In a culture where everybody is at each other’s throats, we need a breath of fresh air–fresh air of peace among people. And this fresh air needs to be more prevalent in Christians. Constant bickering isn’t getting us anywhere. This may be an election year — and tensions are high from racial issues and COVID — but that doesn’t mean we succumb to the divisive madness.
“If possible,” the Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:18, “so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Christian, you have the responsibility of being a peaceful person. You shouldn’t be the one instigating. Needless arguments on social media shouldn’t start because you wanted to stir the political and/or theological pot.
God has commanded you to be a peacemaker. But that comes with a caveat.
Peaceful Doesn’t Mean Cowardly
When our minds think of a peaceful person, we automatically think of somebody who is afraid of confrontation or isn’t willing to engage in a debate. In short, we think of pacifists. However, being a peaceful person–specifically, a peaceful Christian–doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever engage in arguments or even confront somebody when necessary. Occasionally, it’s your job as a fellow Christian to call another Christian’s behavior out. You should not try to be peaceful so much to where you don’t follow the Spirit’s leading to confront sin. At that point you’re bordering on disobedience.
Think of Jesus, for example. Jesus was the epitome of a peaceful person since He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). This same Jesus also called the Pharisees white-washed tombs (Matthew 23:27) and flipped tables in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). Jesus was perfect, so logically we can conclude that sometimes peaceful people have to conduct themselves in a bolder way to get the point across.
Church, Community, and Social Media
There are numerous realms of life where we have the biblical responsibility of “liv[ing] peaceably with all.” In this post, I’d like to cover three: local church, community, and social media.
Be at peace within the local church. It’s such a shame that we even have to talk about this. Of course, we know problems of division will arise within the local church because the church is made up of sinners. This is obvious. But it’s when you have members of a church that insist on not being peaceful. They antagonize; they cause strife; they bring division. At some point, you may bring church discipline into the conversation, though it’s gut-wrenching to do so.
Let me say this. All churches should practice church discipline. Not that you should want to, but the guardrails should be put in place when issues arise–because they will arise (dealing with sinners, remember?). A church that doesn’t practice church discipline when necessary is, dare I say, nothing more than a Christian social club. And divisive Christians will thrive in those types of churches.
It’s one thing to struggle to be peaceful within your local church–we all may struggle with that on occasion because there’s always something that we will be uncomfortable with. It’s another situation to enjoy causing an aroma of tension in your church. When you get secretly excited when there’s controversy, something is wrong. At that point, an endless amount of heart-checking needs to be done.
The local church is a place that should naturally have peacefulness, as Christians come together each week for a common pleasure: to worship God through preaching, songs, and fellowship. This worship gets hindered when people within the church make it a goal to be divisive in every which way.
Be at peace within the community. If you live in a small town, this statement applies even more. In a rural town, more people know you which means more people know if you’re peaceful or divisive. You can’t really hide it. If you’re not at peace with everybody, the town will, for the most part, know it. Your reputation will precede you.
Friends, understand the Bible is not asking you to simply be at peace with other Christians. It’s mandating to be at peace with all people–believers and unbelievers alike. You have no excuse. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. And why must we be at peace with everybody in our community? To name one reason, it magnifies the name of Christ. Negatively, you bring reproach on the church of Christ when you are not a peaceful person.
In this scenario, it’s solely your behavior that is giving people a reason to scorn God and His church even more than they already do. Or, even worse, it’s giving other Christians in the community a reason to affiliate your behavior with the local church you attend. In other words, your attitude has peripheral consequences. Being a peaceful person isn’t primarily for your sake, but for the sake of other Christians.
Be at peace on social media. This one shouldn’t be a doozy, friends, but it is. I can’t begin to explain how many times I’ve seen Christians behave divisively on Facebook and Twitter. It’s simply harder to be peacemakers on social media because we don’t have the blessing of seeing people in-person. We get trigger-happy and decide to post before we think.
I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t use social media; even more, I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t post, comment, and share controversial things. What I am saying, however, is what Romans 12:18 is saying. As far as it depends on you, Christian, be at peace with all people on social media. This will look different for each person. For many, it’ll acquire being intentional about your social media usage. Understand the blessings and curses of social media, ask God to reveal the sinful areas of your heart, and proceed with caution.
For some reason, many Christians don’t think about the image they’re portraying on social media when they are always pouncing on the hot-topic debate or making a Facebook post that they know will stir the pot. Your mouth shouldn’t drool when somebody has a controversial post that you’re just dying to be a part of. Being a peacemaker doesn’t mean never having interactions, it means knowing when to post and not to post. It means knowing the limits and knowing when to keep going. Sometimes it means having the discussion in Messenger and not on the public thread. Be at peace.
Above All, be like Christ
What it boils down to is us being conformed more to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Are we yielding to the Spirit or to the flesh? Better yet, does our incessant need to create controversy and division reveal a heart that isn’t Christ’s possession? Maybe some serious soul-searching needs to be done.
Christian, be a peacemaker. Be the one to de-escalate when things are getting heated. Don’t stoke the fire with your sarcastic whit. Live at peace with all people and strive, by the Spirit’s power, to be like Jesus in every situation.