‘Peace’ is a word that goes to the heart of the Christian message. It’s something we all long for, yet it is one thing the world does not have. Everywhere we go there are tensions, injustices, and conflicts.
In fact today, April 25, Australia remembers the sacrifice of tens of thousands of Australians who died in war. A special focus this year is on April 25, 1918, the start of the turning point on the Western front with the liberating of the French village, Villers-Bretonneux under the command of the Australian, Lt.-General Sir John Monash. ‘The Great War’ as it was called, was said to be the war that would end all wars!
Yet daily we learn of appalling atrocities perpetrated in Syria and Yemen to name just two places. Wars subvert people’s trust in the existence of a good and loving God.
It is significant that in Colossians 3:15 Paul writes: …Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
He echoes Jesus’ words to his followers on the night of his arrest: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Yet tragically, disagreement and division plague many churches.
In Colossians 3:12 Paul sets out personal attitudes to adopt: As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, he writes, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Instead of indifference we need to work at compassion and kindness; instead of pride, humility and gentleness; instead of impatience and resentment, patience.
And, he continues: bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, that binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:13-14).
Here are ways we should be different from the wider society. In our relationships heaven’s values should begin to prevail – love and mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. God expects us to show grace.
Paul also sets out an action plan for changing our attitudes and relationships. In 3:16 he says: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.
Keeping the peace doesn’t mean simply sweeping our differences under the carpet. That is not what Paul means. We need opportunities to speak our minds to one another. And he tells us, that the way we do it is by coming to the Bible together. Rather than giving one another a piece of our own mind we can bring our disagreements to God’s Word and to his mind. There is no place for strong-willed, aggressive, individuals insisting on their way. We need to let God’s Word and the principles of his Word do the directing.
Furthermore, we are to do this with all wisdom. Our Bible reading is not to be uniformed and subjective. All of us are expected to work at understanding the Scriptures and therefore to speak to one another with sensitivity and tact. The Bible is key to peaceful relationships.
And, Paul says: With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. We tend to think of Christian hymns only as songs of praise to God. Paul is suggesting another purpose: instruction and exhortation. We do not have to address God every time we sing in church. We also speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
Here is a reason we need congregational singing where we can hear one another sing songs that are grounded in a rich understanding of the Scriptures. It gives us a taste of heaven.
And something else needed: we need to be grateful to God. Whatever you do, Paul writes, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (3:17).
Nothing brings about tension and division more than a discontented, ungrateful spirit. To be thankful is to trust God in every situation, no matter how difficult or challenging. Paradoxically, when we are thankful to God, we will discover joy and contentment. Indeed, where God’s people are thankful to the Lord, we will find people who are at peace with one another.
Here then are some clues as to how we can begin to show those around us where to find peace.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts – in our attitudes to one another, and in practical action. So let’s remember that because the Lord has forgiven us, we must forgive. And let’s remember Jesus’ words: “Love one another as I have loved you” – and so keep the peace.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com