Maintaining Our Possession of Peace
“My people must dwell in a peaceful abiding place and in residences of full confidence and in undisturbed resting places.”—Isa. 32:18.
1. Why does “the God of peace” at times become “a manly person of war,” and for how long will such be?
GOD’S Word tells us that “for everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens: . . . a time for war and a time for peace.” That is why Jehovah God is frequently spoken of not only as “the God of peace,” or “the God who gives peace,” but also as “a manly person of war” and as “Jehovah of armies.” To vindicate his sovereignty and to restore peace he finds it necessary at times to resort to war, for which reason he speaks of himself as “making peace and creating calamity.” But only during this present wicked system of things is there a time for war and a time for peace; in the coming new order, when God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, there will be a time only for peace.—Eccl. 3:1, 8; Phil. 4:9; Rom. 15:33; Ex. 15:3; Jas. 5:4; Isa. 45:7.
2. How, at times, do the Scriptures describe the peaceful activity of Jehovah’s witnesses?
2 The same might also be said of the peaceful activity of the dedicated Christian minister. How so? In that his ministry is repeatedly described in terms of war: “As a fine soldier of Christ Jesus take your part in suffering evil.” Of course, he does not use fleshly or material weapons, even as the apostle Paul shows: “The weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things.” And again, “We have a fight, not against blood and flesh, but against . . . wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” The Christian minister uses the truth, the “sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word,” which “is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword.” With it he slashes false, God-dishonoring teachings, not out of pride or ill will, but in humility and in love for God, truth and his fellowman.—2 Tim. 2:3; 2 Cor. 10:4; Eph. 6:12, 17; Heb. 4:12.
3. What may be said about our obligation to keep peace, and why?
3 It appears, then, that the Christian’s obligation to keep peace is not always the same. It may be said to be absolute as regards his relations with his fellow Christians, even as the Scriptures show: “Keep peace between one another.” “Brothers, continue . . . to think in agreement, to live peaceably.” “Be peaceable with one another.” When Christians have disagreements between themselves they are obligated to smooth these out, on the one hand going to the one they have offended, on the other hand going to the one that offended them to see whether they cannot dismiss it from their minds. But in regard to those “on the outside,” their obligation to keep peace is relative or qualified: “If possible”—it may not always be possible—“as far as it depends upon you”—those on the outside may not want to settle matters—“be peaceable with all men.”—Mark 9:50; 2 Cor. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:13; Rom. 12:18; Matt. 5:23, 24; 18:15-17.
4. (a) What factors contribute to a loss of peace? (b) Because of this, what counsel is found in the Scriptures?
4 Because of inherited imperfections, weaknesses and selfishness we find the human tendency is to be quick to fight, to argue with words or blows. Imperfect conditions, mishaps, and so forth, are likewise conducive to strife. Fittingly, God’s Word, from beginning to end, counsels peace. Wisely Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, as prime minister of Egypt, when sending his brothers back to his father after having made himself known to them, counseled: “Do not get exasperated at one another on the way.” Because it is so easy to get into an argument Solomon could say: “It is a glory for a man to desist from disputing, but everyone foolish will burst out in it.”—Gen. 45:24; Prov. 20:3.
5, 6. What benefits accrue from being peace-minded?
5 Those who have gained the peace of God as their possession must therefore continually work at peace, make peace their pursuit, if they would maintain this precious possession. They must be peace conscious, peace-minded. And why should we not be peace-minded? Peace is conducive to one’s very health and well-being in every way. As has well been noted, strife and friction and stress are among the basic causes of all illness, mental, physical and emotional. It therefore follows that simply for the sake of our own well-being we should make peace a pursuit. There can be no happiness in the Christian congregation or in the family circle if it is the scene of continual strife. Every wise person will therefore be interested in maintaining peace.
6 But more than that, peace makes also for efficiency and prosperity. A wartorn countryside produces no crops. A human body at war with itself is unable to take care of itself and so must be committed to an institution where others are appointed to take care of it. So also with any organization, be it a family, a congregation or a business corporation, peace within is required for it to function efficiently and realize its goals. That is why Christians are counseled: “The fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.” Again: “He that would love life and see good days, let him restrain his tongue from what is bad and his lips from speaking deception, but let him turn away from what is bad and do what is good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”—Jas. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:10, 11.
