Thanks to the many who submitted questions throughout the series. We really appreciate it. We’ve combined some of the similar questions are posting our answers here in hopes that they are helpful and encouraging as you have peace, make peace and bring peace in Christ.
Many of the questions in this post were answered in a live session in the third week of the series. You can watch or listen here. Look for some additional Q & A posts, coming soon!
Why did you choose to speak on the topic of peace?
Jason Goetz – When Pastor Mike asked us to do a series, I told Jason (VanDorsten) that I had an idea for the topic. But his response really surprised me. He said, “If you don’t agree to talk about peace, I’m gonna punch you in the face.” I found that kinda ironic, but I don’t argue with guys that big.
Jason VanDorsten – Peace is something we thought would be a very relevant topic. I think we all to some degree deal with that tension of wanting peace, not having peace, wondering if Jesus is supposed to give us peace, then why don’t we have any peace, etc. I shared during week two that the topic of peace is also close to home for me in my season of life with my family – when relational peace is missing or ‘off’ between my wife and I, our whole household is affected. We can literally watch that spread to our kids – and I know I’m not alone in that. So peace has been somewhat of a recent focus the Lord has brought before my wife and I. We felt it would be both relevant and helpful to the body here at RBC.
…And for the record, I never threatened to punch Goetz in the face. Although, to be fair, I may have mentioned the word “dropkick.”
When we are told to be peacemakers, are we to be seeking peace between others and us, or between others and God, or is it a mix of both? And if it is a mix, is one more important than the other?
JVD – The “other” Jason covered that pretty well in week one, and I elaborated some in week two. Briefly, a peacemaker is to pursue peace with God, peace with the people of God and peace with all people – so in that sense, it is a mix. However, we would certainly reiterate that personal peace with God is the keystone foundation of any other peace or peacemaking – the “shalom” sense, not just the situational aspects. Simply put, we cannot bring to others what we do not possess ourselves.
Last week, after going through the beatitudes text in Matthew 5, you closed by asking the question “Should peacemakers expect persecution?” Probably to most of us reading the text, it seems to indicate the answer is yes. Is it? Can you elaborate?
JVD – Right. In week two, we looked at the sequence that unfolds in the Beatitude text – spiritual poverty, humility, mercy, hungering for righteousness, purity, making peace. We said it all sounds pretty good up to that point… but the thing that follows peacemaking in this sequence is persecution.
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Apparently, that’s such a major idea that Jesus repeats it in verses 11-12- Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
So does peace divide? Should peacemakers expect persecution? Yes. And I don’t mean the general persecution that comes from living in a broken world. This is referring to specifically being persecuted because of the righteousness of God that is ours in Christ. Jesus says “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” and “on my account”.
The theme of RIGHTEOUSNESS that you see mentioned a couple times in the Beatitudes text is a big deal. Righteousness has to do with God’s perfect and just standards – righteousness, His standard of right-ness, holiness in regards to how we think, feel and act.
So if you are fulfilling your role as a peacemaker – as a son or daughter of God, carrying with you and in you the righteousness of Christ – yes, you will be persecuted, you will be opposed, it will be painful to some degree. Jesus makes it pretty clear here in Matthew 5 that this will happen. I also think of 2 Timothy 3:12 – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Persecution of the godly – of those who have righteousness in Christ – is a given, it’s not optional.
Peacemaking implies that we are not sitting on our faith, but going out with the Gospel is wise and good and relational ways. Remember, peacemaking is active, not apathy; it is pursuit, not passivity. As we go out, it will chafe against those who don’t want to hear or respond to God’s terms for peace, which we talked about last week.
As a word nerd, I found this interesting: when Jesus says “persecuted” here in Matt. 5:10, he uses the same Greek word (dioko) Paul uses in Romans 14:16. In week two, we talked about Paul saying there that we are to “pursue” or “make every effort” to do what leads to peace. That’s the same phrase you would use with a gladiator entering the arena to fight for his life – “make every effort” to stay alive. We are to pursue peace with that kind of zeal. So Jesus is using that same word, indicating that just as we are to “make every effort” in pursuing peace, the world will likewise “make every effort” against those who bring God-glorifying, Christ-focused, cross-centered peace. This is a broken world’s reception to a biblical peacemaker.
How are we persecuted. We tend to think of the extremes – people being killed in the jungle, or the persecuted church in China, etc. But at times, persecution may be much more subtle. I think that’s probably what most of us face here in Northern Virginia – subtle persecution. We’re not likely being physically martyred or put in physical prisons up here – but I think where in other parts of the world, persecution looks like physical prisons, ours here tends to look like relational prisons. Persecution here looks different, but let me be clear that there is no less at stake. Most of the persecution I feel like I experience tends to be in the form of distraction, numbness, apathy. Our society and culture here is set up to keep us quiet, keep us entertained, keep our views to ourselves – just hush and play nicely with others. We are constantly being soaked in spiritual Novocaine. So our persecution is typically more subtle than in other parts of the world. Certainly at times, it may be more blatant and raw. But either way, we will experience persecution, and regardless of the form, there is much at stake.
Why would peacemakers be persecuted? Isn’t making peace a good thing, even by the world’s standards?
JVD – Well, I would bring up the point again that peacemaking is directly related to our identity in Christ. We don’t make peace in order to become peacemakers. We are peacemakers as sons and daughters of the living God. Making peace is inseparable from being co-heirs with Christ and living by His righteousness. There are two responses to godly righteousness being inserted into a broken world, and we can find these in John 3:19-21:
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
The two responses to righteousness – and thus to peacemaking – are that people will come to the light or hate the light. Remember, we are not bringing peace to neutral zones, but to war zones. As peacemakers, we come as light, and those who are not already of the light, or moving toward the light, HATE the light – that’s active resistance. They will “make every effort” against the light.
