Make Efforts to Keep Peace
“Let us pursue the things making for peace.”—ROMANS 14:19.
1, 2. Why is there peace among Jehovah’s Witnesses?
THERE is no true peace among people in the world today. Even people from the same country and who speak the same language are often not united. They are divided by religion, politics, money, and education. But there is peace among the more than seven million who are Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world, even though they come from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.”—Revelation 7:9.
2 There are good reasons why we have peace among us. The main reason is that we “enjoy peace with God.” This peace is the result of our faith in his Son, who sacrificed his life for us. (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 1:7) Also, Jehovah gives holy spirit to his loyal servants, and the fruitage of that spirit includes peace. (Galatians 5:22) Another reason we have peace and unity is that we are “no part of the world.” (John 15:19) This means that we do not participate in politics or war. As the Bible says, Jehovah’s people “beat their swords into plowshares.”—Isaiah 2:4.
3. What does the peace we have make possible, and what will we talk about in this article?
3 We “love one another” in the congregation even though we come from different places and have different customs and ways of thinking. (John 15:17) The peace we have is more than not wanting to harm our brothers. It allows us to “work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.” (Galatians 6:10) This peace with Jehovah and with our brothers and sisters is very precious. We need to protect it. We will now talk about how we can keep peace even when problems happen in the congregation.
WHEN WE “STUMBLE”
4. What can we do to keep peace when we offend someone?
4 The disciple James wrote: “We all stumble many times. If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man.” (James 3:2) So there will be times when two people in the congregation will not agree with each other or will have some other problem between them. But if there is a problem, they should be able to solve it and keep the peace in the congregation. For example, read what Jesus said we should do if we think that we have offended someone.—Read Matthew 5:23, 24.
5. What can we do to keep peace when someone offends us?
5 What if someone did something against us? Should we think that this person has to come to us and tell us that he is sorry? 1 Corinthians 13:5 says that love does not keep account of the injury. When someone offends us, we show that we want to keep peace by forgiving the person and forgetting the problem. (Read Colossians 3:13.) This is the best thing to do when there is a small problem. It helps us to stay united with our brothers. And we feel good because we did what was right. A wise proverb says that it is beauty when we pass over transgression.—Proverbs 19:11.
6. What if someone does something against us that is difficult to forget?
6 What if someone does something against us that is difficult to forget? It is not wise to talk about it to others. This kind of gossip puts the peace of the congregation in danger. What can we do to solve the problem? Matthew 18:15 says: “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.” Even though Matthew 18:15-17 talks about a serious sin, we could use the principle, or lesson, in verse 15 in other situations. So when we have a problem with someone, it is best to talk to him alone about it. We should talk to our brother kindly and try to have peace with him again.*—See footnote.
7. Why should we solve problems quickly?
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.” (Ephesians 4:26, 27) And Jesus said: “Be about settling matters quickly with the one complaining against you at law.” (Matthew 5:25) So to keep peace with others, we must solve problems quickly. When we do not do that, problems become bigger and more serious, just as a cut in our skin gets infected if we do not treat it quickly. We should not let pride, jealousy, or the love of money stop us from solving any problems with our brothers.—James 4:1-6.
WHEN A PROBLEM INVOLVES MANY PEOPLE
8, 9. (a) What argument was there in the congregation in Rome? (b) How did Paul correct the Christians in Rome?
8 Some problems in the congregation may involve many people. This happened to some Christians in Rome. There was an argument among Jewish and Gentile Christians. Some had a weaker conscience. There were a lot of things that their conscience did not allow them to do, even though the Scriptures did not say that these things were wrong. Others in the congregation had a stronger conscience. They thought that they were better than those who had a weaker conscience. And those who had a weaker conscience started to condemn the ones who had a stronger conscience. But all these arguments were about personal choices. What did Paul tell the congregation?—Romans 14:1-6.
9 Those with a stronger conscience understood that they did not have to obey the Law of Moses. Those with a weaker conscience thought that it was wrong to eat things that were not allowed under the Law. Paul corrected both groups of Christians. Paul told those with a stronger conscience not to think that they were better than those who had a weaker conscience. (Romans 14:2, 10) This way of thinking and acting could cause those with a weaker conscience to abandon their friendship with Jehovah. Paul added: “Stop tearing down the work of God just for the sake of food.” He also said: “It is well not to eat flesh or to drink wine or do anything over which your brother stumbles.” (Romans 14:14, 15, 20, 21) Paul told those with a weaker conscience not to judge those who had a different way of thinking. (Romans 14:13) He told them: “I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think.” (Romans 12:3) After he corrected both groups of Christians, he said: “So, then, let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.”—Romans 14:19.
10. As with the Christians in Rome, what should those now involved in an argument do to solve the problem?
10 We can be sure that the congregation in Rome accepted what Paul told them and made the needed changes. Today, we can solve arguments with our brothers and sisters in a loving way if we do what the Bible tells us. As with the Christians in Rome, if there is a problem in the congregation today, all those involved need to make changes to “keep peace between one another.”—Mark 9:50.
HOW ELDERS CAN HELP
11. What should an elder do if a person wants to talk to him about a problem that the person is having with another Christian?
11 What if someone has a problem with a family member or with another Christian and wants to talk to an elder about it? Proverbs 21:13 says: “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 be “stopping up his ear” if he did not listen to someone asking for help. But another proverb says: “The first to state his case seems right, until his opponent begins to cross-examine him.” (Proverbs 18:17, New English Translation) An elder should listen kindly, but he needs to be careful not to make any decisions before he knows more about the problem. After listening to the person, the elder could ask him if he has talked about the problem with the other person. The elder could also review with him what the Bible says we should do to keep peace with our brothers and sisters.