7. What does it mean to be peaceable?
7 No wonder God in his Word sets such great store on peace. Thus he counseled the Jews that had returned to Jerusalem: “Love truth and peace.” And that is why Jesus said: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” Note here that the peaceable are not merely those who are peaceful or who have peace, but those who are peaceably inclined, who make a pursuit of peace, who work at making peace. To gain God’s approval we must be peaceable.—Zech. 8:19; Matt. 5:9.
8. What is one of the ways we can show we are among the peaceable, and what obligation does this place upon us?
8 If we are truly among the peaceable “sons of God,” then we will make peace the subject of our prayers. As the psalmist David long ago admonished: “Ask [pray], O you people, for the peace of Jerusalem. Those loving you, O city, will be free from [anxious] care. May peace continue within your rampart, freedom from care within your dwelling towers. For the sake of my brothers and my companions I will now speak: ‘May there be peace within you.’” Thus also the apostle Paul counseled: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer . . . let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.”—Ps. 122:6-8; Phil. 4:6, 7.
GUARDING AGAINST PEACE-DISTURBERS
9-11. (a) How does pride rank among the peace-disturbers, and why? (b) How does pride affect our relationship with God? (c) With our fellowman?
9 If we would have God answer our prayers for peace we ourselves must do our part; we must work at what we pray for. This, for one thing, means guarding against peace-disturbers. Chief among these is pride. Why can that be said? Because it was pride in the first place that started out Satan the Devil on his career as the great peace-wrecker. Pride is at the bottom of all rebellion against God, and rebellion is a state of war, the opposite of peace. Pride wars against submitting; yet without submission on our part to those above us, there can be no peace.—Ezek. 28:17; 1 Pet. 5:5.
10 Pride makes us enemies of God. How can we have peace when we are in a state of war with him? Among the seven things that are detestable to Jehovah are “lofty eyes,” or pride. And divine wisdom personified states: “Self-exaltation and pride and the bad way and the perverse mouth I have hated.” Yes, since “God opposes the haughty ones,” there simply can be no peace between us and God if we are proud. If we want peaceful relations with him we must humble ourselves, for “he gives undeserved kindness [only] to the humble ones.” “Jehovah is high, and yet the humble one he sees; but the lofty one he knows only from a distance.”—Prov. 6:16, 17; 8:13; Jas. 4:6; Ps. 138:6.
11 Pride also results in a loss of peace with our fellowman. In fact, repeatedly the apostle Paul shows the relationship between pride and strife—the absence of peace as being one of cause and effect: “Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.” So keep “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you.” “If any man teaches other doctrine and does not assent to healthful words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor to the teaching that accords with godly devotion, he is puffed up with pride, not understanding anything, but being mentally diseased over questionings and debates about words. From these things spring envy, strife, abusive speeches, wicked suspicions, violent disputes about trifles.” No question about it, pride is a peace-disturber.—Gal. 5:26; Phil. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:3-5.
12, 13. Why does materialism act as a peace-disturber?
12 Another peace-disturber against which we want to be on guard is materialism. Greed for material things, for selfish gain, makes us discontented and gets us into a lot of difficulties, and then how can we have peace? Well has it been written: “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” We can have neither peace with God nor peace of mind if we are driven by materialism. Let us remember that “we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Contentment makes for peace of mind.—1 Tim. 6:10, 7, 8.
13 Greed also puts one in competition with one’s neighbor, thus robbing one of one’s peace, for it causes one to compete with him for material things even as pride causes one to compete with him for honor, thereby arousing jealousy, envy or fear of loss. In the interest of peace we therefore want to heed the counsel to be “keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others,” and to be seeking their advantage, not only our own.—Phil. 2:4; 1 Cor. 10:23, 24.
14. Why can all the “works of the flesh” be termed peace-disturbers?
14 In fact, it might be said that all forms of selfishness, all “works of the flesh,” are peace-disturbers and the more gross they are the greater their power to disturb one’s peace. Surely lying, stealing, cheating and all forms of sexual immorality disturb one’s peace with God by giving one a guilty conscience, and they rob one of peace with one’s neighbors because they cause one to encroach upon their rights, as is made so clear by the apostle Paul: “God wills . . . that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God; that no one go to the point of harming and encroach upon the rights of his brother in this matter, because Jehovah is one who exacts punishment for all these things.” Note also how many of those works of the flesh are even in themselves peace-disturbers: “Hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts.” No question about it, if we would maintain our possession of peace, we must be on guard and fight against all the works of the flesh.—1 Thess. 4:3-6; Gal. 5:19, 20.
