“Seek Peace and Pursue It”
“Let Jehovah be magnified, who takes delight in the peace of his servant.”—PSALM 35:27.
1. What peace do we enjoy today?
WHAT a joy it is in this divided world to be at peace! What a delight to worship Jehovah, “the very God of peace,” and to share in the blessings of his “covenant of peace”! How refreshing, in the midst of life’s pressures, to know “the peace of God that excels all thought” and to experience ‘the bond of peace’ that unites God’s people no matter what their nationality, language, race, or social background!—1 Thessalonians 5:23; Ezekiel 37:26; Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 4:3.
2, 3. (a) While God’s people as a whole will endure, what may happen to individual Christians? (b) What does the Bible urge us to do?
2 As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we treasure this peace. However, we cannot take it for granted. Peace is not maintained automatically just because we are associated with a Christian congregation or happen to be part of a Christian family. While the anointed remnant and their companions of the “other sheep” will endure as one flock to the end, individuals may lose their peace and fall away.—John 10:16; Matthew 24:13; Romans 11:22; 1 Corinthians 10:12.
3 The apostle Paul warned anointed Christians of his day: “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God.” (Hebrews 3:12) This warning applies also to the great crowd. So the Bible urges Christians: “Seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their supplication; but the face of Jehovah is against those doing bad things.”—1 Peter 3:10-12; Psalm 34:14, 15.
“The Minding of the Flesh”
4. What could disturb our peace with God?
4 What can interrupt our pursuit of peace? Paul mentions one thing when he says: “The minding of the flesh means death, but the minding of the spirit means life and peace; because the minding of the flesh means enmity with God.” (Romans 8:6, 7) By “flesh,” Paul refers to our fallen condition as imperfect humans with inherited sinful tendencies. Giving in to the inclinations of the fallen flesh will destroy our peace. If a Christian unrepentantly commits immorality, lies, steals, takes drugs, or in some other way breaks the divine law, he disrupts the peace with Jehovah that he once enjoyed. (Proverbs 15:8, 29; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Revelation 21:8) Moreover, if he allows material things to become more important to him than spiritual things, his peace with God is gravely threatened.—Matthew 6:24; 1 John 2:15-17.
5. What is involved in the pursuit of peace?
5 On the other hand, Paul said: “The minding of the spirit means life and peace.” Peace is part of the fruitage of the spirit, and if we train our heart to appreciate spiritual things, praying for God’s spirit to help us in this, then we will avoid “the minding of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:22-24) At 1 Peter 3:10-12, peace is linked with righteousness. (Romans 5:1) Peter says that the pursuing of peace includes ‘turning away from what is bad and doing what is good.’ God’s spirit can help us to “pursue righteousness” and thus preserve our peace with God.—1 Timothy 6:11, 12.
6. What is one of the responsibilities of the elders with regard to the peace of the congregation?
6 The pursuit of peace is of major concern to the elders in the congregation. For example, if someone tries to introduce polluting practices, the elders are responsible to protect the congregation by trying to reprove the sinner. If he accepts the reproof, he will regain his peace. (Hebrews 12:11) If not, he may have to be cast out so that the peaceful relationship of the congregation with Jehovah may be preserved.—1 Corinthians 5:1-5.
Peace With Our Brothers
7. What manifestation of ‘minding the flesh’ does Paul warn the Corinthians about?
7 ‘Minding the flesh’ can destroy not only our peace with God but also our good relationship with other Christians. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “You are yet fleshly. For whereas there are jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and are you not walking as men do?” (1 Corinthians 3:3) Jealousy and strife are the very opposite of peace.
8. (a) What may happen to one who causes jealousy and strife in the congregation? (b) On what does our peace with God depend?
8 Disturbing the peace of the congregation by causing jealousy and strife is very serious. Speaking of a quality related to peace as a fruit of the spirit, the apostle John warned: “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.” (1 John 4:20) In a similar way, if an individual causes jealousy or strife among brothers, can he really be at peace with God? Surely not! We are urged: “Continue to rejoice, to be readjusted, to be comforted, to think in agreement, to live peaceably; and the God of love and of peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11) Yes, if we continue to live peaceably with one another, then the God of love and peace will be with us.
