I think everyone would agree that 2020 was fairly complicated. Unfortunately, 2021 hasn’t exactly started off for the better. For me, as a pastor, the reason is probably a bit different than what you’d expect.
As I see it, it’s been complicated, not because the world is crazy. That’s actually never changed. For the life of me I don’t understand why Christians act so surprised when a crazy world behaves crazy.
Instead, the reason it’s been difficult is because of the way I see Christians interacting with each other in light of their differing convictions. It’s been difficult because of what it has revealed about us. We’re no longer distinguishing ourselves over vital doctrinal issues (which we can discuss the validity of all day long) now we’re dividing over COVID masks and American politics.
In unprecedented times like these the Church is to be an anchor that the world can hold on to—a beacon of hope. But in our case we seem to have been weighed and measured and found wanting. We seem just as adrift as the rest of the world. As I said last week we look no different.
These failures show us a couple things. First, that we don’t understand the governing ethic of peacekeeping within the Christian life. An ethic that Paul spoke of in Romans and regarding marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians. An ethic that Jesus said marked the blessed life in Matthew 5.
Second, our failures show us that the Christian life isn’t as easy as our bumper stickers and t-shirts suggest. Realizing this should open us up to offering a bit more grace toward one another, being more peaceable, but it hasn’t.
I’d also like to add sermons to that list of bumper stickers and t-shirts. Lately I’ve begun to realize that most sermons are harder to live out than they are to preach or hear and as you know some sermons are certainly hard to hear. What’s required again is grace… especially from the preacher.
We love to teach that the Church is to “love God” and “love people.” And that sounds simple. But you and I know very well it’s not even close to simple! Not with differing convictions on love. And yet we’re called to be gracious as we grow in our understanding.
Another favorite of mine and one that I preach often is that we’ve been given everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Supposing that with “everything we need” living a godly life should be smooth sailing. I wish!
The process of sanctification is one of refinement and this often comes with ups and downs, successes and setbacks. And yet we show no mercy to our fellow Christian as they merely fall into a different pit than the one we fell in along our journey.
My point is that the Christian life is complicated, it requires grace, and this means we must live at peace with one another. What God desires is not easy in it’s outplay, and yet we’re called to walk it out each day becoming more and more like King Jesus. This is the truly righteous life! And walking it out is true faith—a believing loyalty, not to our perfection but rather to His. To trust Him when we fall short or get it wrong.
Keeping the Peace
So today, I want to talk to you about Christian convictions and how to have them while maintaining a sense of peace with your fellow brothers and sisters and even the world around you (insofar as it depends on you).
As we jump in let’s look at a passage from James 3. The verses I’m highlighting are 17 and 18, these are the words of God;
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” – James 3:17-18
If we are not aiming at peace, church, in its truest sense, we’re not being obedient children of God. Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” We’re either sowing seed whose fruit is righteousness (as peacemakers) or we’re dabbling in man-made religious games. And yes, this even applies outside the walls of doctrinal truth to the way we view our rights and privileges as Americans.
We can and should stand up for our rights in any way we can, but it must always be as peacemakers! I said it last week and I’ll say it again until we get it right; our primary objective is to promote the Gospel in all that we do. We’re Kingdom people first. This place is not our home. Therefore, everything we do must filter through the peacemaking call on our lives.
Now someone will protest and say, “But what about Jesus, Nathan? He said he didn’t come to bring peace but a sword. What about Him turning tables in the temple?” To this I would share something the late R.C. Sproul once said (I love this statement deeply) he said, “You can turn tables in the temple when you become the Lord of the temple.”
Church, we have to remember we’re servants of Jesus, we’re not Jesus Himself! The Scripture is clear that as far as it depends on us, we’re to live at peace with ALL men. Now, does this mean all men will live at peace with us? Not a chance! But we’re never given a command to control others—only ourselves. And we’re also never given a green light to hatred and vitriol when those people refuse to live at peace with us. Instead we are commanded to turn the other cheek and stay focused on the marching orders we’ve been given; go into all the world!
So how do we do it?
There are several questions we should ask ourselves concerning convictions and the answers will help shape our practice. The questions I’d like us to as we move into the next posts are:
- What should inform our convictions? And if we say the Bible a related question would be, is the Bible enough?
- How do we walk by faith in matters of conviction? Another way of asking this is how do we determine the practical steps?
- How do we walk in faith when others don’t share our convictions—and especially other Christians within the church?
- How are we to treat others when we disagree?