CULTIVATING AIDS TO PEACE
15, 16. (a) How does love aid in maintaining our possession of peace? (b) How does joy?
15 It logically follows that, if all “the works of the flesh” are peace-disturbers, then all the other fruits of the spirit (for let us not forget that peace is one of its fruits) are aids to peace which we therefore want to cultivate. (Gal. 5:22, 23) The first of these, as well as the chief, is love. Both by what it does not do and by what it does it helps us to maintain our possession of peace. On the one hand, it “is not jealous, it does not brag, does not get puffed up,” all of which are likely to disturb peace, even as does ‘acting indecently.’ Far from disturbing others by being greedy, love does not even “look out for its own interests.” Neither does it disturb its own peace by nursing a grudge or cherishing resentment; no, “it does not keep account of the injury.” On the other hand, it makes for peace by ‘rejoicing with the truth and bearing, believing, hoping and enduring all things.’ Truly, by cultivating love we are helped to maintain our possession of peace.—1 Cor. 13:4-7.
16 Does joy likewise make for peace? Most certainly! Joy is a positive, outgoing quality and so is conducive to peace, even as peace is conducive to joy. Joy gives strength, enabling us to overlook slights and petty offenses that would ordinarily disturb us and thereby rob us of our peace. Closely related to joy is a sense of humor, which often can come to the rescue of an embarrassing or otherwise awkward or difficult situation, thereby preserving peace.—Neh. 8:10.
17, 18. (a) How is long-suffering conducive to peace? (b) How kindness?
17 What about long-suffering? No question about its being an aid to maintaining our possession of peace. How much strife, internationally, nationally, racially and between individuals, has been caused simply because people have refused to be long-suffering! It makes for peace, for its puts up with conditions wherever possible, rather than to make issues or cause strife. Long-suffering keeps one from being unduly sensitive, from being easily offended, thus making for peace. Yes, it takes “long-suffering, putting up with one another in love,” if we would endeavor to “observe the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.”—Eph. 4:2, 3.
18 The next fruit of the spirit that is mentioned at Galatians 5:22 is kindness. It also is a quality we will want to cultivate as an aid to peace. As has well been said, kindness has power, for it puts misunderstandings to flight and clears the way for forgiveness. It disarms the critical, the prejudiced, the suspicious, all of which makes for peace. It makes for friendliness, which, in turn, is conducive to peace. The aid that kindness is to peace is indicated by the words of the apostle Paul at Ephesians 4:31, 32, where he contrasts kindness with its opposites: “Let all malicious bitterness and anger and wrath and screaming and abusive speech be taken away from you along with all injuriousness. But become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.”
19-21. (a) Of what value is goodness in making for peace? (b) Of what value is faith? (c) Mildness?
19 Equally valuable as an aid to peace is goodness, defined as virtue, moral excellence. The Creator, Jehovah God, is the very personification and essence of goodness, and we are to try to imitate him, being made in his likeness. Certainly if peace is far from the wicked, it must be close to those who practice goodness, who bring forth the fruitage of light, which “consists of every sort of goodness and righteousness and truth.” Today there is little “love of goodness,” and so little peace in the world. Goodness makes for a good conscience, which is indispensable to peace. That is why Christians are counseled: “Hold a good conscience,” so that those who speak slightingly of their good conduct might be put to shame.—Eph. 5:9; 2 Tim. 3:3; 1 Pet. 3:16.
20 Still another fruit of the spirit that is a great aid for our maintaining our possession of peace is faith, trust in Jehovah, even as we read: “The inclination that is well supported you will safeguard in continuous peace, because it is in you that one is made to trust.” As Jesus counseled: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.” Because of faith we can ‘raise ourselves erect and lift ourselves up, knowing our deliverance is near,’ at the very time the rest of all mankind are having their ‘hearts fail them because of fear and expectation of what is coming upon the earth.’ And when our own weaknesses and shortcomings would disturb and discourage us, we can gain peace by exercising faith in Jehovah’s love and mercy and in Christ’s ransom sacrifice.—Isa. 26:3; John 14:1; Luke 21:28, 25, 26; Ps. 103:8-14; 1 John 1:7.
