Peace in the Midst

October 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

pizza-with-slice-taken-out-middle

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened.” (Acts 9:31a)

Can you imagine that? What was that like? As an elder in a church, it’s hard for me to picture “a time of peace” in ours. There are definitely times where the problems in our church don’t seem too overwhelming, though it seems there is always some form of unrest happening.

But I became an elder during a particularly hard time for our church. I compared church leadership to a Jim Gaffigan comedy sketch I’d heard where he imagines what it must be like as President of the United States to be woken up early every single morning by an aide patting his shoulder and whispering, “Sir… Problems…”

The above passage in Acts follows a time of turmoil for Saul, and likely the church at large, as this newly converted Pharisee began stirring up trouble in Damascus and Jerusalem. Saul “preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus” and “debated with the Hellenistic Jews” who then tried to kill him, so the believers he was with had to relocate him (v.s 27-30).

So maybe the “peace” the church enjoyed here was a reprieve from persecution, or maybe it was peace in the midst of persecution.

Most of the New Testament Pastoral Epistles were written to a particular church addressing a particular problem like heresy or divisions, so I don’t think the church ever enjoyed a lot of peace in the problem-free sense. In at least one of those epistles, we find an important reminder of the availability of peace not just before or after, but in the middle of trials.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:4-9)

Paul tells the church in Philippi about God’s peace that “transcends all understanding” that “will guard your hearts and your minds” from whatever threatens the joy we should have in Christ. How do we possess this sense of peace and “rejoice in the Lord always”?

  1. Know that “the Lord is near” (vs. 5). God’s presence kept Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego safe in King Nucchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3:25), and He will do the same for you. Jesus promised His disciples in Matthew 28:20, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
  2. Pray (vs. 6). As an alternative to anxiety, ask God for help, remembering that worry does no good (Matt. 6:27). Also pray for others and thank God for what he’s already done in your life.
  3. Occupy your mind with “whatever is true… noble… right… pure… lovely… admirable… excellent… praiseworthy” (vs. 8). A heavenward focus on the good things of God is a mind and heart guarded from anxiety.
  4. Put into practice what you’ve learned (vs. 9). Hear, but also do (James 1:22). Evil never brings peace to the one doing it. Matthew Henry comments, “All our privileges and salvation arise in the free mercy of God; yet the enjoyment of them depends on our sincere and holy conduct.” We find peace in doing what God wants us to do.

Clearly, the peace God has for us to claim and find our faith strengthened through is not found in the spaces between life’s turmoil. Maybe God’s peace “transcends all understanding” because we tend to understand peace to be the absence of trials rather than the presence of God and God-given opportunities to grow in our trials.

Peace!

Peace: What’s Possible and What Depends on Me?

January 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

800px-Iraqi_boys_giving_peace_sign“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Peacekeeping has its limits. Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:18 recognizes that sometimes living at peace with our neighbors is not possible, and that if efforts toward peace are possible, they still often can only be taken to a certain extent.

It’s impossible to live in peace with someone who has absolutely no interest in living in peace with you. A soldier in battle or the victim of a personal attack is not morally expected to work out a peaceful agreement in that situation.

Where you can work out some peaceful accord, you can only go “as far as it depends on you.” Our control is dependent also on how far the other party is willing to go to reconcile. Even within some peace, it has its limits.

Despite the limitations on the moral expectations, I think we often overestimate the barriers and underestimate our own responsibility to working towards peace. The “irreconcilable differences” card is easy to play when a relationship becomes challenging. We give up too easy.

Are you honest about what is “possible” in terms of peacekeeping and peacemaking?

Have you underestimated what “depends on you” in the relationship?

If you have a hard time determining what is possible and how far to go, remember what God did to make peace with sinners. He did the only thing possible and gave His perfect Son Jesus to bridge the gap between us and Him. And Jesus did all that depended on Him to make a way for us. I want this to be my example for setting aside my own ideas of feasibility in living at peace with everyone.

