These deep burgundy leaves won’t be long on the forsythia. They’ll soon be finding their way to the ground below as autumn sunlight hours give way to winter.
Just as we know what to expect from the deciduous trees and shrubs around us as the season draws to a close, so we should know what to expect from ourselves and other followers of Christ!
Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.2 Corinthians 13:11 NLT
Live in Harmony and Peace
This is the final expectation of us found in this one little verse. For the past year and a half, it seems the hardest one to fulfill. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between believers and nonbelievers when it comes to living in peace and harmony!
But for the follower of Christ, it’s not really a suggestion. Jesus said, “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other“ (Mark 9:50).
Paul wrote, “Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other“ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone“ (Romans 12:18).
Why is it so hard for us to follow this command? Here are a few possibilities, not even close to an exhaustive list:
We can get full of ourselves, not wanting to admit that we might not have all the details, and someone else’s answer could hold more merit than our own. We don’t want to give in and lose face when we’ve staked our claim on some hill that’s not really worth dying on! But we are cautioned, “The LORD detests the proud; they will surely be punished” (Proverbs 16:5).
Maybe we’re unwilling to do the hard work of truly understanding another’s point of view. We would rather argue our side of the issue without listening to comprehend. “Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors” (Proverbs 26:16).
It could be that we just want what we want, no matter the relationships lost in the process of getting the desired result! “For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic” (James 3:15).
There are many issues bringing discord and division into the Body of Christ today that have next to nothing to do with Christianity. Believers forget that they are citizens of heaven first, and that’s where their primary allegiance lies. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world“ (James 4:8).
This is not to say that we are to forget the work of pursuing mercy and justice for the oppressed and burdened in this world! God tells His people (which now includes you and me), “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people” (Isaiah 58:6). We are to be about the work of the Kingdom, doing what we can to fulfill the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven (Matthew 6:10).
Peace Takes Work!
When you feel the need start rising in you to disagree with someone, stop! Take a moment to look at the motivation pressuring you to respond.
- Do you want to look impressively wise?
- Do you not want to hear any more of the other view for fear that you might need to make some concessions (which requires mental effort)?
- Do you simply want your own way?
- Do you want to build up the Kingdom of God or some “kingdom” of the world?
Next, take another moment to think through the outcome if you were to speak your mind. Will your choice create a wider chasm or build a bridge of reconciliation?
Dear God, help us! We want to honor your Name, but our weakness and short-sightedness often war against our attempts. We pray as David did, “Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV). Fill us with your Spirit, and strengthen us to live in peace with others. Amen.
Use these links to read previous posts in this series: