“Pursue the Things Making for Peace”
“So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.”—Rom. 14:19.
1. (a) What has the twentieth century been forced to recognize? (b) But what question are we forced to ask?
THE quest for peace is a major preoccupation of our age. Many persons believe that peace is a necessity for the survival of the human race. But do the nations and people as a whole want peace bad enough that they are willing to pay the high price it costs in the reconstructing of their lives, aims and principles? Hardly, if judged by the efforts they make to attain it. Consider the evidence:
2. (a) How does the world seek peace, with what result? (b) How does a French scientist state that peace must be established?
2 The world seeks peace through self-interest, through a balance of power, mutual pacts and international alliances. It tries to manipulate human resources to prevent war. The world’s conception of peace is, in reality, a state of armed preparedness. It hopes that fear will restrain strife and violence. Such peace is a superficial, phony makeshift. It in no sense represents a quest for true peace. As French scientist Lecomte du Noüy observed: “The time has come for nations, as well as individuals, to know what they want. If civilized countries want peace, they must understand that the problem must be approached basically. The old scaffolding willed to us by past generations cracks on every side. It cannot be consolidated by makeshifts, by bits of string, by pots of glue and treaties gravely signed by Highly-Dignified-Gentlemen. Moreover, consolidation does not suffice. Peace must be established by transforming man from the interior and not by erecting external structures.”
3. (a) What does the prophet Isaiah have to say about the origin of peace? (b) Why can nations not claim such peace, but who can, and why?
3 Peace, however, by means of such transforming power, comes, not by the political manipulations of men, but by the righteousness of Jehovah God. Note what Jehovah’s prophet Isaiah wrote about this peace seven centuries before our Common Era. First he says that a true peace can never come to earth “until upon us the spirit [of Jehovah] is poured out from on high.” Isaiah then goes on to say: “The work of the true righteousness must become peace; and the service of the true righteousness, quietness and security to time indefinite.” (Isa. 32:15-17) What nations of the world can claim that in all their modern deliberations for peace their first concern was God’s righteousness? They have never aimed that high. Therefore, they have never reaped the peace spoken of by the prophet of God. But God’s people, his witnesses, have shown a genuine concern for the righteousness of God. For Jehovah is the God of peace; peace is a fruit of his spirit. (2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 5:22) Rightly, his witnesses have reaped the peace of God that excels all thought, which has guarded their hearts and mental powers by means of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7) It is to this peace that all who love righteousness and wish to live eternally must now give due consideration.
BENEFITING FROM THE PEACE JEHOVAH GIVES HIS ORGANIZATION
4. What state of affairs prevails in Jehovah’s organization, and how was this foretold?
4 Jehovah has given abundant peace to his organization because of its concern for righteousness. This peace is manifest by the state of calmness, tranquillity and harmonious relations that exists among Jehovah’s witnesses. They do not strain or bicker over how Jehovah runs his organization. This climate of peace was foretold at Isaiah 60:17: “I will appoint peace as your overseers and righteousness as your task assigners.” Without God’s righteousness, there can be no true or lasting peace.
5. How does Jehovah’s organization maintain its peaceful unity?
5 When Jehovah gives a clarified insight on a point of doctrine or a new course to be followed, then in an orderly fashion instructions are sent out to the various branches of the organization. The whole organization then swings smoothly into an adjusted course in closer harmony with the revealed will of Jehovah. The adjustment is accomplished peacefully, without various structural elements contending with one another. Thus the organization moves forward and gets Jehovah’s work done.
6, 7. (a) What can be appreciated about the peace in Jehovah’s organization? (b) What obligation does each member have toward keeping the peace, as admonished by Peter and John?
6 From the Bible and from personal experience, it is appreciated that the organizational peace of Jehovah’s witnesses is not a theory but a reality, an outworking of the divine will, a fruit of God’s holy spirit. It has come down from God, rather than being generated by the unaided efforts of men. While this is so, a person might ask: How does each one in the organization individually contribute to its peace?
7 Personal peace does not come automatically simply because a person has come within Jehovah’s peaceful organization. Each one must do his part. As the apostle Peter declared: “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.” (1 Pet. 3:10, 11) From Peter’s inspired words it is plain that, if we are to enjoy the peace of Jehovah’s organization, peace must be a working reality on the individual level. It must not be just a broad organizational quality. The apostle John also underscores this point, saying: “Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.” (1 John 3:18) Words alone will not suffice; deeds and truth are needed.
8. What questions may be asked to reveal whether we are keeping the peace in our daily life?
8 In our relations with others in the congregation, do we pursue the things that make for peace? We can tell by asking ourselves whether our conduct or the use of our tongue is causing strained relations with anyone, any quarrels, or whether we are harboring resentment. How about the situation in our family? Are there any unnatural tensions there, any bickering and faultfinding? Is there harshness? Likely we all have weaknesses in such areas at times. But our determination should be one of peace, and, no doubt, we can all improve along these lines.
