JEHOVAH GOD wants his worshippers to enjoy peace. He wants them to pursue peace with one another. When they do so, there is peace in the Christian congregation. This peace attracts many people to the congregation.
For example, a witch doctor in Madagascar noticed the peace among Jehovah’s people and thought, ‘If ever I wanted to follow a religion, this would be the one.’ In time, he stopped worshipping demons, made changes in his marriage, and began to worship Jehovah, the God of peace.
Like that man, thousands of people every year become part of the Christian congregation and find the peace they want so much. But we read in the Bible that “bitter jealousy and contentiousness” in the congregation can destroy friendships and create trouble. (James 3:14-16) But the Bible gives us good advice on how to avoid those problems and strengthen our peace with our brothers and sisters. Let us see how this advice has worked in some real-life situations.
PROBLEMS AND SOLUTIONS
“I had trouble getting along with a brother who worked with me. Once when we were yelling at each other, two people came in and witnessed our blowup.”—CHRIS.
“A sister with whom I often preached suddenly ended our arrangements for the ministry. Then she stopped talking to me altogether. I had no idea why.”—JANET.
“I was on a three-person phone call. One of the others said good-bye, and I thought he was off the line. I then said unkind things about him to the other person on the phone, but the first person had not hung up.”—MICHAEL.
“In our congregation, two pioneers began having problems. One took to scolding the other. Their bickering was discouraging to others.”—GARY.
These may not seem like serious problems. But these situations could have caused lasting emotional pain to the people involved and could have damaged the peace of the congregation. Happily, these brothers and sisters followed Bible guidelines and had peace once again. What Bible guidelines do you think helped them?
“Do not become upset with one another on the way.” (Genesis 45:24) Joseph gave his brothers this wise advice when they were returning to their father. When a person does not control his feelings and allows himself to be easily upset, a bad situation may become even worse. Others may also become angry. Chris realized that it was sometimes difficult for him to be humble and follow instructions. He wanted to change, so he apologized to the brother he had argued with. Then Chris worked hard to control his temper. When the brother noticed how hard Chris was trying to change, he did the same. Now they have peace as they serve Jehovah together.
“Plans fail when there is no consultation.” (Proverbs 15:22) When Janet’s friend stopped talking to her, Janet decided to apply this Bible verse. She went to consult, or speak with, the sister. Janet asked if she had done something to offend or upset her. At first, they both felt a little awkward. But as they continued to talk calmly, they felt more comfortable. The sister realized that she had misunderstood something that had happened in the past and that Janet had actually not done anything to offend her. She apologized to Janet, and the two of them are now friends again as they serve Jehovah together.
“If, then, you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you 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.” (Matthew 5:23, 24) Jesus gave this advice in his Sermon on the Mount. After Michael said unkind things about the other brother, he felt terrible. He decided he would do whatever was necessary to fix the situation. So he went to the brother and told him how sorry he was. What happened? Michael says, “My brother genuinely forgave me.” They were friends once again.
“Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely even if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” (Colossians 3:12-14) Remember the two pioneers who argued in the field ministry? An elder kindly helped them to see that they were upsetting others and making them uncomfortable. He reminded them that they should be patient with each other and help keep peace in the congregation. They accepted and applied his counsel. Now they get along well as they preach the good news.
That same advice, found at Colossians 3:12-14, can help you to be humble, forgive a person who has hurt you, and stop thinking about the matter. But what if we have tried to forgive and have not been able to? There is a Bible principle at Matthew 18:15 that can help us. Even though Jesus was mainly talking about serious sins, he described something we can do whenever we have a problem with a brother or a sister. In a kind and humble way, we can go to that one to discuss the matter and try to solve the problem.
There are many other practical suggestions in the Bible. Most of them involve relying on God’s holy spirit so that we can show “the fruitage of the spirit.” These qualities are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Think about this. A machine runs smoothly when its parts are oiled. In a similar way, it is easier to settle our differences and have smooth relationships when we show these good qualities from Jehovah.
DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES MAKE THE CONGREGATION MORE ENJOYABLE
Each one of us has his own personality. We each have different qualities and ways of seeing things and expressing ourselves. These can make our friendships enjoyable and interesting. But our different personalities can also cause misunderstandings and disagreements. One experienced elder gave an example of how this can happen when he said: “Someone who is shy can have a difficult time being around an outgoing, backslapping person. That difference may seem unimportant; yet, it can lead to serious problems.” Do you believe that people whose personalities are quite different will never get along with each other? Let us look at the examples of two of the apostles. When we think of Peter, we may think of someone who always said whatever was on his mind. When we think of John, we may picture a loving brother who usually thought before he spoke or acted. Peter and John had different personalities. But they worked well together as they served Jehovah. (Acts 8:14; Galatians 2:9) It can be the same with us today. Even Christians with very different personalities can work well together.
But what if someone in your congregation says or does something that irritates you? It would be good to remember that Christ died for that brother just as he died for you, and you must love your brother. (John 13:34, 35; Romans 5:6-8) It would not be right to decide that you will not be friends with that person or that you will avoid him. Instead, ask yourself: ‘Is my brother doing something that is against Jehovah’s law? Is he trying to hurt me on purpose? Or do we just have different personalities? In fact, does he have qualities that I would like to have myself?’
For example, if he loves to talk but you are quiet, why not work together in the ministry and see what you can learn? Or what if he is more generous than you are? Have you noticed the happiness that comes from giving to the elderly, the sick, or the needy? Could you learn from that person how to be more generous yourself? The point is that even though you and your brother are different, you can focus on his good qualities. Even though you may never be best friends, you will become closer to each other. This will help create peace, both for you and the congregation.
In the first century, there were two sisters named Euodia and Syntyche. It seems they had very different personalities, but the apostle Paul encouraged them “to be of the same mind in the Lord.” (Philippians 4:2) We too want to worship Jehovah together with our brothers and sisters and promote peace in the congregation.
DO NOT ALLOW DISAGREEMENTS TO CONTINUE
Why should we quickly get rid of any bad feelings we have toward others? We could compare these feelings to ugly weeds that grow in a beautiful flower garden. If we do not pull the weeds out, they will take over the whole garden. In a similar way, if our bad feelings toward others become strong, this can affect the whole congregation. But if we love Jehovah and our brothers, we will do all we can to protect the peace of the congregation.
When we try to make peace with others, we may be surprised at how well things turn out. One Witness experienced this. Here is her story: “I felt that one sister was treating me as if I were a child. It really bothered me. As my irritation grew, I started being curt with her. I thought, ‘She does not show me the respect I deserve, so I am not going to show her respect.’”
Then this sister thought about her own attitude. “I began seeing my own personality flaws, and I was very disappointed in myself. I realized that I had to adjust my thinking. After praying to Jehovah about the matter, I bought the sister a small gift and wrote her a card to apologize for my bad attitude. We hugged each other and agreed to put the matter behind us. We have not had any more problems.”
Everyone needs peace. But feeling insecure or proud can make people act in a way that is not peaceable. In the world, this is common, but Jehovah expects something different of his worshippers. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses, there should be peace and unity. Jehovah inspired Paul to write Christians “to walk worthily of the calling” they had received. He encouraged them to do this “with all humility and mildness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, earnestly endeavoring to maintain the oneness of the spirit in the uniting bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3) “The uniting bond of peace” that Jehovah’s people enjoy is very precious. So let us each do all we can to make it stronger and to solve any problems we may have with our brothers and sisters.