I think also of 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. We are the aroma of Christ. We smell like Jesus. To some people, we’ll smell like life, and they will be attracted. To others, we smell like death, and they will be repulsed. So it is normative that peacemakers will be persecuted, that peace will be resisted.
A gentleman stopped by my office and asked “Are you saying that peacemakers are troublemakers?” In this sense, I certainly am. If we are truly making every effort to do what leads to peace with God, with the people of God and with all men, we will be troublemakers for those who love the darkness.
Sounds weird and paradoxical, but in regards to peacemaking, you know you’re doing it right if there is opposition.
JG – I’m going to split up the question. Isn’t making peace a good thing? Yes – absolutely. Making peace with God’s people and bringing peace to the world is a great thing – from our perspective as Christ followers. Now is peace making a good thing by the world’s standard? Not necessarily. If we’re talking the Webster definition of lacking warfare, most people in the world would agree that it’s good. But if we’re talking shalom peace, the wholeness that comes from Christ, it’s going to face opposition.
The church today is facing a dilemma – which I call the “Nice Guy Dilemma”. We would prefer to look at the population of the earth as a bell-shaped curve. There are terrible people at this end (Hitler, Manson, Al Qaeda, etc.) We say they are bound for hell when they die. Then there are the Christians on the other end, and they are bound for heaven when they die. But everyone else, the majority, is in the middle and we’re not exactly sure where they’re heading. Some days it looks pretty good for them and some days it looks pretty bad – based on their actions, if they pass their holiness test. But this is not what the Scriptures say – not at all.
As Jason said, it’s black & white – literally. There are people in the Light and there are people in the Darkness. There is a single line of divide and His name is Jesus. As I tell my kids, there are two sides and you are either on one side or the other. It’s not Capture the Flag and there isn’t any No Man’s Land in the middle. Out of God’s tremendous love for His creation, His image-bearer – us – He sent His only Son to pay the penalty for our sins, to make a way for us to enter Heaven, to have peace… but we need to step over the line. Keep in mind, I started at the wrong side of that line. We all started over here.
So here’s the dilemma I referred to – we see the guy/gal in our extended family, in the office, in the neighborhood and they are really, really nice. They love there spouse, go to all the soccer games, work hard, pay their taxes. They are nice people and they appear to be peacemakers according to the world’s standard. But they are not true peacemakers, shalom-makers, according to Scripture because they are not Christ followers. As Jason so eloquently put it – this is a counterfeit shalom. But, you say, “They’re so nice and they do good things! That has to count for something.” Listen to these words from the prophet Isaiah – “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). Even though he doesn’t say it, the nice guy is doing nice things …for himself. So that he feels good about himself, so that people like him, because he would like some things back, because he desires for the world to be a perfect place, etc. He does the morally right thing, but – and this is key – with the wrong motive. Nice guys don’t go to heaven. Christ followers go to heaven, and they’re called to pursue peace to glorify God. A fallen world does not want to hear that message, because they love darkness.
What if I’m a Christian and feel like I am making efforts to bring peace, but I’m not experiencing persecution?
JG – When we are Jesus followers, peacemakers, we are called to be bring peace to the world around us. So let’s just assume this is happening in many relationships simultaneously – our neighborhood, our work, our workout gym, our favorite store, etc. Now let’s narrowly look at one of those relationships to answer the question. Why are we not feeling persecution in our relationship, with say, our atheist coworker? I believe the answer is because there are seasons to the process.
If we continue on in Matt 5, Jesus lays this out for us right after the beatitudes:“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”
Jesus tells us to be salt. What does salt do? In ancient times and today it’s used to 1.) add flavor…..make things better, and 2.) to preserve. What does light do? It illuminates the dark. We are called to make the world better, to preserve that which is going bad, and to bring light to dark places.
In one season, we may be obedient to the call. We are being salt and light. We are investing in the relationship that the Lord has put before us with this coworker. It might be early on in the relationship where we are accumulating some relational capital. It might be further along and we’re having lunch with them periodically….occasionally having some deeper conversations. We might care for them during a difficult time….ask them how they’re doing (and show them that we really want to know) when times are tough. When they’ve lost a parent, are struggling in their marriage or with their kids, had a miscarriage, are hating their job. Please don’t be the obnoxious, in-your-face Christian – beating them over the head with your 5 lb. Study Bible. Simply ask yourself – if the roles were reversed, how would I want another human being to care for me? Then love like Christ loved.
The second season comes out of this narrative as well. What I find really interesting is what Jesus says about salt and light. He talks about salt losing its saltiness. I’m not a scientist or a chemist, but I think sodium chloride is always sodium chloride and it doesn’t change its flavor – unless you chose to dilute the salt. In the same way, light is always light. It doesn’t change its brightness, unless you chose to cover it. Sometimes we chose to dilute our salt and cover our light to avoid persecution, I’m afraid they may not like me anymore.
In the third season, your atheist coworker might just be in process. You’ve laid out some truth, asked them a tough question, and they’re thinking – which is great! You are just waiting for an opportunity to love on them again. It’s not up to you to force a decision, but to simply be obedient in the situations that God gives you to share.
So there are seasons. In the first season, you’re doing exactly what you’re told and there may be some persecution. In the second season we discussed, you are diluting your salt and covering your light. You aren’t moving forward, so there isn’t any resistance – I’m a coward, I shy away. We all shy away at times. In the third season, we aren’t feeling persecution because they are in process of moving out of darkness into light. Be patient.
We need to assess whether we are diluting our salt and covering our light. If we are, we need to change. But we also need to be thankful of the opportunities the Lord gives us to be salt and light and learn to be patient and rest while someone is in process.