“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9
Imagine this scenario: You come upon two children for whom you are responsible, in the midst of an impassioned argument. They are both red in the face and shouting. Fists are clenched and tears are flowing. This is ugly! You need to put a stop to this argument and restore peace between the children. You tell them that the matter must no longer be discussed. You require them both to apologize and shake hands and send them to play nicely. You’ve been a peacemaker in this situation right?
Or have you? Has any truth been revealed? Has any unity been established between the children ? Has the source of the conflict been resolved? Are the children at peace with one another or has the division merely been pushed beneath the surface so that an external absence of fighting can be maintained for the comfort of those around them? Have you made a peace or have you increased the conflict between these children by silencing it and preventing them from advancing toward restoration and unity?
Scripture has a lot to say about establishing a false peace:
“For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.” Jeremiah 6:13-14
To declare a peace where there is no peace, is to superficially treat a wound, to deal falsely. A false peace of this nature is actually an anti-peace because peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of unity. To retard the contention for truth, to muffle iron so that it cannot sharpen iron in order to prevent the necessary flying of sparks, is to establish an anti-peace.
To retard the contention for truth is to establish an anti-peace
Let’s rewind our imaginary scenario with the embattled children, this time supposing that you took each aside individually and heard their accounts of the conflict. You discover that one of the children had destroyed something that belonged to the other and had been deeply embroiled in trying to convince their victim not to “tattle” when you came on the scene. One child was red-in-the-face, raised voice, tear-streaked, crying out for justice and the other was exhibiting the same behavior in trying to deny justice. So we can see how external indicators of wrath cannot be judged as a lack of grace or charity, cannot be treated as unrighteous, before we have judged righteously in full context. To treat both of these combatants the same way is to deal falsely. One child has had the injustice against them affirmed by an authority figure and the other has “gotten away” with it. They both know it. There is no peace between them. There has been no reconciliation brokered, not restitution made to the innocent party, no grace, mercy, or forgiveness offered to the guilty.
So then, if preserving an external facade of “niceness” is not peacemaking, what is? After all surely we are not meant to be at war with one another but to treat one another with patience, gentleness and grace, living in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16) and pursuing mutual upbuilding (Romans 14:19). As in all things, the answer lies in following the example set by Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, the sacrifice for sin who brokered the greatest peace in history, the one who said of himself:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:33-39
It seems that division is necessary for unity (peace) and that unity is centered on Christ Himself, around truth. We must fix our eyes upon Him alone, making his word our mediator and making peace with and between others by pointing always to Him and always to his truth. We must not silence disputes, but truly mediate them, using fairly balanced weights, and seeking unity in the truth by aligning ourselves with his word, graciously and patiently seeking to understand one another, but stridently contending for the truth of scripture and not neglecting justice.
Division is necessary for unity
In closing, reflect on these instructions for living in harmony given by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:9-21, noticing that all concessions are made in a spirit of generosity and love for the individual, and putting to death of one’s own pride and self-vindication, never in compromise to the truth.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.