“Let us pursue the things making for peace.”—ROM. 14:19.
1, 2. Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoy peace among themselves?
TRUE peace is hard to find in today’s world. Even people belonging to the same national group and speaking the same language are often divided religiously, politically, and socially. By contrast, Jehovah’s people are united despite the fact that they have come out of “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”—Rev. 7:9.
2 The peaceful condition that generally exists among us is no accident. It has come about primarily because we “enjoy peace with God” through our faith in his Son, whose shed blood covers our sins. (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 1:7) Moreover, the true God gives holy spirit to his loyal servants, and the fruitage of that spirit includes peace. (Gal. 5:22) Another reason for our peaceful unity is that we are “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) Rather than taking sides in political issues, we remain neutral. Having ‘beaten our swords into plowshares,’ we do not get involved in civil or international wars.—Isa. 2:4.
3. What does the peace we can enjoy make possible, and what will be discussed in this article?
3 The peace we can enjoy with one another goes deeper than merely refraining from doing harm to our brothers. Although the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses that we belong to may be made up of individuals from many different ethnic groups and cultures, we “love one another.” (John 15:17) Our peace allows us to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Gal. 6:10) Our peaceful spiritual paradise is something to be treasured and safeguarded. Let us, therefore, examine how we may pursue peace within the congregation.
When We Stumble
4. What can we do to pursue peace when we have offended someone?
4 “We all stumble many times,” wrote the disciple James. “If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (Jas. 3:2) Hence, differences and misunderstandings between fellow believers are bound to arise. (Phil. 4:2, 3) However, problems between individuals can be solved without disturbing the peace of the congregation. For example, consider the counsel we should apply if we realize that we may have offended someone.—Read Matthew 5:23, 24.
5. How may we pursue peace when we have been wronged?
5 What if we have been wronged in some small way? Should we expect the offender to come to us and apologize? “[Love] does not keep account of the injury,” states 1 Corinthians 13:5. When offended, we pursue peace by forgiving and forgetting, that is, by ‘not keeping account of the injury.’ (Read Colossians 3:13.) Minor transgressions in day-to-day life are best handled in this way, for this contributes to a peaceful relationship with fellow worshippers and gives us peace of mind. A wise proverb states: “It is beauty . . . to pass over transgression.”—Prov. 19:11.
6. What should we do if it is too difficult for us to overlook an offense committed against us?
6 What if we find that a certain offense is too difficult for us to overlook? Spreading the matter to as many ears as are willing to hear is certainly not the course of wisdom. Such gossip serves only to disrupt the peace of the congregation. What should be done to resolve the matter peacefully? Matthew 18:15 states: “If your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” While Matthew 18:15-17 applies to sin of a serious nature, in the spirit of the principle stated in verse 15, we should kindly approach the offender privately and try to restore a peaceful relationship with him.*
7. Why should we be quick to settle disputes?
7 The apostle Paul wrote: “Be wrathful, and yet do not sin; let the sun not set with you in a provoked state, neither allow place for the Devil.” (Eph. 4:26, 27) “Be about settling matters quickly with the one complaining against you at law,” said Jesus. (Matt. 5:25) Pursuing peace, then, calls for settling difficulties quickly. Why? Because doing so prevents differences from festering like an untreated, infected wound. Let us not allow pride, envy, or the attaching of too much importance to material things prevent us from resolving disputes soon after they arise.—Jas. 4:1-6.
When a Controversy Involves Many
8, 9. (a) What differences of viewpoint existed in the first-century congregation in Rome? (b) What counsel did Paul give Roman Christians regarding their dispute?
8 Sometimes differences in the congregation involve not just two people but many individuals. That was the case with Christians in Rome to whom the apostle Paul wrote an inspired letter. There was a dispute among Jewish and Gentile Christians. Certain ones in that congregation were evidently looking down on those whose consciences were weak, or overly restrictive. Such individuals were improperly judging others on purely personal matters. What advice did Paul give the congregation?—Rom. 14:1-6.
9 Paul counseled individuals on both sides of the dispute. He told those who understood that they were not under the Mosaic Law not to look down on their brothers. (Rom. 14:2, 10) Such an attitude could stumble believers who still found it repulsive to eat things that were not permitted under the Law. “Stop tearing down the work of God just for the sake of food,” Paul admonished them. “It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.” (Rom. 14:14, 15, 20, 21) On the other hand, Paul counseled Christians who had more restrictive consciences not to be judging as unfaithful those who held a broader viewpoint. (Rom. 14:13) He told ‘everyone there among them not to think more of himself than it was necessary to think.’ (Rom. 12:3) Having counseled both sides in this dispute, Paul wrote: “So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.”—Rom. 14:19.
10. As with the first-century congregation in Rome, what is needed to resolve differences today?
10 We can be sure that the congregation in Rome responded well to Paul’s counsel and made the necessary adjustments. When differences among fellow Christians occur today, should we not likewise settle disputes graciously by humbly seeking and applying Scriptural counsel? As was the case with the Romans, today those on both sides of the controversy may need to make adjustments in order to “keep peace between one another.”—Mark 9:50.