21 As for the next fruit of the spirit mentioned by the apostle Paul, mildness, how obvious that it is conducive to peace! Being mild means being gentle, soothing, not harsh, rough or irritating. Jesus was mild-tempered and called the mild-tempered ones happy. Nothing is more likely to disturb peace than rage, but “an answer, when mild, turns away rage.” Yes, especially when we are faced with a lack of mildness on the part of others, when they are harsh, as when authorities ‘demand of us a reason for the hope that is in us,’ need we to answer “with a mild temper and deep respect.”—Prov. 15:1; 1 Pet. 3:15; Matt. 5:5; 11:29.
22. Why is self-control such an aid to keeping peace?
22 Lastly there is the fruit of self-control, second only to love as an aid to maintaining our possession of peace. When someone insults us, slapping us on the cheek, as it were, self-control will enable us to turn the other cheek, thereby keeping the peace. Self-control will keep us from shouting when others get excited, thus helping to restore peace. “An enraged man stirs up contention, but one that is slow to anger,” or that exercises self-control, “quiets down quarreling,” restoring peace.—Prov. 15:18; Matt. 5:39.
23. What role does control of the tongue play in peace?
23 In particular must the tongue be controlled. Gossip can be harmless, but it can also cause ill will and separate friends if it is uncomplimentary, as we read: “Where there is no wood the fire goes out, and where there is no slanderer contention grows still.” “Drive away the ridiculer, that contention may go out.” Self-control of the tongue also is needed when one comes to us with a grievance. Then it is easy for our emotions to get involved and for us to side in with the offended one. But no! Let us exercise self-control, keep our balance and reason on the subject. For the sake of peace seek to ameliorate the situation: ‘Well, now, was it really that bad? You must have misunderstood him or he misunderstood you. Maybe he was not feeling well at the time. Do not take it so seriously, I’m certain no harm was meant!’ and so forth. In this way you can also work for peace.—Prov. 26:20; 22:10.
24, 25. What responsibility in the interest of peace do husbands, overseers and wives have?
24 So regardless of where we may be, we want to exercise self-control for the sake of peace. Perhaps a husband is tried by something his wife or children said or did. If he exercises self-control the situation can easily be remedied, but let him respond with hasty speech or actions and he will drive peace farther away. The same is true in the Christian congregation. Regardless of the nature of the offense, for an overseer to respond in anger or wrath, with ill-advised speech, causes peace to fly out the window, as it were. And then peace must be restored before the problem can be solved.—2 Tim. 2:23, 24.
25 Not that others do not also have a responsibility in this regard. “Better is it to dwell upon a corner of a roof than with a contentious wife, although in a house in common.” The nagging wife as a disturber of peace is proverbial, yet so unnecessary, so unreasonable, so annoying! Her lack of self-control taxes the self-control of others about her.—Prov. 21:9.
26, 27. In summing up, what can be said about our gaining and maintaining our possession of peace?
26 Truly, as peace itself is also one of those fruits, the rest of the fruits of the spirit aid us in cultivating this fruit, maintaining it as our possession. Jehovah as the God of peace and his Son as the Prince of peace have given us their peace. It is a peace that is unique, based on principle, and does not depend upon our environment. By reason of exercising faith we have been able to come into peaceful relations with Jehovah God, and now we must work at maintaining our possession of peace. We must be at peace with our brothers and, as far as it depends upon us, we want to be at peace with our neighbor, whoever he may be.
27 That means being peace-minded, making peace our pursuit, praying for peace, working at peace, guarding against the many peace-disturbers and, in particular, being on guard against Satan the Devil, the great peace-wrecker. It means cultivating all the rest of the fruits of the spirit so conducive to peace. We do want to maintain our possession of peace, for peace makes for well-being of mind and body, makes for effective activity and results in happiness.
28. What relation is there between peace and happiness?
28 Is not Jehovah God the happy God, and Jesus Christ the happy Potentate? Yes, they are, and if we would be happy we must have their peace. “Those counseling peace have rejoicing.” And did not Jesus say: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God’”? Do we appreciate the implication of those words? In other words, peaceableness is an identifying characteristic of God’s children, even as is their love and their message. So let us ever safeguard the peace of God, our possession.—Prov. 12:20; Matt. 5:9.