9. What facts about peace do the apostle Paul and the disciple James call to our attention?
9 Because Jehovah’s organization is at peace, there must be an untiring working for peace by everyone in it. The apostle Paul stated it as a direct command: “So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Rom. 14:19) Peace cannot be taken for granted. It is an evidence of divine wisdom exercised by people devoted to God. The disciple James stated this clearly, saying: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable . . . Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.” (Jas. 3:17, 18) The focus here, too, is on the individual level.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR MAKING PEACE WITH ONE ANOTHER
10, 11. (a) When is our ability to remain peaceful put to the test? (b) How do ordinary affairs of life furnish opportunities to work at making peace?
10 Real peacefulness is far more than mere pleasantness when things go our way or fit our emotions or our preferences. Under such conditions our peace is not put to the test. But what do we do when we are put under some sort of pressure? Are we then peace-pursuing? Do we preserve our peaceful composure when under strain?
11 Ordinary relations between individuals outside and inside the congregation furnish many opportunities to work at making peace with one another. Continual contact with others, imperfect as we are, sometimes produces pressures to break the peace. Such challenges test us to prove whether we are really seeking peace. For instance, so many things today cause people to quarrel, and they are usually petty matters that amount to nothing. When you see yourself becoming involved in a possible quarrel, what do you do to head it off? If we control our emotions and maintain peace successfully under these small daily pressures, we are really laying a foundation for maintaining peace under major pressures. Jesus Christ said: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.” (Luke 16:10) We cannot handle a big threat to peace if we make it our habit to war over small things.
12. What are some of the situations that can mar peace?
12 What are some of the situations that can mar the peace in our families and in the congregation? When your Kingdom Hall was being built, perhaps differences over some detail of construction caused unkind words to be said. Children sometimes become provoked when parents laughingly air their youthful traits to others, unwittingly making them feel foolish. Wives at times make small public jokes about the private foibles of their husbands, unconsciously making them feel abashed. A real tension builder is when husbands fail to control their children or do not come to the aid of their wives in moments of stress.
13. We do well to ask ourselves what questions?
13 Do you see yourself in any of these situations, or others of a similar kind? What do you do for the sake of peace? When peace suffers, in your mind is it always the other person’s fault? Do you wait for the other person to make the first move toward recovering and keeping the peace? Overcoming the small daily pressures adds up to a peaceful life and pleasant work within Jehovah’s organization.
14, 15. (a) What makes possible the successful pursuit of peace? (b) What is the principle laid down by the apostle John bearing on our pursuit of peace, and how does Jesus emphasize the importance of being at peace with one’s brother?
14 Remember, peace results from divine wisdom, which means living according to God’s principles, a practicing of righteousness. Clearly then, just trying to be formally gracious at the right time, sort of being diplomatic to avoid problems, is not what true Christian peace really is. No, the peace that Jehovah gives reflects something far deeper.
15 That principle is underlined for us at 1 John 4:20, 21, which says: “If anyone makes the statement: ‘I love God,’ and yet is hating his brother, he is a liar. For he who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that the one who loves God should be loving his brother also.” The key principle here is this: If we want to be at peace with God, we must be at peace with one another. Jesus made this point clear in his Sermon on the Mount, saying: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away; first make your peace with your brother, and then, when you have come back, offer up your gift.” (Matt. 5:23, 24) In other words, whether our worship of Jehovah is acceptable or not hinges on this very point of being at peace with our brother.
16. (a) Why is the pursuit of peace not always easy? (b) How did Jesus prove himself a peacemaker? Cite examples.
16 However, the pursuit of peace is not always easy; in fact, it might be a very awkward business at times. Often it is a question of who should make the first move and how. Jesus said: “If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and you there remember that your brother has something against you,” you should make the first conciliatory move. Paul enlarges on this point, saying: “We, though, who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those not strong, and not to be pleasing ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor in what is good for his upbuilding. For even the Christ did not please himself.” (Rom. 15:1-3) Therefore, the spiritually strong one should take the initiative. When Peter proved himself weak and denied Christ, who was it that made the first move to close that breach of the peace? It was Christ, and how gently he did it too! (John 21:15-17) When Thomas doubted, it was Christ who pleased, not himself, but Thomas by appearing to him and restoring his faith, which brought Thomas back into a peaceful relationship with Christ. (John 20:24-29) What a fine example Christ set for us all! This was love at work.—Luke 22:24-27.
17. How persistent should one be at mending relations and making peace?
17 How persistent should one be in trying to establish a peaceful relationship with one’s brother? Paul answers: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) He also says: “Let us not give up in doing what is fine, for in due season we shall reap if we do not tire out.” (Gal. 6:9, 10) However, if our brother refuses to accept our love and conscientious effort to make peace, then that is his responsibility to bear.
PEACE WITH JEHOVAH OUR MOTIVATION
18. What is the foundation upon which to build peaceful relations with others?
18 Our desire to be at peace with Jehovah should be what motivates us to start building our peace with one another. Without the foundation of a peaceful relationship with Jehovah to work from, what will our efforts accomplish? Nothing. So if we find that we have trouble in getting along with others, that we always have complaints about this one or that one, that our life is punctuated with little collisions and barriers due to reserve, then the place to start looking for solutions is in our relationship with Jehovah. The offending rafter may be in our own eye, and the straw in our brother’s.—Matt. 7:1-5.