When Called Upon to Help
11. What care should an elder exercise if a Christian wants to talk to him about a dispute with a fellow believer?
11 What if a Christian wants to talk to an elder about a problem he or she is having with a relative or with a fellow believer? Proverbs 21:13 states: “Anyone stopping up his ear from the complaining cry of the lowly one, he himself also will call and not be answered.” An elder would certainly not ‘stop up his ear.’ However, another proverb warns: “The first to state his case seems right, until his opponent begins to cross-examine him.” (Prov. 18:17, New English Translation) An elder should listen kindly, but he needs to be careful not to take sides with the one reporting the offense. After listening to the matter, he would likely ask whether the offended party has spoken to the one who caused the upset. The elder may also review Scriptural steps that the offended one can take to pursue peace.
12. Cite examples showing the danger of acting hastily after hearing a complaint.
12 Three Biblical examples underscore the danger of acting hastily after hearing only one side of a controversy. Potiphar believed his wife’s story that Joseph had tried to rape her. With unjustified anger, Potiphar had Joseph thrown into prison. (Gen. 39:19, 20) King David believed Ziba, who said that his master, Mephibosheth, had sided with David’s enemies. “Look! Yours is everything that belongs to Mephibosheth” was David’s hasty response. (2 Sam. 16:4; 19:25-27) King Artaxerxes was told that the Jews were rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls and were about to rebel against the Persian Empire. The king believed the false report and ordered that all rebuilding in Jerusalem cease. As a result, the Jews stopped work on God’s temple. (Ezra 4:11-13, 23, 24) Christian elders wisely follow Paul’s counsel to Timothy to avoid making premature judgments.—Read 1 Timothy 5:21.
13, 14. (a) All of us have what limitations respecting the disputes of others? (b) What help do elders have in making correct judgments respecting fellow believers?
13 Even when it seems that both sides of a dispute have come to light, it is important to realize that “if anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know it just as he ought to know it.” (1 Cor. 8:2) Do we really know all the details that led up to the dispute? Can we fully understand the backgrounds of the individuals involved? When called upon to judge, how vital it is that elders not let themselves be deceived by falsehood, clever tactics, or rumors! God’s appointed Judge, Jesus Christ, judges righteously. He does not “judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears.” (Isa. 11:3, 4) Rather, Jesus is guided by Jehovah’s spirit. Christian elders likewise have the benefit of being guided by God’s holy spirit.
14 Before they make judgments respecting fellow believers, elders need to pray for the help of Jehovah’s spirit and depend on its guidance by consulting God’s Word and the publications of the faithful and discreet slave class.—Matt. 24:45.
Peace at Any Price?
15. When should we report a serious sin that we have become aware of?
15 As Christians, we are exhorted to pursue peace. However, the Bible also states: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable.” (Jas. 3:17) Being peaceable is secondary to chasteness, that is, upholding God’s clean moral standards and meeting his righteous requirements. If a Christian becomes aware of a serious sin on the part of a fellow believer, he should encourage that one to confess the sin to the elders. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10; Jas. 5:14-16) If the wrongdoer does not do so, the Christian who has come to know about the sin should report it. Failure to do this in a mistaken effort to maintain peace with the sinner makes one a party to the wrongdoing.—Lev. 5:1; read Proverbs 29:24.
16. What can we learn from Jehu’s encounter with King Jehoram?
16 One account involving Jehu shows that God’s righteousness takes priority over peaceableness. God sent Jehu to execute His judgment on the house of King Ahab. Wicked King Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, rode in his chariot to meet Jehu and said: “Is there peace, Jehu?” How did Jehu respond? He replied: “What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel your mother and her many sorceries?” (2 Ki. 9:22) With that, Jehu drew his bow and shot Jehoram through the heart. Just as Jehu took action, elders must not compromise with willful, unrepentant practicers of sin for the sake of keeping peace. They expel unrepentant sinners so that the congregation can continue to enjoy peace with God.—1 Cor. 5:1, 2, 11-13.
17. All Christians play what part in pursuing peace?
17 Most disputes between brothers do not involve serious wrongdoing that requires judicial action. How good it is, therefore, lovingly to cover over the mistakes of others. “The one covering over transgression is seeking love,” says God’s Word, “and he that keeps talking about a matter is separating those familiar with one another.” (Prov. 17:9) Complying with those words will help all of us to preserve peace in the congregation and maintain a good relationship with Jehovah.—Matt. 6:14, 15.
Pursuing Peace Brings Blessings
18, 19. What benefits result from pursuing peace?
18 Our pursuing “the things making for peace” brings us rich blessings. We enjoy a close personal relationship with Jehovah as we imitate his ways, and we contribute to the peaceful unity of our spiritual paradise. Pursuing peace inside the congregation also helps us to see ways in which we can pursue peace with those to whom we preach “the good news of peace.” (Eph. 6:15) We are better prepared ‘to be gentle toward all, keeping ourselves restrained under evil.’—2 Tim. 2:24.
19 Remember, too, that there will be “a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) When that hope becomes a reality here on earth, millions of people with varying backgrounds, temperaments, and personalities will be brought back to life—and that from times stretching all the way back to “the founding of the world”! (Luke 11:50, 51) Teaching resurrected ones the ways of peace will indeed be a great privilege. What a tremendous help the training we now receive as peacemakers will be to us at that time!
For Scriptural guidance in dealing with such serious sins as slander and fraud, see The Watchtower, October 15, 1999, pages 17-22.
What Did You Learn?
• How may we pursue peace if we have offended someone?
• What should be done to pursue peace when we have been wronged?
• Why is it unwise to take sides in the disputes of others?
• Explain why peace should not be pursued at any price.
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Jehovah loves those who freely forgive others