“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”
(1 John 4:20 – 21)
Next thing to talk about that is important for a successful walk with God is to be at peace with men. This may not seem important but it is very important. And seeing it is easily downplayed when considering the things that are important in our walk with God, we must be careful and cautious never to allow ourselves forget the importance of it. We must consciously make the effort to be at peace with all men, both believing and unbelieving, else we shall wreck our walk with God.
The spheres of life in which we are to live in peace can be broadly divided into three. The home, the church, and with all men in general.
1. Peace In The Home: It is written, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” (Colossians 3:18 – 21). In this Colossians 3, we find a list of commands teaching us on how to relate with each other. All these informs us on the best way to be at peace in the home. It speaks to the wives, then to the husbands, to children, then to fathers. If all members of the home play their roles as commanded here the home shall be peaceful. I spoke on the roles of each member in details in my book, “THE INSTITUTIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN HOME.” I recommend it you. The full book is absolutely free.
2. Peace With The Brotherhood: It is written “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God…” (1 Peter 2:17). The whole of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the book of Revelation, teaches us about having peace amidst ourselves as a church. So this can’t be over emphasised. “But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
3. Peace With All Men: It is written, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). Lastly, we must follow peace with all men. By all men the Bible means both believing and unbelieving. Without this peace with ALL men, we shall not see the Lord. It is true that when we maintain that the Bible is true and all opposing views are false, people would call us bigots. To hold that the Bible is true and opposing views false is the only wise and logical view to hold. So whether people call us bigots for that, that is their problem. They know little of what they are talking about. However, we must avoid being bigots in the true sense of the word. What does it mean that we should avoid being bigoted? It means we should never have this feeling of superiority over people of other faiths, knowing that we are saved by grace and not by works. By the merit of Christ and not by our intellectual prowess. So we are not superior to those of other religions. Though we are right and they’re wrong, we yet come to this knowledge by the grace of God alone. Not being bigoted also means we are not intolerant. So we should be religiously tolerant. This must be understood in the right way. I wrote a detailed article about this titled “ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND TOLERANCE” which can be found on my blog. Please make reference to it on what I mean by being religiously tolerant. But it doesn’t in any way mean we should accept the views of other religions.
These are the three broad groups we can divide people into with whom we should have peace. The way we pursue peace with each group of people differs from the other. We must therefore ask for wisdom, patience, and tolerance to be able to live in peace with everyone.
I have, by experience, seen that the way we relate with others has a way of leaking into the way we relate with God. If we treat others with contempt, somehow you’d be more prone to subconsciously treat God and the things of God with contempt. If we are easily angered by the actions of others and respond angrily, we’d find ourselves easily angry at the things we perceive to be the workings of God when we feel they are against us. These things confirm to us that we can not claim to love God when we hate our brothers (1 John 4:20 – 21). If while a person hates his fellow men he thinks he loves God, the Bible calls him a liar. And all liars would have their place in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8), not in heaven with God. It is also written, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” (James 3:17 – 18). So our relationship with others is almost as important as our relationship with God. For it is usually a mirror of our relationship with God.
To prove to us how important our relationship with others is, Christ says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:23 – 24). He didn’t ask the person to quickly offer his sacrifices then hurry to go make peace, but he ought to leave the gift to be reconciled with his fellow man first. This speaks volume. To be at peace with our fellow men is more important to God than our sacrifices to him. And today, while we don’t offer sacrifices at altars like in the Old Testament, we offer sacrifices every moment. Our very life is a sacrifice to him. While we pursue to live a life pleasing to him, we must know that we must be very committed to ensuring that we live at peace with all men and that our ways should be void of offence to them. Let us not be over spiritual to be only bothered about the things of God and despise men.
As it is written, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14). Though it is not certain, yet we may safely assume that the Bible means that without peace with ALL men, we shall not see the Lord, seeing following “peace with all men” is mentioned alongside holiness. It is easy to know that the special emphasis here is holiness, but I suppose without both we can’t see the Lord. Now, we must remember all that we have treating since the beginning of this book about seeking God, finding him, and walking with him, we must know that without this one act of following peace with all men, all our endeavour to seek God may be futile. Let’s not run the risk. Let’s follow peace with all men.
