Editorial: The Peacemakers

In the year 63BC the Roman armies under Pompey captured Jerusalem making it part of the Roman Empire. In those turbulent times many Jews were taken to Rome as slaves and thus it was that when Paul was writing his epistle to the Romans about eighty years later, there was a large Jewish community living in Rome and the ecclesia, too, seems to have had many Jewish brethren as well as gentile Roman brethren. Human nature being what it is there was trouble between the two groups. It is not difficult to imagine the situation; the Jewish brethren were descendants of Abraham, the scriptures had been revealed to them, Jesus himself was of the tribe of Judah and Jews traditionally looked down on gentiles as “dogs”. The Roman brethren would deeply resent this attitude, they would remember that they were the master race of the day and that the Jews in their midst were descendants of slaves. So there was strife in the ecclesia.

          One of Paul’s objectives in writing to the Romans, therefore, was to try to bring peace, love and harmony to a divided ecclesia. He was to be Paul the Peacemaker.

           Paul set about his task very cleverly; he identified himself with both factions of the ecclesia. To the Jewish brethren he wrote, “... I speak to them that know the law…” (7:1); and he writes of “... my kinsmen according to the flesh…” (9:3) though he goes on to remind them that many descendants of Abraham will not inherit the promises because of lack of faith. His prayer for Israel was that they might be saved (10:1). So, Paul clearly identified himself with the Jewish members of the church in Rome. But he also identified himself with the gentile members, “I speak to you gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle to the gentiles…”  (11:13), but just as he had warned the Jews that being descendants of Abraham did not guarantee redemption, so also he warned the gentiles not to boast of their position, that justification was by faith and that just as God had broken off some Jewish “branches” of the tree, so equally He might break off “branches” that had been grafted in, if faith was lacking. Paul’s argument reaches its climax in chapter 10 where in verse 11 he quotes the Jews’ own scriptures, “Whosoever believeth on him ...”. The word “whosoever” is all-embracing; there is no restriction. So, the Jewish prophet, Isaiah, had anticipated the gospel being available to all, irrespective of race. Paul then quotes from another Jewish prophet, Joel, “... whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord ...” (verse 13), reinforcing exactly the same point. Sandwiched between those two quotes is Paul’s main thrust, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” One can almost hear Paul muttering under his breath, “So let that be the end of all this nonsense.”

           There are many other passages of scripture which emphazise the point that, like Paul, we should all try to be peacemakers. Here are a few:


   “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt.5:9). Notice the word peacemakers. Peace has to be made; it has to be worked for. Peace is not achieved by merely “keeping one’s head down”; by doing nothing. We must try to make peace; to create peace.

   “Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). Again the same point is here, that peace must be sought; peace will not just “happen” in a vacuum and that “doing good” is a practical way to help make peace among brethren.

   “Let us follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19). Those who try to edify their brothers and sisters will be helping to make peace within the ecclesia, for we cannot be expounding scripture faithfully, bringing out heart-warming lessons, and at the same time be fostering strife; no fountain yields fresh water and brackish water at the same time. Here is the positive aspect of the matter – we can help generate peace by making sure that our speech is always wholesome, uplifting and heart-warming; no time will remain for evil speaking which generates and perpetuates strife.

    “The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace(James 3:18). The picture here is of a farmer sowing seeds. Each seed contains the germ of a new plant – but what type of plants will come from the seeds we sow? Our lives should be full of good works, not just for those we like, but for all, and our speech should be wholesome with poisonous words eschewed. We seek a good harvest to fill the granaries – not tares.

    “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...” (Galatians 5:22). Once again the picture is of a harvest. Good wholesome seeds have been sown and now the harvest is being gathered in.

          But there is also the other side of the coin:

    “These six things doth the Lord hate ... he that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19). The seeds being sown here are of a different variety; they are poisonous seeds yielding a harvest of strife, pain, bitterness, anger, resentment and division – the fruit of unbridled human nature.That bit of malicious gossip which a child of God would hide is instead whispered of to another; the helpful deed is deliberately withheld; discussion of Bible themes is supplanted by angry words or a discussion of the weaknesses and sins of another – one for whom Christ died.

There was strife among the disciples of Jesus on more than one occasion – even in the Upper Room when our Lord was so near to terrible suffering (Luke 22:24 30). The contention was about status – which of us is the most important. The disciples were expecting Jesus to proclaim himself King and the only question which remained was their relative positions! Of course we can smile at the naivety of the disciples and imagine that we would never quarrel over such a matter. But wouldn’t we? Do not people become upset if another is asked to do a particular task or if a suggestion made by another is accepted while our own suggestion is rejected? The spirit that lies behind these situations is this, “Which of us is the greatest?” Jesus rebuked his disciples in the Upper Room pointing out that he, their Lord and Master, had washed their feet, doing the task of a menial slave and that they, too, should be willing to serve rather than insist on rank. He added this, “I appoint unto you a kingdom...”. In the kingdom over which Jesus will rule, the most important people will be those most willing to serve. If we aspire to be citizens of the Kingdom of God we should be showing that spirit now.

In 1 Samuel 25 there is the account of how Abigail turned David away from violence and revenge. Her skill is noteworthy; she made no attempt to justify her husband’s conduct, merely saying, “Upon me let this iniquity be.” She then went on seeking to pacify David while his anger abated and when the time was ripe she made her two main points (1) You would later regret shedding blood, and (2) Vengeance should be left in the hands of God. But now note the humble spirit that David revealed; before his four hundred followers he acknowledged the wisdom of Abigail’s words and turned away from his avowed course. Truly David is revealed here as a big man, as a man big enough to be humble.

We remember too the spirit of Abraham when it became necessary for him to separate himself from his nephew Lot (Genesis 13:8). Abraham was the older man and therefore should have had first choice; but Abraham waived that right and allowed Lot to take his choice. Note, however, the words of Abraham to his nephew, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee ... for we be brethren” (Genesis 13:8). Whenever difficulties arise between brothers and sisters in the ecclesia, those words of Abraham should be the end of all strife.

But the greatest peacemaker of all time was Jesus himself; he has brought reconciliation between ourselves and our Maker. Paul spells it out for us:

    “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bro David Budden.

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