9. How do we know that Christians will sometimes have misunderstandings and disagreements?
9 This does not mean that there will never be misunderstandings between Christians. In the weeks following Pentecost, there was a disagreement in the young Christian congregation about the daily food distribution. (Acts 6:1) On one occasion a disagreement between Paul and Barnabas led to “a sharp burst of anger.” (Acts 15:39) Paul had to counsel Euodia and Syntyche, doubtless fine, zealous sisters, “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) No wonder Jesus gave detailed advice on how to solve disturbances of the peace between Christians and highlighted the urgency of handling such problems promptly! (Matthew 5:23-25; 18:15-17) He would not have given this counsel if he did not anticipate difficulties among his followers.
10. What situations sometimes arise in a congregation, and what responsibility does this put upon all involved?
10 Today, then, it is quite possible that someone may be offended by a tactless word or a perceived slight from a fellow Christian. A characteristic in one person may intensely irritate another. Personalities may clash. Someone may strongly disagree with a decision of the elders. On the body of elders itself, one elder may be very strong-minded and try to override the other elders. Despite the fact that such things happen, we still have to seek peace and pursue it. The challenge is to handle these problems in a Christian way so as to preserve “the uniting bond of peace.”—Ephesians 4:3.
11. What provisions has Jehovah made to help us to pursue peace with one another?
11 The Bible says: “Let Jehovah be magnified, who takes delight in the peace of his servant.” (Psalm 35:27) Yes, Jehovah wants us to be at peace. Hence, he has made two outstanding provisions to help us preserve peace among ourselves and with him. One is holy spirit, of which peace is a fruit, along with related peaceable qualities, such as long-suffering, kindness, mildness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23) The other is divine wisdom, of which we read: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits.”—James 3:17, 18.
12. What should we do if our peace with our brothers has been disturbed?
12 Therefore, when our peace with others is disturbed, we should pray for wisdom from above to show us how to act, and we should ask for holy spirit to strengthen us to do what is right. (Luke 11:13; James 1:5; 1 John 3:22) In harmony with our prayer, we can then look into the source of divine wisdom, the Bible, for guidance, as well as check available Bible literature for counsel on how to apply the Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16) We may also wish to seek advice from elders in the congregation. A final step would be to follow the guidance received. Isaiah 54:13 says: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” This implies that our peace depends on our putting into practice the things Jehovah teaches us.
“Happy Are the Peaceable”
13, 14. (a) What is implied by Jesus’ expression “peaceable”? (b) How can we become peacemakers?
13 Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, said: “Happy are the peaceable, since they will be called ‘sons of God.’” (Matthew 5:9) “Peaceable” here does not refer to someone who is simply placid by nature. The original Greek word means “peacemakers.” A peacemaker is skilled at restoring peace when it is disturbed. More important, though, a peacemaker strives to avoid disturbing the peace in the first place. ‘Peace controls in his heart.’ (Colossians 3:15) If God’s servants strive to be peacemakers, then problems among them will be kept to a minimum.
14 Becoming a peacemaker involves recognizing our own weaknesses. For example, a Christian may have a hot temper or be sensitive and easily offended. When under pressure, his emotions may make him forget Bible principles. This is not unexpected in imperfect humans. (Romans 7:21-23) Nevertheless, enmities, strife, and fits of anger are listed as works of the flesh. (Galatians 5:19-21) If we find such tendencies in ourselves—or if they are brought to our attention by others—we should pray earnestly and continually for Jehovah’s spirit to develop in us self-control and mildness. Indeed, everyone should strive to cultivate such qualities as part of his new personality.—Ephesians 4:23, 24; Colossians 3:10, 15.
15. How is the wisdom from above opposed to unreasonable stubbornness?
15 On occasion, a congregation or a body of elders is disturbed by someone who is stubborn, always insisting on his own way. True, when it comes to divine law, a Christian should be strong-minded, even inflexible. And if we feel we have a good idea that could benefit others, there is nothing wrong with expressing ourselves forthrightly, as long as we explain our reasons. But we do not want to be like those in the world who are “not open to any agreement.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) The wisdom from above is peaceable, reasonable. Those whose actions form a pattern of stubborn inflexibility should heed Paul’s counsel to the Philippians to ‘do nothing out of egotism.’—Philippians 2:3.
16. How does Paul’s counsel in the book of Philippians help us to overcome egotism?
16 In that same letter, Paul urges that we should, ‘with lowliness of mind,’ sincerely ‘consider that the others are superior to us.’ This is the very opposite of egotism. A mature Christian does not think first of forcing his own ideas, saving face, or protecting his own position and authority. This would be contrary to Paul’s exhortation to ‘keep an eye, not in personal interest upon just his own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.’—Philippians 2:4; 1 Peter 5:2, 3, 6.