Peace, neighbors.

Sword or Peace? Debating Jesus’ Mission with a Muslim

October 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Amidst a larger discussion comparing violence in the Bible to violence in the Qur’an, the following debate emerged centering on Matthew 10:34.

Muslim

Mat 10:34… “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword”

Christians will interpret this verse saying that sword doesn’t actually mean a physical sword, rather it is metaphorical language referring to the tongue, that by the tongue Christians shall spread the truth and crush the lies that have been propagated by satan. Therefore I must ask why don’t Christians leave this interpretation open to the Quran as well? Why do they immediately assume that Surah 9:29 must ONLY refer to physical altercation? If a Christian objects to my claim that Surah 9:29 can also mean fighting unbelievers by the tongue, then it also throws out their own interpretation of Matthew 10:34 which means they no longer have any argument! So it is up to the Christian, if they want to argue honestly, or if they want to argue deceptively using double standards in interpretation

Christian

I don’t see why anyone would take the “sword” in Matt. 10:34 to be “metaphorical language referring to the tongue, that by the tongue Christians shall spread the truth and crush the lies that have been propagated by satan.” It simply doesn’t say that, although it is metaphorical as the context shows. This verse leads into the next five (35-39) that talk about division within families that is sometimes inevitable: “Man against his father, a daughter against her mother.” The Gospel can be divisive and cause a “split”, as a sword does. Any ideology clash can do that. Reaction to the Gospel may come in the form of violent opposition, but that isn’t what is taught here.

Of course, Jesus’ teaching on swordplay is not all metaphorical. He does have something to say about the literal sword that Peter drew in His defense in the face of armed Roman soldiers in Matt. 26:52-53: “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Muslim

“I did not come to bring peace.” That means what it says: he is not preaching peace. Hence in the parallel passage in Luke (12:49-53) he says: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! … Thus, the passage pertains to something he wishes to happen, not anything that saddens him or that he wants to stop

we can understand that jesus and satan agree that to make ones house fall one MUST DIVIDE and conquer and jesus says in the FIRST PERSON that he WANTS TO divide and plunder peoples house.

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two > against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

(diamerizo), which means divide, distribute, create disunity, and in context, where the word is explicitly contrasted with peace (eirene), and the word epi + accusative (“against”) follows, the meaning is obviously intrafamily war.

“Jesus’ teaching on swordplay is not all metaphorical. He does have something to say about the literal sword that Peter drew in His defense in the face of armed Roman soldiers in Matt. 26:52-53: “Put your sword back in its place…for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?””

first he tells them thAT 2 SWORDS WERE ENOUGH , but when he realised that he and his collegues would get FLOORED by the opposition he changed his mind.

“Do you think I cannot call on My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels”

no you cannot because if you could you wouldn’t have said “2 swords were enough”

“Jesus says to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matt. 5:44)”

Unlike the cowardly christian love cult response of praying for those who persecute you while one’s community is being persecuted and oppressed, muslims are obligated to fight to stop it, not to submit to it.

jesus’ mission was 3 years, and in this 3 years amount in time, not only did the Rabbis and Pharisees try and stone him, they tried to have him executed. Why would they do this if all he was doing was saying “turn the other cheek”? If all he was doing was pleading with them not to revolt from Roman authority? if all he was doing was “pray for those who persecute you”

Christian

“I did not come to bring peace.” That means what it says: he is not preaching peace.”

Jesus communicated a message of peace many too times in scripture for this statement to be His defining position on the subject (Matt. 5:9, 34, Mark 9:50, Luke 1:79, 2:24, 7:50, 8:48, 10:6, 14:32, 19:42, John 14:27, 16:33, 20:19,21,26, Acts 10:36, and more). His statement was obviously about the oft necessary turmoil that comes from one accepting the message of peace while another refuses it. Truth will inevitably divide, as any debate reveals.

