“Pursue the Things Making for Peace”
A NEWLY paved road appears solid, impervious to damage. Over time, however, cracks and potholes may develop. Restoration is necessary to ensure safety and to preserve the road.
In a similar way, our relationships with others may occasionally become strained and may even crack. The apostle Paul acknowledged that there were differences in viewpoint among Christians in Rome. He counseled fellow Christians: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Rom. 14:13, 19) Why is it necessary to “pursue the things making for peace”? How can we courageously and effectively pursue peace?
Why Pursue Peace?
If untreated, small cracks in the pavement can grow into dangerous potholes. Leaving personal differences unresolved can likewise be disastrous. The apostle John wrote: “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) An unresolved personal difference could eventually cause a Christian to hate his brother.
Jesus Christ showed that our worship is unacceptable to Jehovah if we have not made peace with others. Jesus instructed his disciples: “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) Yes, a primary reason for us to pursue peace is that we want to please Jehovah God.*
A situation in the congregation in Philippi highlights another reason to pursue peace. An unspecified problem existing between two Christian sisters, Euodia and Syntyche, evidently threatened the peace of an entire congregation. (Phil. 4:2, 3) Unresolved personal differences can quickly become public. A desire to preserve the love and unity of the congregation moves us to pursue peace with fellow believers.
“Happy are the peacemakers,” said Jesus. (Matt. 5:9, ftn.) Pursuing peace brings joyful satisfaction. Furthermore, peace promotes good health, for “a calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.” (Prov. 14:30) On the other hand, harboring resentment may increase our risk of becoming physically ill.
Although most Christians agree that pursuing peace is necessary, you may wonder how to resolve a personal difference. Let us examine Scriptural principles that can guide us.
Calm Discussion Restores Peace
Minor cracks in the pavement can often be repaired by covering over the damaged area. Is it possible for us to forgive and cover over the minor failings of our brothers? Likely, this approach will work for most personal differences, for the apostle Peter wrote that “love covers a multitude of sins.”—1 Pet. 4:8.
At times, however, a problem seems to be so serious that we cannot simply dismiss it. Consider what happened to the Israelites soon after they took possession of the Promised Land. Before “the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh” moved across the Jordan River, they erected “an altar great in conspicuousness.” The other tribes of Israel believed that the altar was used for idolatrous worship and could not just ignore the problem. They prepared for military action.—Josh. 22:9-12.
Some Israelites may have felt that there was already sufficient evidence of wrongdoing and that a sneak attack would result in fewer casualties. Rather than acting hastily, however, the tribes west of the Jordan sent delegates to discuss the problem with their brothers. They asked: “What is this act of unfaithfulness that you have perpetrated against the God of Israel in turning back today from following Jehovah?” Actually, the tribes that had built the altar were not acting unfaithfully. But how would they react to such an accusation? Would they lash out at their accusers or refuse to speak to them? The accused tribes replied mildly, clearly stating that their actions were really motivated by their desire to serve Jehovah. Their response preserved their relationship with God and saved lives. Calm discussion cleared up the matter and restored peace.—Josh. 22:13-34.
Before taking serious action, the other Israelites wisely discussed their problem with the tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. “Do not hurry yourself in your spirit to become offended,” says God’s Word, “for the taking of offense is what rests in the bosom of the stupid ones.” (Eccl. 7:9) The Scriptural way of handling serious personal differences is through calm and frank discussion. Can we really expect Jehovah’s blessing if we harbor resentment and fail to approach the person who we feel has wronged us?
On the other hand, what if a fellow Christian confronts us about a problem, perhaps even falsely accusing us? “An answer, when mild, turns away rage,” says the Bible. (Prov. 15:1) The offending Israelite tribes mildly, yet clearly, explained their position, thus defusing what was undoubtedly an emotionally charged encounter with their brothers. Whether we take the initiative to approach our brother or he speaks to us about a problem, we might well ask ourselves, ‘What words, tone of voice, and demeanor will most likely promote peace?’
Use the Tongue Wisely
Jehovah understands that we have a need to air our concerns. If we fail to resolve a personal difference, however, we will likely be tempted to confide in someone else. Harbored resentment can easily lead to critical speech. Concerning the improper use of the tongue, Proverbs 11:11 states: “Because of the mouth of the wicked ones [a town] gets torn down.” Similarly, unguarded speech about a fellow Christian can disturb the peace of a townlike congregation.
Pursuing peace, however, does not mean avoiding all talk about our brothers and sisters. The apostle Paul counseled fellow believers: “Never let evil talk pass your lips.” But he added: “Say only the good things men need to hear, things that will really help them. . . . Be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving.” (Eph. 4:29-32, The New American Bible) If you were approached by a brother who was offended by your speech or conduct, would it not be easier to apologize and make peace if he had previously spoken positively about you to others? Accordingly, a pattern of using upbuilding speech when talking about fellow Christians will make it easier for us to restore peace when differences arise.—Luke 6:31.
Serve God “Shoulder to Shoulder”
Our sinful human tendency is to withdraw from those who have offended us, isolating ourselves. But such a course is unwise. (Prov. 18:1) As a united people who call upon Jehovah’s name, we are determined “to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”—Zeph. 3:9.
Improper speech or conduct of others should never cause us to weaken in our zeal for pure worship. Just days before Jesus’ sacrifice replaced offerings at the temple and shortly after Jesus had roundly condemned the scribes, he noticed a poor widow contribute “all the means of living she had” into a temple treasury chest. Did Jesus try to stop her? On the contrary, he spoke well of her loyal support of Jehovah’s congregation at that time. (Luke 21:1-4) The unrighteous acts of others did not free her of her obligation to support the worship of Jehovah.
Although we may feel that a Christian brother or sister has acted improperly, even unjustly, how will we react? Will we allow this to affect our whole-souled service to Jehovah? Or will we courageously act to settle any personal differences in order to preserve the precious peace of God’s congregation today?
“If possible,” the Scriptures counsel us, “as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:18) May we be resolved to do so and thus remain securely on the road to life.
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Euodia and Syntyche needed to pursue peace
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What words, tone of voice, and demeanor will most likely promote peace?