Elsewhere it is written, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.” (1 Thessalonians 3:12). We’re called to abound in love first to ourselves, then also to all men. ALL MEN!
When these verses say ALL men, they mean people of other religions too. There are some who feel we should treat people of other religions as enemies. We shouldn’t eat with them and we should keep our distance from them, but this is far from the biblical stance. So we must be cautious that we walk peacefully with people of other religions despite their opposing views to our religion.
On this basis, one thing we must be careful to do when dealing with people of other religion is to avoid blaspheming their religions (Acts 19:37). Two reasons why I say this is because it was not the way of life of the apostles. It was said of the apostles, “For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.” (Acts 19:37). While they taught against the worship of gods which are no gods (something that is simple logic) they never blasphemed the gods of other people. Of course their preaching of the truth provoked many acting under the influence of Satan, their actions were not such as should provoke people on a normal day. We read of them preaching to people and how many gladly heard and receive them on account of their teachings, they were glad at their teachings and utterances, not provoked. Then what was different with these which were provoked for their good action of preaching the gospel of good news? So the apostles did a good deed of preaching zealously without blaspheming the gods of people.
One thing people often fail to realise is that the Bible gives a direct command against reviling other people’s gods, as it is written, “Thou shalt not revile the gods…” (Exodus 22:28). This was commanded to the Israelites who were supposed to burn them, refuse to worship them, etc., but they were not to revile them nonetheless.
During Obama’s presidency there were some people (which I guessed professed to be Christians) who said they wanted to come together to openly burn the religious textbook of another religion to show how much they denounced it. They must have taken a cue from what happened in apostle Paul’s time that people openly burned their books of magic arts (Acts 19:19). But that was not Paul, Peter, and Silas burning people’s religious textbooks before their eyes in an obvious act of provocation, this was rather those people choosing of themselves to show that they openly denounced their past ways. So there is a clear difference.
Open acts of provocation is not good. Even God does not like it. Holy men of the past don’t do it. It was not the manner of life of the apostles to so. The testimony about the apostles in Acts 19:37 was not a false one for none could witness that it was not true, but after this speech was given, all the people addressed were simply dismissed, meaning they were in agreement with that statement. People did read meaning of blasphemy to the gospel they preached but it was not blasphemy.
It is written concerning Pharaoh and Moses, “And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land. And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?” (Exodus 8:25 – 26). Moses chose not to sacrifice in Egypt because of the fear of provoking the Egyptians. For this reason, we must also be careful not to do our religious acts, whether individually or collectively, in ways that would be seen by the unbelievers. For this reason I advice those who like their church’s sound system to be blasting all through the streets to desist from it. It doesn’t have to be so silent as to impede the hearing of those within the church, so it is not bad if to make people within the church hear what’s being said properly that people within close proximity to the church hear the sound of the things going on within the church. But it is wrong to do the sound system to deliberately sound loud to the hearing of those outside the church. This is very common in Nigeria. And it is not even the sound of great things like a doctrinally and intellectually sound doctrine, but just chaotic beating of drums, playing of musical instruments, and shouts of people. In fact today the Christian fold in Nigeria has be characterised by noise. I hope this stops in no distant future.
In speaking evil of other people’s religion we aren’t doing God any service. Some take it to be an act of uncommon boldness to speak openly and derogatorily against the beliefs of others. It is not. However we mustn’t show them any reverence either nor think in any high regard about them. We are not called to support nor to stand against them. We are only called to witness to the truth. All the commands we have about people “without,” that is unbelievers, are of peace and not of provocation. It is written, “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Colossians 4:5). And again it is written, “That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:12). So we must be careful in the ways we deal with unbelievers.
A.B. Simpson wrote, “A sanctified body is known, as physical health is known, by the appearance of the tongue. Your physician asks to see your tongue when he calls, and there is no surer test of a sanctified body than the condition of its tongue.” So our tongues must be used to make peace. Where we begin to use our tongues for provocation, it shows that we are unsanctified. We must repent of it and turn to God for cleansing.
