Jump Start # 2721
Romans 14:19 “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”
I’ve been teaching a class on the Beatitudes. Simple statements that are packed heavily with so many applications and thoughts. While doing some reading about “peacemakers”, you know, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,” I ran across the following statement. A writer said, “Churches are getting over problems, in the middle of problems are just about ready to have a problem.” That’s a pathetic thought! That sounds like problems are always hovering around, like a mosquito, about to land upon you. And, that sure takes us to our verse today. We must pursue peace.
Consider if you will:
First, like the quote about problems, some people are always expecting and looking for problems. If there are not problems, then they’ll generate one. Things just don’t seem normal unless something is wrong and there is something to complain about. Stirring the pot may keep the chili from burning, but in a congregation it keeps everyone on edge. Radical, off the wall comments that push the envelop is not the stuff for good Bible classes. Those things generate questions and then suspicion and doubt. Timothy was told to preach the word, not stir the pot.
Second, we are all on a journey of growth and not all of us are at the same place on this journey. Not understanding that, along with impatience, can make problems when there doesn’t need to be any. Some would rather throw the book at some rather than extend a helping hand. Not all problems have to be problems. The way we handle them, our attitudes, and what we allow to bother us has much to do with whether or not problems are truly problems.
Third, some problems do not go away quickly. Just giving someone a verse won’t fix their broken marriage. Time, effort, and a lot of ‘what-to’ must be rolled up with grace, forgiveness and love in order for broken and hurt feelings to mend. When one is not directly involved, it is easy to expect folks to solve their problems immediately. Most times, it took a while for the problem to develop and it often takes a longer time to solve the problem. Now all of this means that people can grow weary of the problem hanging around. Another week, and it’s still there. Another month, and it’s still there. Sometimes we change calendars and the same problem lingers. There comes a time when leaders must see if any positive movement is taking place or is the problem stuck. Some can just be waiting for the other person to make the first move, while the other person is waiting for someone else to make the first move. And, nothing happens. No one is talking. Nothing is being done. That may be the time for leaders to roll up their sleeves and get things rolling by coming up with a positive plan of action.
Fourth, from our verse today, we often have problems because we have failed to pursue peace. This is true in the nation, in the church and in the home. A bunch of selfishness will keep us from striving for peace. Some want peace, but they want it on their terms, in their way and in their time table. And, the problem with that is that they are not sitting in the center of the universe. Pursue the things which make peace. Now, what would that look like:
- Sometimes I am going to keep my mouth closed. If I say what’s on my mind, it will agitate, irritate and cause trouble. Pursue peace. Watch what you say and if you must speak, say it in a peaceful not threatening manner. If you push a person enough times, he’ll push you back. And, we can do that verbally. So, filter your words and the less said the better.
- Don’t complain all the time. Mention what’s for dinner and much too often the response is weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. I don’t like this and I don’t like that, gets back to who is in the center of the universe. It certainly isn’t us. When you express that you don’t like something, often someone standing near by does like it. And right there come trouble. Pursue peace. Be one who spreads sunshine through compliments rather than brings the rain by complaining.
- Stop pushing buttons. Oh, we know what that means. There are certain topics that will send some people into orbit. What good is it to bring those up? Why cause trouble? Pursue peace. Find common ground and common areas of agreement. Pushing buttons is a lot like picking scabs. When you do that, the wound just never heals. It starts bleeding all over again. Coming into Thanksgiving, how easy it is to toss a hot potato into the conversation and before long people will be leaving mad and upset. That isn’t pursuing peace.
- Grace, forgiveness and a good dose of forgetfulness helps with the peace process. Bringing up the painful past is all it takes for family feuds to start all over again. Why do that? Pursue peace. Let the past lie there. Move on. Forgive. Extend grace. Build relationships, not tear them down.
In that first century world, where there were Jews and Gentiles, masters and slaves all within a congregation, there was enough for several major battles. But standing united in Christ, clothed in grace, love and pursuing peace, those socially opposite groups could be one in Jesus. We do well to take a long look at that picture. Imagine a Sunday morning where a master might hand his slave the Lord’s Supper and as soon as services were over, that slave would feed the master at home. Or, imagine a Jew handing the Lord’s Supper to a Gentile, without rolling his eyes and murmuring under his breath. They all belonged to Jesus. They were one in Jesus.
Much too often today, when there is a problem in the congregation, some will leave and start their own congregation. Had that spirit been alive in the first century, there would have been a meat-eating church and a veggie church in Rome. Corinth would have splintered into a dozen little groups. Galatia would have had a Gentile church and a Jewish church. There would have been a church for slaves and a different church for masters.
When there are problems at home, we work them out. You don’t go next door and ask your neighbor if you could live in his house. No. You apologize. You forgive. You make corrections. You make things work. And, in the church it ought to be no different.
Churches are getting over problems, in the middle of problems, or about to have problems. Not sure if I agree with that statement, especially when we are busily pursuing peace with one another. No church is perfect, but it ought to have it’s eyes set upon the one who is perfect, Jesus Christ.
Pursue Peace—work at it. Make it happen.