19. What should we all keep in mind, and how does the apostle underscore this point?
19 All of us have our individual personalities, which are tainted with imperfection. But despite our differences and peculiarities we have come to love Jehovah and his righteousness, and that is the big thing! Paul wrote: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also. Also, let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.” (Col. 3:13, 15) Paul here acknowledged that there would be causes for complaint. But unlike mankind in general, we have become reconciled to God. He has freely forgiven us. We received a good conscience and a peaceful start from Jehovah with our dedication and baptism. If the righteous God can be so ready to forgive and forget, why should not we be more so toward one another?
20. What is the key to having peaceful relationships with our brothers?
20 The key is the peace with Jehovah that we enjoy through Christ, giving us control over our inclinations and emotions so that we too can forgive and forget. Then we do not have a festering memory in our heart that generates coolness toward a brother that we think was out of line. If we keep our peace with God intact, then we will not let ourselves be provoked. We will neither retaliate in kind nor silently erect a barrier in our mind between ourselves and our brother.
IN HUMILITY AVOID JUDGING MOTIVES OF OTHERS
21. Why is humility so important when pursuing the things making for peace?
21 Usually it is in small things that frictions develop and grow out of proportion. To illustrate: Have you ever felt that your idea on how to handle a matter was better than your companion’s and you allowed yourself to get heated up in your efforts to prove a point? Why were you so strongly set on your own preference that peace began to be endangered? The Bible says that we should not think more of ourselves than we ought to think, “but to think so as to have a sound mind.” (Rom. 12:3) If we are people trying to get Jehovah’s work done, then remember there are usually several acceptable ways to do a given job. Getting a theocratic job done depends more on the peaceful spirit of the ones working than on the degree of efficiency of the arrangements.
22. How might we wrongly judge the motives of others, and why is this dangerous?
22 We may be prone to question the rightness of people’s motives just because they do not respond in the way we thought they should. For example, maybe someone did not greet us at the Kingdom Hall when we thought he should. We greeted him, but he said nothing. Do we begin to mull the thing over and feel a little hurt and begin to draw back in our feelings, figuring he has something against us or does not like us? Do we allow a barrier of reserve and coolness to begin to develop? If a person does not watch his own motives, the tendency is to make a silent judgment, almost unconsciously, throwing doubt into our view of our brother’s Christianity. That would be judging his motive as questionable. Your brother’s actions are imperfect, true, but would you want your motives judged by your defective actions? The caution is clear then: Try to excuse the action of your brother rather than to find fault with him. Thus avoid cultivating in yourself a faultfinding spirit.—Matt. 7:1, 2.
PURSUE PEACE BY MAINTAINING JEHOVAH’S VIEWPOINT ON LIFE
23. In pursuing peace, why is it important to heed the counsel at Hebrews 13:17?
23 In pursuing peace we must heed the counsel at Hebrews 13:17 and be obedient and submissive to the elders in the congregation. We may have known an elder for many years, and we may have seen all his imperfections and little eccentricities. But in spite of all his faults Jehovah has seen fit to put him into office. Now are we going to argue with Jehovah’s judgment? Are we going to undermine the organization with a faultfinding spirit? How much better to pitch in and cooperate, and rejoice that Jehovah has made this arrangement.
24. Why is it urgent to do now what 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us?
24 In the new order contentions will not be allowed to spoil the peace, and so why should we let them do that now? What does 2 Corinthians 13:11 say? “Brothers, continue to rejoice [now], to be readjusted [now], to be comforted [now], to think in agreement [now], to live peaceably [now]; and the God of love and of peace will be with you.” By following this good advice now our worship will be pure and acceptable before God.
25. What viewpoint of Jehovah will aid us to keep peace with our brothers?
25 To help us to maintain Jehovah’s viewpoint on life, Ephesians 4:32 says: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another just as God also by Christ freely forgave you.” How can you nurse resentment toward a brother for whom Jehovah has shown love? In some strained situation, remember there are two sides and some of your imperfection contributes to the strain. There has to be a pull on both ends to keep a rope tight. Your brother wants life just as much as you do. You need his support as he needs yours.
26. What points should we bear in mind and apply to be at peace with our God and with one another?
26 Remember the big things when strain over a small thing looms up. Ask yourself, ‘Why are we ministers of Jehovah? Where are we headed? What is our purpose in life?’ Keep these all-important matters before you always. Know that Jehovah loves his people; all of them are precious to him. Ease the way for your brother, just as you would want him to ease the way for you. To gain the prize of everlasting life you must be at peace with the Source of life, Jehovah. But that peace is assured only if you are at peace with your brother. So in all things pursue peace, to Jehovah’s glory and your eternal happiness.
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When you see yourself getting involved in a possible quarrel, do you add fuel to the fire? Or do you pursue peace by controlling your emotions?