If in the course of witnessing to the truth something may be seen as derogatory, one needn’t bother much. For example some people get offended when you say Jesus is the Son of God. They become provoked and are ready to fight or even kill. For such don’t bother whether or not they’re offended. They’re offended in themselves not because your words are derogatory. For the work of God must not be hindered by sentiments and faulty judgment. We don’t owe people any form of overdue regard that we shall then live in fear about how to please God. So, in matters of contrary views and doctrines, or in letting unbelievers know their damnable state, we must be bold, even if this is considered offensive by them. What is important is our motive. Let it be that we only seek to witness to the truth.
So we are not called to be at variance with unbelievers. Not even on account of their disbelief and other things that may result from their disbelief and error. We are even to avoid immoral people who are called brethren than unbelievers even though they may be depraved. It is written concerning unbelievers, “If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.” (1 Corinthians 10:27). But concerning the immoral believer it is written, “But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11). In general, we must maintain a cordial relationship with people of other religions and not be intolerant towards them provided it does not impede our obedience to God and the execution of our civic and moral duties.
This requires wisdom and understanding. We need to be able to balance between living in peace with unbelievers and the service and obedience to God. For God commanded the Israelites that they should not blaspheme the gods, as we have seen, yet God asked them to burn their groves, etc. (Deuteronomy 7:5). We must therefore know the difference between blaspheming the gods and burning their image, that is in respect to the Israelites. This burning was not to be an act of provocation, but an act of obliteration lest it become a snare. We too, in this dispensation, ought to know the difference between being at peace with all men and casting down imaginations, being ready to revenge all disobedience (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). We must be at peace with all men, but we must be careful that the way we maintain that peace with them does not become a snare to us. These require great wisdom beyond what I could advise properly. But the Holy Ghost shall guide us in each given circumstance.
Peace with all men is also the mark of a truly pious and spiritual man. For a man who is in right standing with God has his whole being filled with peace and repose. À Kempis Thomas wrote, “there is no peace in the heart of a man who is carnal, nor in him who is given up to the things that are without him, but only in him who is fervent towards God and living the life of the Spirit.” So peace Belongs to the man who is upright in his walk with God and who is piously living the life of the Spirit. Such a man is full of peace. The abundance of these must of necessity abound to peace with others.
On the other hand, the man that is wicked has no peace to offer others. The man that lives in the flesh and live a life contrary to God’s commands has no peace in himself. In his bankruptcy he has none to give. He’s conscience is at war with him, and not willing to yield to the voice of his conscience, he himself is at war with his conscience. His every disposition speaks of war, rancour, and disagreements.
We can see this when Cain had slain Abel. Cain disobeyed God in a way I can’t pretend to understand. It was about the way he offered his offering to God. But there was something evidently wrong in his approach with which he offered his offering to God and it displeased God. It was evidently wrong because seeing God asked him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (Genesis 4:7). So apparently God expected him to know about what exactly was wrong with his offering. But because God did not have regard to his sacrifice, rather than looking for how to make amends, he became very angry. God seeing this warned him of his displeasure but his anger was so great that it eventually resulted in his killing of his brother Abel. In the abundance of his evil he had no peace, and even when God came and politely asked him about the whereabout of Abel, he didn’t answer politely and peacefully. He retorted, despite the fact that it is to God the Almighty he spoke. If a man retorts when speaking to his fellow that is bad enough. If he retorts when speaking to parents, that is terrible. But to retort to the Living God is quite unthinkable. But in the greatness of his peace-less-ness, he seemed to have forgotten who God was. So it is with wicked men. Because they have no peace they’re willing to start a fight over nothing and with just anybody.
Guilt, like the evil spirit that tormented Saul, would drive one to give trouble to even the most peaceful and good people. Saul chased David around despite all the good that David did to him and to his house. There’s no way a person with a defiled conscience can have peace. He’d fight with God like Cain retorted to God, and he’d fight with men like Cain killed Abel. He’d seek to destroy a righteous man like Saul sought to destroy David. “There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22). And if there’s no peace to him, how then can he give it? So a troublesome and rancourous disposition is often a sign of a defiled conscience.
