fearless manner. When reasonable action fails, then the answer lies in separating the disputing parties.

What we usually do when conflict erupts in the church is to attempt to gain peace by ignoring or pacifying disputing parties. If peace in the church can be gained only by soft pedaling God’s truth, substituting instead nice sounding platitudes and cheap grace so that parishioners can go home feeling good about themselves, then the price of peace is too high. If peace can be attained only by pacifying malcontents instead of confronting them according to the process disclosed in Matthew 18, then the price is too high. And if preaching only the partial gospel of personal salvation while ignoring the remainder of Jesus’ teachings concerning justice and national righteousness can attain peace, then the price is also too high.

Jesus said he came not to bring peace but a sword. He meant that while true peace was always the goal, that following him into the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of his sufferings, and the ultimate conformity to his death (Phil. 3:10) would stir up opposition. Some people don’t like to be challenged. Others don’t want to be disquieted, preferring to remain placid pew-sitters rather than active followers. Others think that just being in church is insurance against hell fire, and besides, it will let others know you are a "good, trustworthy person," and that helps business.

But whatever the reason you are in church, you will someday have to answer for what you did with what you heard.

Today many Christian churches have become expressions of the surrounding culture rather than antidotes to it. We mistakenly think that people, especially young adults, want and will respond to expressions of the common culture, especially modern music, that will somehow attract those that otherwise would not be interested in the Christian message. But the result according to recent polls is just the opposite: We water down the real full gospel with half-hearted "truths" based as much on human philosophy as on Scripture. And the result is that youth turns away from mainline denominations in droves, moving toward independent community churches still maintaining the always vital messages of truth, justice, relationship with Christ and others, and involvement in the lives of parishioners.

But we are so afraid of discord that we will do almost anything to preserve peace. Remember that if the price of peace is too high, you have an alternative—risk doing what God says and see what happens.