“first he tells them thAT 2 SWORDS WERE ENOUGH , but when he realised that he and his collegues would get FLOORED by the opposition he changed his mind.”

I think that the reason for Jesus’ instruction for His disciples to carry 2 swords but no more in Luke 22:36-38 is right there in the same passage: “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.” (vs.37) Criminals carried swords, and two was the minimum needed to fulfill this prophesy. The disciples were not criminals, but the sword symbolized their status in the eyes of Jewish authorities. Jesus often used physical objects to teach universal truths, but He never taught the use of swords in violence. Clearly, His intent in the Garden of Gethsemane was NOT to resist arrest in any way, as Jesus knew the reason He came was to die for sinners. That’s why Jesus told Peter to put his sword away when things got ugly. There is in fact no record at all of any disciple enacting violence.

“jesus’ mission was 3 years, and in this 3 years amount in time, not only did the Rabbis and Pharisees try and stone him, they tried to have him executed. Why would they do this if all he was doing was saying “turn the other cheek”? If all he was doing was pleading with them not to revolt from Roman authority? if all he was doing was “pray for those who persecute you””

That isn’t all He was doing. Jesus was preaching something much more upsetting than a message of peace. He taught that the Law the Jewish authorities held to was not enough to earn a presence with a holy God. He showed them that they were sinners. He was the Son of God, and they also considered this blasphemy. As I said, the truth can cause division.

Muslim

“I think that the reason for Jesus’ instruction for His disciples to carry 2 swords in but no more in Luke 22:36-38 is right there in the same passage:”

i think he said 2 were enough because he thought only a few were going to arrest him

“For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered among the lawless’; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled.”

jesus used a whip in the temple and before he was murdered on the cross he was whipped. those who live by the whip shall get whipped before they die. jesus was numbered among the lawless because he commanded physical violence against the people who came to arrest him. you don’t request swords and carry them with you for no reason.they carried swords just to SELF FULLFILL a claim in the ot?

“That’s why Jesus told Peter to put his sword away when things got ugly. There is in fact no record at all of any disciple enacting violence.”

we don’t find jesus SAYING anything about putting SWORDS away in marks version and neither do we see a healing of the ear in marks version. what is worse is that matthew doesn’t even include the healing of the ear. the gospel writers are simply covering jesus’ VIOLENT acts . no one requests the purchase of swords if they were not going to be used. just for SELF FULFILing “prophecy” you ask to buy swords?

jesus and SATAN agree that to DIVIDE and make a house FALL , you first cause problems between family members. this is exactly what jesus’ message of division and fire intented to do.

Christian

“i think [Jesus] said 2 [swords] were enough because he thought only a few were going to arrest him”

A Jesus who knew He would be arrested in the garden that night but didn’t know how many would show up? An omniscient God who didn’t know the future is not the Jesus the Bible describes.

“they carried swords just to SELF FULLFILL a claim in the ot?”

Yes. Jesus fulfilled around 300 Old Testament prophesies.

“we don’t find jesus SAYING anything about putting SWORDS away in marks version and neither do we see a healing of the ear in marks version.”

Absence of details in one account doesn’t qualify as a contradiction or a false claim. If one account said that it was Mark who drew the sword, or that Peter wasn’t present in the garden, or the arrest took place in Capernaum, you might have something.

“jesus and SATAN agree that to DIVIDE and make a house FALL , you first cause problems between family members.”

Jesus and Satan agreed on a lot of things: that God is real, the Bible is true, that Jesus was Lord, that the cross would be Satan’s defeat, that Satan is destined for hell, that bread fills the stomach, that gravity works, that the sky is blue… When a person follows Christ and his family refuses to, inevitably there is division. You can’t shine a light without creating shadows; it’s a logically necessary state of affairs.

“he didn’t say his message was a message of peace”

Actually, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) came “to guide our feet into the way of Peace.” (Luke 1:79) In fact, “He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” (Eph. 2:17)

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