17. What wrong use of the tongue can disturb the peace of the congregation?
17 The one pursuing peace is especially careful in his use of the tongue. James warns: “The tongue is a little member and yet makes great brags. Look! How little a fire it takes to set so great a woodland on fire!” (James 3:5) Mischievous gossip, criticism of others behind their back, unkind and harsh words, murmuring and complaining, as well as dishonest flattery for the sake of personal advantage—all of these are works of the flesh that disturb the peace of God’s people.—1 Corinthians 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:20; 1 Timothy 5:13; Jude 16.
18. (a) In the case of an inadvertent wrong use of the tongue, what is the correct course for everyone involved? (b) When anger causes someone to utter hurtful words, how do mature Christians react?
18 True, James said: “The tongue, not one of mankind can get it tamed.” (James 3:8) Even mature Christians sometimes say things they sincerely regret afterward. All of us hope that others will forgive us such mistakes just as we forgive them. (Matthew 6:12) Sometimes a sharp burst of anger may produce hurtful words. Then, a peacemaker will remember that “an answer, when mild, turns away rage, but a word causing pain makes anger to come up.” (Proverbs 15:1) Often, he will just have to take a deep breath and refuse to respond to angry words with more angry words. Afterward, when tempers have cooled, a largehearted peacemaker knows how to overlook things said in the heat of the moment. And a humble Christian will know how to apologize and try to heal any wounds he has caused. It is a sign of moral strength to be able honestly to say, “I am sorry.”
19. What do we learn from Paul and Jesus about how to give counsel?
19 The tongue may have to be used to counsel others. Paul publicly reprimanded Peter when the latter acted incorrectly in Antioch. And Jesus gave strong counsel in his messages to the seven congregations. (Galatians 2:11-14; Revelation, chapters 2, 3) If we study these examples, we learn that counsel should not be so mild that its point is lost. Nevertheless, Jesus and Paul were not harsh or cruel. Their counsel was not an outlet for their own frustrations. They were genuinely trying to help their brothers. If the one giving counsel senses that he is not in full control of his tongue, he may choose to pause and cool down a little before saying anything. Otherwise, he may speak harsh words and cause a worse problem than the one he is trying to handle.—Proverbs 12:18.
20. What should govern everything we say to or about our brothers and sisters?
20 As mentioned already, peace and love are closely related as fruits of the spirit. If what we say to our brothers—or about them—is always a reflection of our love for them, then it will contribute to the peace of the congregation. (John 15:12, 13) Our utterances must be “with graciousness, seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) They should be tasty, as it were, appealing to the heart. Jesus counseled: “Have salt in yourselves, and keep peace between one another.”—Mark 9:50.
“Do Your Utmost”
21. What is evident about God’s people at their weekly meetings and during assemblies and conventions?
21 The psalmist wrote: “Look! How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Truly, we delight to be with our brothers, especially at our weekly meetings and during assemblies and the larger conventions. At such times our peace is evident even to outsiders.
22. (a) What false peace will the nations soon think they are achieving, leading to what? (b) What real peace will God’s covenant of peace lead to?
22 Soon the nations will think they are achieving peace without Jehovah. But while they are saying, “Peace and security!” sudden destruction will come on all who are not at peace with God. (1 Thessalonians 5:3) After that, the great Prince of Peace will proceed with the healing of mankind from the calamitous results of man’s original loss of peace with God. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; Revelation 22:1, 2) Then, God’s covenant of peace will result in a worldwide tranquillity. Even the beasts of the field will experience a rest from hostility.—Psalm 37:10, 11; 72:3-7; Isaiah 11:1-9; Revelation 21:3, 4.
23. If we cherish the hope of a peaceful new world, what should we now do?
23 What a glorious time that will be! Do you eagerly look forward to it? If so, “pursue peace with all people.” Seek peace now with your brothers, and especially with Jehovah. Yes, “since you are awaiting these things, do your utmost to be found finally by him spotless and unblemished and in peace.”—Hebrews 12:14; 2 Peter 3:14.
Do You Remember?
□ What can shatter our peace with Jehovah?
□ What kind of misunderstandings may need to be resolved in the congregation?
□ What provision has Jehovah made to help us seek peace and pursue it?
□ What fleshly attitudes can disturb the peace of the congregation, and how can we counteract them?
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Peace abounds among those taught by Jehovah
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How pleasant the peace of brothers who serve in unity!