“Seek Peace and Pursue It”
“If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”—ROMANS 12:18.
1, 2. What are some reasons why no man-made peace will last?
IMAGINE a house with a weak foundation, rotten beams, and a sagging roof. Would you be inclined to move in and make it your home? Probably not. Even a fresh coat of paint would not change the fact that the house is not structurally sound. Sooner or later, it will likely collapse.
2 Any peace originating in this world is like that house. It is built on a weak foundation—the promises and strategies of man, “to whom no salvation belongs.” (Psalm 146:3) History is a long series of conflicts between nations, ethnic groups, and tribes. True, there have been brief periods of peace, but what kind of peace? If two nations are at war and then peace is declared either because one nation is defeated or because both nations can see no further advantage in fighting, what kind of peace is that? The hatreds, suspicions, and jealousies that sparked the war are still there. Peace that is a mere facade, a ‘painting over’ of hostility, is not a durable peace.—Ezekiel 13:10.
3. Why is the peace of God’s people different from any man-made peace?
3 Nevertheless, real peace does exist in this war-torn world. Where? Among the footstep followers of Jesus Christ, genuine Christians who heed Jesus’ words and strive to imitate his life course. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Peter 2:21) The peace that exists between true Christians of different races, social positions, and nationalities is genuine because it stems from the peaceful relationship they have with God, which is based on their faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Their peace is a gift from God, not something contrived by humans. (Romans 15:33; Ephesians 6:23, 24) It is a result of subjecting themselves to the “Prince of Peace,” Jesus Christ, and worshiping Jehovah, “the God of love and of peace.”—Isaiah 9:6; 2 Corinthians 13:11.
4. How does a Christian “pursue” peace?
4 Peace does not come automatically to imperfect individuals. Hence, Peter said that each Christian should “seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:11) How can we do that? An ancient prophecy points to the answer. Speaking through Isaiah, Jehovah said: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” (Isaiah 54:13; Philippians 4:9) Yes, genuine peace comes to those who heed Jehovah’s teachings. Moreover, peace, along with “love, joy, . . . long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” is the fruitage of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) It cannot be enjoyed by someone who is unloving, joyless, impatient, unkind, evil, unfaithful, fierce, or without self-control.
“Peaceable With All Men”
5, 6. (a) What is the difference between being peaceful and being peaceable? (b) Toward whom do Christians strive to be peaceable?
5 Peace has been defined as “a state of tranquillity or quiet.” Such a definition would cover many situations in which there is an absence of strife. Why, even a dead person is at peace! To enjoy true peace, however, one needs to be more than just peaceful. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” (Matthew 5:9) Jesus was speaking to individuals who would later have the opportunity of becoming spiritual sons of God and receiving immortal life in heaven. (John 1:12; Romans 8:14-17) And eventually, all of faithful mankind who do not have a heavenly hope will enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) Only the peaceable can have such a hope. The Greek word for “peaceable” literally means “peacemakers.” There is often a difference between being peaceful—at peace—and being peaceable. Being peaceable in the Scriptural sense implies actively promoting peace, sometimes making peace where it was previously lacking.
6 With this in mind, consider the apostle Paul’s counsel to the Romans: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Romans 12:18) Paul was not telling the Romans simply to have calm dispositions, although that would help. He was encouraging them to make peace. With whom? With “all men”—family members, fellow Christians, even those who did not share their beliefs. He encouraged the Romans to make peace with others ‘as far as it depended upon them.’ No, he did not want them to compromise their beliefs for the sake of peace. Rather than unnecessarily antagonizing others, they were to approach them with peaceful intent. Christians were to do so whether they were dealing with those inside or outside the congregation. (Galatians 6:10) In harmony with this, Paul wrote: “Always pursue what is good toward one another and to all others.”—1 Thessalonians 5:15.
7, 8. How and why are Christians peaceable toward those who do not share their beliefs?