Being peaceful is not the only mark of a spiritual man, and being rancourous is not the only mark of a wicked person, for peacefulness can be shown by means of careful pretence. And there are times when, in the strife for righteousness and justice, a righteous man may look like a rancourous person. The Christian person should not be under any pressure to appear to be a man of peace so as to fail to pursue righteousness and justice. Also, in matters of doctrine we are not to allow ourselves to be under the same pressure so as to let heresy thrive and truth silenced. We have the express command of God to contend for our faith (Jude 1:3). So by contention, which is contrary to what people understand to make for peace, we are to defend our faith.
There are also times when a Christian would pursue peace but an evil person would reject it and still fabricate trouble from nowhere. Of such the Christian person should not feel guilty. I know some may feel that the command to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) applies here. That is the good they’re intending is being overcome by this person who’s still creating trouble despite their efforts. At such times we needn’t feel bad. We should even seek, if possible, to avoid such people. The psalmist lamented about these kind of people saying when he said, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.” (Psalm 120:5 – 7). We are bound to meet such people everywhere we go for we are in a fallen world.
But let no Christian person feel the slightest sense of guilt if he has done anything, even if it is a little, in pursuit of peace and a son of trouble choose to make trouble still. He hasn’t failed in making peace, his peace was not just received because the trouble maker is not the son of peace. Christ commanded his apostles saying, “And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.” (Luke 10:5 – 6). He later went on to say, “But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:10 – 11). They were not to feel guilty over the unworthiness of others. Upon the discovery that such were found to be unworthy of peace, they were to abandon them.
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
A clear mark of a child of God is seen in the fact that he’s a peacemaker. As we have seen, this is not a shallow and outward playing of a Mr. Nice Guy but something rooted deeply in a good conscience towards God. Something rooted in righteousness and absolute obedience to God’s word. A perfect reflection of a heart that is at peace with his God. Such peace, none but the children of God have.
So we must strive to be peacemakers. If we find that we struggle to be such, it may be a mark of an inward division and alienation of our souls from God. We must examine ourselves thoroughly and address the issue inwardly until we find ourselves being peacemakers naturally.
This does not only mean being peacemakers between ourselves and others, but also making between other conflicting parties. Great men of God were ever peacemakers everywhere they took the gospel to. Bishop Leo of Rome was a great mediator who brokered peace in times of war. In time of the bloody crusade, Saint Francis of Assisi visited Saladin with the message of the good news. Martin Rinkert negotiated a peace treaty by fervent prayer and entreaties to end the thirty years war. The occasion of the miraculous treaty is what accounts for our dear and beloved hymn titled, “Now Thank We All Our God.” Throughout his missionary journeys in West Africa, Thomas Birch Freeman was known to be a prolific and effective mediator between warring parties all through is missionary endeavours in Africa. Just as these great men did in war time, we should also strive to be men that ensue peace at every occasion we see discord. Asking people to shut up or making them do so is not all what peace is about, but going down to the root of the discord and resolving it so that there’d be no more reason for strife. Let us be his instruments of peace. We must both give others peace, and also work peace among other parties.
If we can only walk with God as worms it were absolutely more than sufficient for mere dusts like us. How much more sweeter and closer shall our walk with God be if we shall walk with him as true sons? It shall be joy unspeakable and full of glory. The moment we are born again we become sons of God. But when we are peacemakers, that is when, according to Christ, we shall be called so.
Let us round of with these words from a hymn:
“Yours the broken heart to heal,
Yours the load of grief to share;
Who their neighbor’s woe can feel,
Find their mission anywhere.”
—Francis Bottome , Songs from the Parsonage (Cambridge, Massachusetts: University Press, 1894), pages 164–66.
So we are not to be passive peacemakers who only make peaceful responses to others, but these words of Francis Bottome spells to us our duty as active peacemakers. Wherever we find the broken hearted, let it be our mission to heal it. Wherever we find a person under the load of grief, let it be our mission to share it, thus making it lighter. We should learn to feel the woe of others and share whatever pain they bear. Everywhere we go, this should be our mission. This requires a whole lot of sensitivity to be notice these things, but with the help of the Holy Ghost, we can both notice these things and care for those in need of care.
Prayer: Dear Lord and Father of mankind, deliver us from every hateful snare. Help us to be your true sons, and in our pursuit and attainment of peace be called so. Give us a peace rooted in a good conscience towards you. Thank you dear Father. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.