MAINTAINING THE BOND OF PEACE
Peace is always desirable -- internationallly, nationally, religiously, and in the family.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" When David penned those powerful words, he did not reveal some great undiscovered truth. Peace, harmony, and unity are universal aspirations. We pray regularly for international peace, national harmony, and familial unity. But especially do we covet peace among brethren in the body of Christ.
"That they may all be one" was the prayer of our Savior (Jno. 17:20,21). Not just that we would tolerate one another or be willing to put up with one another, but that we would be of one heart with each other. Our Lord didn't ask for much in this world but He did ask -- the dying request of the dying Lord -- that we be "one."
The text for our consideration is a commission and call to unity. Listen to Paul:
"I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).
If we are to maintain the bond of peace, this passage requires three specific actions on our part:
We Must Acknowledge The Command: This is not optional equipment in the life of a Christian. The corollary commands are everywhere in the New Testament. "As much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom. 12:18). "Let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another" (Rom. 14:19). "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
While I am never at liberty to amend the "perfect law of liberty," keeping the "unity of the Spirit" in the "bond of peace" is within my purview and at my discretion. We must remember that creating discord in the family of God is a serious matter. When brethren "bite and devour" one another, it saps our energy, quenches our spirit, negates our influence and, most seriously, violates the command of God. We will "walk worthy of the calling" only when we "endeavor to keep" peace and harmony. Thus the command to "Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thes. 5:13).
We Must Accept The Challenge: Paul's use of the word "endeavoring" implies that unity among brethren will pose a challenge Translated elsewhere with the words "give diligence," the implication is that achieving and maintaining harmony among often dissimilar people will be a formidable task. Quite simply, we are not clones of each other.
For example, the congregation with which I labor is an amazingly diverse group. We truly are "red and yellow, black and white." We have folks from every corner of the country. We are blue collar and white collar; Republicans and Democrats, babes in Christ and mature, seasoned saints. We have many folks who grew up in religious indifference, denominationalism, or Catholicism. Let's be honest, when the call of the gospel brings together people of such diversity in background and spiritual maturity, it will take a tremendous amount of effort, patience, and love to mold into a harmonious family.
Thus, I must make sure that I try -- and that I try hard -- to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." I must make sure that there is not in my any vestige of selfishness or jealousy or slander or hypersensitivity that would allow Satan to use me as a pawn in his filthy fingers. I must remember that Satan would like to do in my congregation what he has done in so many others, that is, divide and conquer through backbiting and negativity.
We Must Adopt The Character: Verses one and three of our text make a fine sentence, for example, "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called...endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." But sandwiched between those two verses are four character traits that are essential for peace to prevail.
"With all lowliness." Or as the NIV suggests, "completely humble." It is an echo of the sentiment of Jesus when He declared, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all" (Mk. 9:35). In the context of a local church, I must remember that I am not the only one there -- and neither are you!
"With all...gentleness." Perhaps the word is best defined as being the opposite of rudeness, harshness, or self-assertiveness. It simply emphasizes that our opportunities for unity are enhanced when our spirit is kind. Someone has well said, "If you cut off a man's nose, there is no need to give him a rose to smell." Is it any wonder we are commissioned to "speak the truth in love"?
"With longsuffering." Patience will forever be essential in the maintenance of harmony. Sometimes personalities will conflict, people will exercise poor judgment, use ill-chosen words, exhibit a bad attitude, and take regrettable action. Sometimes we must ask God to help us be big people. Why should we suffer long with fellow saints? Because we want them to suffer long with us!
"Bearing with one another in love." One of the truly amazing statements regarding Jesus' love for His disciples was made on the night before He died. Listen to the sentiment: "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end" (Jno. 13:1). With all their faults, failures, and foibles, He never gave up on them. Don't you know that was difficult? And make no mistake, it will be difficult at times for us, too. Why bother acknowledging the command, accepting the challenge and adopting the character? So "that the world may believe that You sent Me," said Jesus. And so that you and I might "see the Lord," said the Hebrew writer (12:14).
By Don Truex in Biblical Insights, Vol. 4, No. 7, July 2004.
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