“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five 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 her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
There is often tension to be found in scripture. The heart of wisdom is simple and beautiful, but sometimes the details get messy and confused. This is exceptionally clear when considering Biblical peace and Biblical division.
There’s something to be said about men who are natural peacemakers. That is a very admirable and Christ-like quality. They diligently seek understanding, repentance, forgiveness, and a Biblical true peace. This is not only an admirable quality, it is a necessary one for any Christian, but most necessary for Christian leaders who have respect and influence. We make mistakes. We don’t communicate well. We assume things about one another. So for the furthering of the Kingdom of God, and for the esteem of the name of Christ Jesus, it is vital that true peace is something we strive for.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Because there is always another ditch on the other side of the road, we must be very wary of false peace, and the men who encourage and justify false peace. This is a hidden and duplicitous ditch. The man who appears to most to be a gentle peacemaker, but is truthfully the man who does not treat sin as a man of God should treat sin, he is rarely if ever rebuked. He is loved by all. He has many friends. He likely has the “right” friends. He enjoys all the respectful greetings in the marketplace (or online pub). He has a popular podcast that caters to a wide Christian audience. Everyone thinks he’s such a nice guy. All praise him for his peacemaking, while in truth a festering sin is corrupting all that is around him.
This man will often not only cover up for sin or ignore sin, he too will spread lies, misinformation, slander, and division. But they will make sure to end and/or begin each filthy comment with “brother” or “sir”. This man, I sincerely believe, is more dangerous than the abrasive, divisive, troublemakers. Proverbs 26:24-26 speaks of such a man.
“He who hates pretends with his lips and stores up deceit within him. When he makes his voice gracious, do not believe him; for seven hateful things are in his heart. He whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shown before the congregation.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was hanged by the Nazis, had an astute observation.
“Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”
In Christ, there is no peace with sin, with murdering your brothers in your heart, with spreading lies and deceit. In the Kingdom of God, there is no peace with the covering up of sin, the marginalizing of slander, and the harboring of snakes. Men who understand what peace in Christ is will have no part in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather they will expose them. They will favor the open rebuke over the gentle acceptance of sin (Proverbs 27:5-6).
I believe Stephen C. Perks puts it very well.
“Many of those who complain about insulting language are themselves guilty of being insulting but their insults are disguised in pious language, when this really amounts to nothing more than being two-faced, and Christians seem to be experts at this. I’d rather someone say to my face what he really thinks in language that is straight forward than couch it in pious language that is disingenuous or behind my back, and I actually think this is more Christian than all the pious hypocrisy and two-faced rubbish one gets in church.”
Wrapping up strawmen, slander, and lies in layer upon layer of pious politeness does not make those words any less Ninth Commandment violations. Although it is sometimes good to be gentle and winsome, I’d much rather hear a harsh truth than a gentle lie.
And then there are those who write hundreds, if not thousands, of words essentially saying nothing. Taking no stand. Making sure that he appeases all sides, as if he could magically hold mutually exclusive views.
Likewise, beware the man who will boldly stand against some injustice, but when relational politics and pride gets in the way, he conveniently switches to believing in a wishy-washy, hippie, and radically ecumenical Jesus who would just never say a harsh word.
It is terribly difficult to discern this sort of faux peacemaker, but beware of these men. The surface persona matters as much as the whitewash on the face of a tomb. Those who publically put on a face of peace while wishing harm privately.
A Biblical piecemaker must also be a Biblical peacemaker. An unifier. Any division based on just any doctrinal difference will not do. There is a wide expanse of difference between the man who marginalizes sin or ignores heresy in the name of “peace”, and the man who refuses to divide over periphery doctrinal questions. Both men may appear to be good peacemakers on the surface, but one man is compromised and favouring relationships or artificial comfort, while the other is dedicated to being unified under the banner of Christ.
Likewise, Biblical peacemaker must also be a Biblical piecemaker. A divider. Any unity based on social connections or self-gain will not do. There is a wide expanse of difference between the man who refuses to have unity with other Christians based on peripheral doctrinal differences, and the man who refuses to see sin or heresy. Both men may appear to be “mean” piecemakers on the surface, but one man is compromised and idolizing pet doctrines, relationships, or tactics, while one man is dedicated to ensuring that it is truly Christ that we are united under.
When a man seeks false peace, he will inevitably cause sinful division. When a man seeks false division, he will inevitably cause sinful peace.
The enemies of true Biblical peace will often come snarling bitter, slanderous, rivalrous, vitriolic lies. These are the low hanging fruit. The obvious enemies of peace.
The enemies of true Biblical peace will also come with gentle reproofs calling on Christians to be nice, ignore sin, and to make sure that everyone “gets along”.
No matter which “side” you’re drawn to, remember that there is no truth without love and that there is no love without truth.
This is simple and so easily missed. Everything hinges on the answer to these two questions.
1) Who are we to be united under?
2) What is Biblical peace based in?
The answer to both is Jesus Christ.
If we are united under Christ, that necessarily causes a division between those in Christ and outside of Christ. Likewise, if peace is based in Christ, false peace that betrays Christ or is focused on something or someone else is no peace at all.
All peace and all division is based in Christ, in His revealed truth, and in love. Not love according to our feelings or our culture, but love determined by God’s Word.