7 How can we be peaceable with those who do not share our beliefs and who may even oppose them? For one thing, we avoid displaying an air of superiority. For example, it would hardly be peaceable to speak of specific individuals by using derogatory terms. Jehovah has revealed his judgments against organizations and classes, but we have no right to speak of any individual as if he were already condemned. Really, we do not judge others, even our opposers. After telling Titus to counsel Christians in Crete about their dealings with human authorities, Paul said to remind them “to speak injuriously of no one, not to be belligerent, to be reasonable, exhibiting all mildness toward all men.”—Titus 3:1, 2.
8 Being peaceable with those who do not share our faith goes a long way toward recommending the truth to them. Of course, we do not cultivate friendships that “spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Still, we can be courteous, and we should treat all people with dignity and human kindness. Peter wrote: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”—1 Peter 2:12.
Peaceable in the Ministry
9, 10. What example of dealing peaceably with unbelievers did the apostle Paul set?
9 First-century Christians were known for their boldness. They did not water down their message, and when confronted with opposition, they were determined to obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 4:29; 5:29) Nevertheless, they did not confuse boldness with rudeness. Consider Paul’s approach when he defended his faith before King Herod Agrippa II. Herod Agrippa had an incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice. However, Paul did not set out to lecture Agrippa on morals. Rather, he emphasized points they agreed on, crediting Agrippa with being an expert on Jewish customs and a believer in the prophets.—Acts 26:2, 3, 27.
10 Was Paul insincerely flattering the man who could grant him freedom? No. Paul followed his own advice and spoke the truth. Nothing he said to Herod Agrippa was untrue. (Ephesians 4:15) But Paul was a peacemaker and knew how to become “all things to people of all sorts.” (1 Corinthians 9:22) His objective was to defend his right to preach about Jesus. As a good teacher, he began by mentioning something that he and Agrippa could agree on. Thus Paul helped that immoral king to see Christianity in a more favorable light.—Acts 26:28-31.
11. How can we be peacemakers in our ministry?
11 How can we be peacemakers in our ministry? Like Paul, we should avoid arguments. Granted, at times we need to “speak the word of God fearlessly,” boldly defending our faith. (Philippians 1:14) But in most cases our primary objective is to preach the good news. (Matthew 24:14) If a person sees the truth about God’s purposes, he can then begin to cast off false religious ideas and cleanse himself of unclean practices. To the extent possible, therefore, it is good to emphasize things that will appeal to our listeners, starting with things we hold in common with them. It would be counterproductive to antagonize a person who, if approached tactfully, might listen to our message.—2 Corinthians 6:3.
Peacemakers in the Family
12. In what ways can we be peacemakers in the family?
12 Paul said that those who marry “will have tribulation in their flesh.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Various hardships will be encountered. Among other things, some couples will have disagreements from time to time. How should these be handled? In a peaceable way. A peacemaker will endeavor to stop a conflict from escalating. How? First, by guarding the tongue. When used to make sarcastic and insulting remarks, this small member can truly be “an unruly injurious thing, . . . full of death-dealing poison.” (James 3:8) A peacemaker uses his tongue to build up rather than to tear down.—Proverbs 12:18.
13, 14. How can we preserve peace when we err in speech or when emotions run high?
13 Being imperfect, all of us occasionally say things that we later regret. When this happens, be quick to make amends—to make peace. (Proverbs 19:11; Colossians 3:13) Avoid getting bogged down in “debates about words” and “violent disputes about trifles.” (1 Timothy 6:4, 5) Instead, look beneath the surface and try to understand your mate’s feelings. If harsh words are spoken to you, do not reply in kind. Remember that “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.”—Proverbs 15:1.
14 At times, you may need to consider the counsel of Proverbs 17:14: “Before the quarrel has burst forth, take your leave.” Step back from the volatile situation. Later, when emotions have cooled, you will probably be able to solve the problem amicably. In some cases, it might be advisable to call upon a mature Christian overseer for help. Such experienced and empathetic men can be a refreshing aid when marital peace is threatened.—Isaiah 32:1, 2.
Peacemakers in the Congregation
15. According to James, what bad spirit had developed among some Christians, and why is that spirit “earthly,” “animal,” and “demonic”?