12. What three examples show the danger of acting too quickly after hearing about a problem?
12 It is dangerous to act too quickly after hearing only what one person has to say about a problem. Three Bible examples show this. The first one is what happened to Potiphar. His wife lied and told him that Joseph had tried to rape her. Potiphar believed her. He was so angry that he sent Joseph to prison. (Genesis 39:19, 20) Another example is what King David did. Mephibosheth’s servant, Ziba, told David that Mephibosheth was helping David’s enemies. David believed him and said without thinking: “Look! Yours is everything that belongs to Mephibosheth.” (2 Samuel 16:4; 19:25-27) A third example is what happened to King Artaxerxes. Enemies of the Jews told the king that the Jews were building Jerusalem again because they wanted to rebel against him. The king believed this lie and ordered that the Jews stop their work. Because of this, the Jews stopped working on God’s temple. (Ezra 4:11-13, 23, 24) Christian elders are wise to do what Paul said to Timothy and not make any judgments before knowing all the facts about a situation.—Read 1 Timothy 5:21.
13, 14. (a) When there is an argument between two people, what do we need to remember? (b) What can help elders to make correct judgments?
13 The Bible says: “If anyone thinks he has acquired knowledge of something, he does not yet know it just as he ought to know it.” (1 Corinthians 8:2) We may think we know what happened when there is an argument between two people. But we need to remember that we may not know all the facts. Also, we may not know everything about the two people who have the problem. Elders must be very careful when they judge the situation and not let themselves be deceived by lies or rumors about what happened. Also, they should not believe someone just because he is rich. Jesus, the judge God chose, does not “judge by any mere appearance to his eyes, nor reprove simply according to the thing heard by his ears.” (Isaiah 11:3, 4) Jesus is guided by God’s spirit. Christian elders too must be guided by God’s spirit.
14 Elders need to pray for Jehovah’s spirit before judging a problem. They allow God’s spirit to guide them by using the Bible and the publications of “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45.
WE MUST KEEP PEACE WITH GOD
15. If a Christian knows of a serious sin, when should he tell the elders about it?
15 The Bible tells us to keep peace with others. But it also says: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable.” (James 3:17) The Bible says that first we need to be chaste. To be chaste, or clean, means to allow God to tell us what is right and what is wrong and to live in a way that pleases him. If a Christian knows that a brother or sister has done something seriously wrong, he should tell that person to confess the sin to the elders. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; James 5:14-16) If the person does not confess his sin, the Christian who knows of the sin should tell the elders about it. If the Christian does not say anything because he wants to keep peace with the sinner, then he too is sinning.—Leviticus 5:1; read Proverbs 29:24.
16. What can we learn from the action Jehu took against King Jehoram?
16 Jehu did something that showed that it is more important to do what is right than it is to keep peace with someone who practices sin. God sent Jehu to punish King Ahab’s family. The son of Ahab and Jezebel was wicked King Jehoram. He rode in his chariot to meet Jehu and asked: “Is there peace, Jehu?” Jehu answered: “What peace could there be as long as there are the fornications of Jezebel your mother and her many sorceries?” (2 Kings 9:22) Then Jehu used his bow to shoot Jehoram in the heart. Just as Jehu took action, so elders will need to take action if a sinner is not repentant. They cannot allow those who refuse to repent of their sins to remain part of the congregation just to keep peace with them. The elders remove them so that the congregation can continue to have peace with God.—1 Corinthians 5:1, 2, 11-13.
17. What do all Christians need to do to keep peace?
17 Most of the time, the problems between us are not about serious sins. So it is much better to show love and forget the mistakes our brothers make. The Bible says: “The one covering over transgression is seeking love, and he that keeps talking about a matter is separating those familiar with one another.” (Proverbs 17:9) If we do what the Bible says, we will keep peace in the congregation and keep our friendship with Jehovah.—Matthew 6:14, 15.
GOD BLESSES THOSE WHO KEEP PEACE
18, 19. How does Jehovah bless us when we make efforts to keep peace?
18 Jehovah blesses us when we make the effort to keep peace. We have a strong friendship with Jehovah, and we have a part in keeping the unity of the congregation. When we keep peace inside the congregation, we also learn how to keep peace with those to whom we preach “the good news of peace.” (Ephesians 6:15) We are ready to “be gentle toward all” and to keep ourselves “restrained under evil.”—2 Timothy 2:24.
19 Our efforts to keep peace now train us for the future. The Bible says that Jehovah will resurrect both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Acts 24:15) This means that Jehovah will resurrect millions of people of all types. They will be from different parts of the world and from different time periods, even from the beginning of human history. (Luke 11:50, 51) It will be our great honor to teach resurrected ones to love peace. The training we get now will greatly help us at that time!
The Bible gives us more information about what to do when there are serious problems, such as slander and fraud. See The Watchtower, October 15, 1999, pages 17-22.
SOME WORDS EXPLAINED
▪ Gentile: A person who is not of the Jewish nation
▪ Conscience: A sense of right or wrong that we have inside of us. It can stop us from doing wrong things, and it can make us do good things
WHAT DID YOU LEARN?
▪ What can we do to keep peace when we offend someone?
▪ What can we do to keep peace when someone offends us?
▪ When there is an argument between two people, what do we need to remember?
▪ Why is it more important to do what is right than to keep peace with someone who practices sin?
[Blurb on page 23]
We can solve problems with our brothers if we do what the Bible tells us
[Pictures on pages 24, 25]
Jehovah loves those who freely forgive others