Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).

You would never know it by what you see in the lives of some people who call themselves “Christians,” but Christianity is a religion of peace. The history of the denominational Christian church has not been a history of peace. We not only have had the Crusades, but we have had wars between different Christian denominations. All of this is in diametric opposition to what Jesus taught and what the New Testament tells us Christianity is about. Aggression and war are a function of selfishness, a basic philosophy of “survival of the fittest,” and the antitheses of what Christianity stands for. A careful study of the New Testament not only teaches that we should be at peace with one another, but it tells us how to go about doing that. These principles apply whether we are talking about getting along with the world at large, our mate, or people we work with. Let us look at some of these principles which allow us to “be called the children of God.”
subtitle 1
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace” (Colossians 3:15, NIV). Are you a lover or a fighter? How do you drive your car — peacefully sharing the road, or on the borderline of road rage? When people hear your voice on the phone, what happens to their blood pressure? Do you strive to bring a solution to every problem, or do you enjoy being an agitator? In my school teaching days a group of us teachers used to eat lunch together. I always enjoyed throwing out a controversial statement, and then watch as the group would polarize and argue about the subject I brought up. It finally got to the point where one teacher stopped eating with us because, in her words, it was giving her an ulcer. This was certainly not “letting peace rule within my heart.”

Christians are to be people who treasure and value peace. We are not to be people who treasure and value divisive issues and controversy. We are told to “contend for the faith”(Jude 3), but it was Jesus, our example, who brought compassion, service, and understanding to the table — not open warfare. The great preacher and author Ira North used to say, “No one wants to hear the gospel from an angry, crabby old man or woman.” We are to bring joy and love and understanding to those around us. We have good news and peace to bring to a world full of bad news and strife.
subtitle 2
“For indeed we were brought into one body by baptism, in the one Spirit whether we are Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free men, and that one Holy Spirit was poured out for all of us to drink.” (1 group of peopleCorinthians 12:13, NEB). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). One of the major causes of war and strife in the world has always been the attempts of one group of people to claim superiority over another group. At any given moment there is violence somewhere on the planet because one racial or ethnic group feels the need to assert itself over another group.

Christianity is a unity faith. Many people who claim to be Christians have had a hard time comprehending this, but one cannot read the New Testament and not see that God has broken down all racial and ethnic barriers and made everyone equal. This is closely related to our previous point, because it is very difficult to have peace when one person claims to be superior to another or to have special favor with God. Paul battled this problem in his day with the controversy over Jewish traditions versus Gentile traditions. We are even more fragmented today because people have not accepted what God says about the fact that we are all equal in His sight. There will never be peace until everyone accepts that principle.
subtitle 3
“Then pay to the Emperor what belongs to the Emperor and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21, TCNT). Give diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). “If you can, so far as it depends upon you, live at peace with all the world.” (Romans 12:18, Weymouth). Let us follow after the things which make for peace and the things which belong to the upbuilding of each other (Romans 14:19). The whole 14th chapter of the book of Romans deals with how to handle differences of opinion. Paul talks about people who have beliefs about food and what should and should not be eaten. He then talks about special days and the observance of one day as more holy than another. In verse 21 he says that it is better not to eat or drink or do anything that causes someone else stumble.

I have heard it said that Christians are divided over everything people can be divided over and a few things they cannot be divided over. I believe that the statement has some merit. The most fundamental things which the Bible teaches are difficult to miss. We tend to have problems concerning things that really do not matter all that much. False teachers, as described in the New Testament, were not people who misunderstood a passage of Scripture, or who had a belief that was not carefully thought out. False teachers were people who were evil and deceptive and totally denied Jesus as the Son of God. (See 2 John 7; 1 John 2:18 –19; 2 Peter 2:1.) One of the characteristics of such people is that they agitate and cause discord and division (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 3:3).

We may disagree about many things, but if we are people who value what God has taught us, we will work for peace, learn to tolerate differing opinions, and place a very high premium on not allowing division to occur.0
subtitle 4
“Euodius and Syntache I beg you by name to make up your differences as Christians should” (Philippians 4:2, Phillips). The word which God has sent to the sons of Israel by telling them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36). Since we stand justified as a result of faith let us enjoy the peace we have through Jesus Christ, our Lord (Romans 5:1). The followers of Jesus Christ will learn how to bring peace to those around them. Christians have been reconciled to God, and because of that reconciliation should recognize how important the process is. Have you ever had a break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend and then made up with them? Was that not a joyful thing? If someone helped that happen, did you not feel a special thankfulness to that person?

As Christians, our primary job is to help people reconcile with God. That is what the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. It is done by helping people see what God has done to allow reconciliation to happen, and what they need to do to make it happen. God does not force himself on anyone, and Christians as ministers of reconciliation cannot force people to reconcile with God. Our secondary goal is to bring people into reconciliation with one another. Paul emphasized this in his message to Euodias and Syntyche, and there are many biblical examples of Christians who were brought together by other Christians or by the Church as a whole.

One of the greatest tragedies of the Church in the past 100 years has been that it has been typified by conflict, division, and abuse, rather than peace, reconciliation, and love. Satan will do everything possible to keep the attitudes and conflict of the past 100 years going. With God’s help we can change that and we will do that one step at a time, in our families, or congregations, our towns, our nation, and our world. The ultimate reconciliation is sure, and peace will happen.
--John N. Clayton

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