15 Sadly, some first-century Christians gave evidence of a spirit of jealousy and contentiousness—the very opposite of peace. James said: “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is the earthly, animal, demonic. For where jealousy and contentiousness are, there disorder and every vile thing are.” (James 3:14-16) Some believe that the Greek word translated “contentiousness” has to do with selfish ambition, a jockeying for position. It is for good reason that James labels it “earthly, animal, demonic.” Throughout history, world rulers have acted contentiously, like wild animals battling against one another. Contentiousness truly is “earthly” and “animal.” It is also “demonic.” This insidious trait was first manifested by the power-hungry angel who set himself against Jehovah God and became Satan, the ruler of the demons.
16. How did some first-century Christians manifest a spirit like that of Satan?
16 James urged Christians to resist developing a contentious spirit, for it works against peace. He wrote: “From what source are there wars and from what source are there fights among you? Are they not from this source, namely, from your cravings for sensual pleasure that carry on a conflict in your members?” (James 4:1) Here, “cravings for sensual pleasure” could refer to a greedy craving for material things or to a desire for prominence, control, or influence. Like Satan, some in the congregations evidently wanted to be shining ones rather than ‘lesser ones,’ as Jesus said his true followers would be. (Luke 9:48) Such a spirit can rob the congregation of peace.
17. How can Christians today be peacemakers in the congregation?
17 Today, we must also resist the tendency toward materialism, jealousy, or vain ambition. If we are genuine peacemakers, we will not feel threatened if some in the congregation are more skilled than we are at certain endeavors, nor will we discredit them in the eyes of others by questioning their motives. If we possess a noteworthy ability, we will not use it to make ourselves look better than others, as if to imply that the congregation will prosper only because of our proficiency and know-how. Such a spirit would cause division; it would not bring peace. Peacemakers do not flaunt their talents, but they modestly use them to serve their brothers and bring honor to Jehovah. They realize that in the end, it is love—not ability—that identifies a true Christian.—John 13:35; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.
“Peace as Your Overseers”
18. How do elders promote peace among themselves?
18 Congregation elders take the lead in being peacemakers. Jehovah foretold regarding his people: “I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” (Isaiah 60:17) In line with these prophetic words, those who serve as Christian shepherds work hard to promote peace among themselves and among the flock. Elders can keep peace among themselves by displaying the peaceable and reasonable “wisdom from above.” (James 3:17) With their varied backgrounds and experiences in life, elders in a congregation will sometimes have different viewpoints. Does this mean that they lack peace? Not if such a situation is handled properly. Peacemakers modestly express their thoughts and then respectfully listen to those of others. Instead of insisting on his own way, a peacemaker will prayerfully consider his brother’s viewpoint. If no Bible principle is violated, there is usually room for varied points of view. When others disagree with him, a peacemaker will yield to and support the decision of the majority. Thus he will show himself reasonable. (1 Timothy 3:2, 3) Experienced overseers know that preserving the peace is more important than getting one’s own way.
19. How do elders act as peacemakers within the congregation?
19 Elders promote peace with members of the flock by supporting them and by not being unduly critical of their efforts. Granted, at times some may need to be readjusted. (Galatians 6:1) But the Christian overseer’s work is not primarily to administer discipline. He often gives commendation. Loving elders strive to see the good in others. Overseers appreciate the hard work of fellow Christians, and they have confidence that their fellow believers are doing their best.—2 Corinthians 2:3, 4.
20. In what way does the congregation benefit if all are peacemakers?
20 Hence, in the family, in the congregation, and in dealing with those who do not share our beliefs, we strive to be peaceable, to work for peace. If we diligently cultivate peace, we will contribute to the happiness of the congregation. At the same time, we will be protected and strengthened in many ways, as we will see in the following article.
Do You Recall?
• What does it mean to be peaceable?
• How can we be peaceable when dealing with non-Witnesses?
• What are some ways of cultivating peace in the family?
• How can elders promote peace in the congregation?
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Peacemakers avoid an air of superiority
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Christians are peacemakers in the ministry, in the home, and in the congregation