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by Jacob Ninan
Most of us know this verse, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt.5:9). But some do not seem to know this verse, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt.10:34). The fact is, the truth lies with both these verses, and the reality of life is also reflected in both. The problem is that many of us focus more on one and neglect the other.
There is a German word used in English, ‘zeitgeist’ (pronounced ‘zite-giste’). It is translated generally as ‘the spirit of the times’, and explained as “the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time” (Wikipedia). The zeitgeist nowadays is ‘peace and tolerance at all costs’. People follow ‘political correctness’ to the highest degree so as to be seen as being broad-minded and tolerant and also to avoid creating any controversy by disagreeing with popular opinion. Ironically, the people of the world are even willing to fight and kill people who disturb their ‘peace’ as they define it! Sad to say, we Christians also are being influenced to a great extent by this spirit of the times to seek peace and avoid conflict.
What is peace? It may be defined as ‘the absence of war’, ‘freedom from disputes’, ‘absence of mental stress or anxiety’, etc., (WordWeb). It is a good thing to have. Therefore, blessed are the peacemakers. But it is unrealistic to expect that we can have this kind of peace on this earth at all times because not everyone is a peacemaker. Jesus Himself said that in this world we were going to have trouble (Jn.16:33). The zeitgeist seems to consider peace as if that is the supreme goal. On the other hand the Bible says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom.12:18), implying that it is not going to be possible at times to keep that peace.
The problem is that peace is not the only thing we have to pursue. “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb.12:14). If we follow after holiness of life, we are going to disrupt peace for many others. Even if we don’t go around telling other people what they are doing is wrong, just our witness can cause furious responses from others who get pricked in their conscience seeing our example. When we speak out for the truth, we will immediately face opposition from others, and if we follow the zeitgeist we will hide our light under a bushel, keep quiet about our opinions, and follow ‘peace’! But we think we are following love, when, in fact, we seem to be pursuing a love Jesus didn’t show! Jesus’ love always had the good of the others in view, but the kind of peace which many follow is influenced by an aim for self-preservation.
The zeitgeist tells us to avoid controversial subjects. So even among mature Christians, we skirt around the doctrines that divide us, and each one continues to keep whatever opinions we have been holding earlier, even though being open with others could have helped us to learn something more or something better. Preachers avoid ‘sensitive’ subjects like sin, judgment, hell, etc., to avoid convicting the hearers and offending their feelings, and ‘fast-forward’ on subjects that might hurt some (especially the wealthy or the influential) members of the congregation. The zeitgeist in the pulpit is to talk only about the ‘positive’ things, the promises of God, His mercies, His love for sinners, how to receive all the blessings from God, etc.
If there are disputes in the family or the congregation, the zeitgeist tells us not to probe into them or deal with them squarely, but to just pray for them, ‘speak prophetic words of life’ into their situation, restate the promises of God, cast out the spirits of dispute, or break the ancestral curses. In the Old Testament God was very angry with prophets who would not address the sins of the people, but ‘covered them over with whitewash’ (Ezek.13:10), superficially and super fast. Why would these prophets do that? In this way they would keep the peace (and also become more acceptable and respected).
So, what happens when we seek only peace is that we tend to compromise on truth and godly values. That is the cost we pay for the sake of this kind of peace. Then we also lose our peace with God; in other words, our conscience becomes tainted and slowly hardened. Some Christian leaders are now willing to call words in the Bible as ‘ancient’, ‘not applicable’, ‘rigid’, ‘not relevant’, etc., in order to go along with the zeitgeist. They accept the opinion of people about what is acceptable to them and give up the notion that what God tells us about right and wrong is final. We can notice that what the Bible says clearly as wrong and what all people used to acknowledge earlier in their heart is now being accepted as right.
Parents who want peace with their children give in to whatever the children ask for, and create the potential for ‘war’ when the children grow up to teenage years. Discipline is rejected as it goes against peace in the home, and when it is used, it is immediately labelled by others as child abuse. Many husbands and wives learn to ‘live and let live’ rather than sit down together to sort out differences. Organisations ‘overlook’ wrong things that officials or workers are doing just to ‘keep the peace’.
Everywhere, ‘peace’ is the driving factor. Because peace is good, especially as it sounds, we are ignorant about other factors that are also important in life, and also about what is being compromised in the process.
Jesus knew that if people took their life with God seriously, they would find themselves against some others and others against them. “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, 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” (Lk.12:51-53). He also knew that since the large majority of people would always be choosing the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt.7:13), the minority who followed righteousness would face opposition. When He offers peace He makes it clear it is not the peace that the world offers, which is the absence of problems (Jn.14:27). His peace is one that stays even in the midst of problems. Peace from God comes with the assurance that God is with us and our hearts are right with God. It is this peace that we forfeit when we seek for peace in the world.
-- Editorial in the Light of Life magazine, January 2016
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