This is the second Q & A post from The Missing Peace series. The first Q & A post is here. Again, we’ve combined some of the similar questions and 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.
How do I make peace with a non-Christian?
Jason VanDorsten – As we talked about in week two, I think this has to back to the Gospel. I’m assuming that this question – for the most part – is from an evangelistic standpoint, not just interpersonal. Either way, the answer is still the Gospel – and I mean the Gospel not just as a presentation, but living the Gospel out before others.
Pastor Rick Warren makes the great point that our culture has generally accepted 2 specific lies – we operate under these false assumptions, and they play into how we live out the Gospel before others. The first lie is that if we disagree with someone else’s viewpoint or lifestyle, then we surely must hate and fear them. The second lie is that to love someone means we have to be totally on board with every little thing they say or do. Both of those are nonsense. We can be – we must be – deeply compassionate toward others without compromising the convictions and mandates of the Gospel that are at odds with others’ lifestyles.
But I think those cultural lies have lead us as Christians to be polarized in our interactions with people who are not like us. We tend toward peacebreaking (just smashing people with the truth at the expense of love) or we tend toward peacefaking (caring for people and loving them, but at the expense of truth.) We have to depend on God and His Spirit to lead us toward peace with right measures of grace and truth as we live the gospel out in our daily lives.
Prayer is an essential component – in living the Gospel out, we are to live in such a way that shows our peace lies in One greater than ourselves. We need God to empower us in that. And in the end, regardless of how well or how poorly you approach peace with a non-Christian, it is God who must ultimately capture the heart. So if we have ongoing relationships with non-Christians and we want them to see the light of Christ, we must pray for God to intercede and do that work. It may be through us or through some other means – but we should spend no small amount of time in prayer for that.
Beyond prayer? I would say obedience, love, and stewardship. Obedience – God has sent us out, so we are to move forward in obedience to Him in reaching others with His terms for peace, the gospel. Love – we know the greatest commandment is the love God with all we are, and the second is like it; to love others. Stewardship – we must be good stewards of the relationships and opportunities that God give us. I realize that’s really general, and in considering this question, I would love a “here’s 10 steps to relational peace” type of answer. I think there are guiding principles, but I’m not sure there’s a magic bullet that will work with the dynamics of every relationship – relationships are not formulaic. So I can’t really give a “follow these 10 steps” kind of answer. In the end, to have peace with a non-Christian, we are calling them to follow Jesus. “Follow Jesus” is a hard sell, because it’s not an invitation to an easy life – it’s a summons to give up your life. It’s a call to peace, but not the kind of peace people naturally want. So prayer, obedience, love and good stewardship are essential.
For good practical ways of doing that, I highly recommend a book called The Peacemaker by Ken Sande – extremely practical and helpful book.
Jason Goetz – I’d like to add a quick point here as well. In a very practical way, we need to be honest with ourselves over responsibility. We need to recognize what we are in control of and what we aren’t. In so many relationships, whether peacemaking or not, I see people taking responsibility for something outside of their control. “I can’t believe she said this, I can’t believe he did that,” etc. You can only control that which is in your control. I have this dialogue with my kids all the time because this isn’t natural and it needs to be taught.
How can I have peace between me and my unbelieving spouse?
JG – First, I’d like to acknowledge that this is a very difficult situation and we appreciate those of you hat shared so openly in your questions. We empathize with you and commit to praying for the situations that you find yourself within. If you are in the situation of being married to an unbelieving spouse, you entered this arena likely in one of two ways. The first scenario is one where you entered into marriage with an individual that didn’t acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The second scenario is one where you & your spouse got married as unbelievers, but the Lord graciously revealed Himself to you. Now you are in a position of accepting Jesus as your Savior, but your spouse isn’t there yet. Bridget and I entered marriage as unbelievers, but the Lord’s plan was to reveal Himself to us during the same season. This may not be the case for you.
To begin, I’d like to build off of what what has already been said. First, we need to recognize what is within our control and what is not. We cannot lead our spouse to Jesus or control if / when they recognize Christ’s gift to us on the Cross. We must recognize that our spouse’s salvation rests within God’s sovereign plan. However, as Jason said, we are called to prayer, obedience, love, stewardship within these situations. I love that God doesn’t leave us hanging on difficult matters like this, but He speaks to them directly. In this case, the Lord gives specific instructions to both women and men that find themselves in this scenario.
For wives with unsaved husbands, we read this in 1 Peter 3:1-2: Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Wives are reminded to be subject to (or respectful of) their husbands. In this case, we’re told that “even some” of those husbands “do not obey the word” – that is, the Word of God, which gives us the instruction to accept Jesus as our Savior. In other words, these are men that haven’t accepted the truth of the Gospel. However, there is hope! These men may be “won without a word” – they may accept the good news of Jesus Christ without a Gospel tract or even a single word. How? Peter tells us that some of these men are won over to the truth of the Gospel “by the conduct of their wives.” When these husbands see the “respectful and pure conduct” of their wives, literally, an unsaved husband may witness the love of Jesus pouring out to him through his wife and be drawn to Jesus.
For husbands with unsaved wives, we have a similar instruction to that found in 1 Peter. But this instruction is for all husbands with Christ-following wives and those with wives that haven’t trusted in Christ. We find this instruction in Ephesians 5:25, which reads: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
We, as husbands, are called to love our wives in the same way that Christ loved His church. How or in what way did Jesus love the church? Jesus loved His church enough to come to earth as a human, humbling Himself, to live a perfect life that we cannot live, to die a death that we cannot die, and to rise from the grave on our behalf. In short, Jesus modeled for us unconditional love and forgiveness. Are we going to be perfect in our marriages and in our homes? Absolutely not – I know for sure that I’m not. But to model the gospel within the home is huge. To tee up the fact that with wife that you, aren’t going to be perfect, to not hold her to the unattainable standard of perfection, and to confess sin when we commit it and seek forgiveness. This speaks volumes to our wives and is so drastically different from what they see around them. Not to LEAN ON your wife to accept the gospel, but to LEAD ON in your marriage and your home toward Jesus is critical. You show me a man that is loving his unbelieving wife in this way – unconditionally, like Christ loved His church, and I’ll show you a woman that wants to find out what makes that man tick.
JVD – I would also throw in briefly that I wouldn’t want anyone in this situation to feel the pressure of “try harder, do better.” That’s not what we’re saying – that you should just buckle down and be perfect, or your spouse is never going to come to Christ and it’s all your fault. While Goetz emphasized not “leaning on” your spouse to pressure them into a decision, you should – you must – lean into Christ. Let Him be at work in you. Let Him be at work in your spouse. Trust Him through the process, and don’t succumb to the pressure that this somehow all rests on you. Lean into Jesus and let Him do what only He can do – redeem and restore.
Is shalom something that you learn as you get to know God more or something that God gives as a gift if you ask for it?
JG – Yes! It’s not an either/or, but actually both. I’ll answer the second part first. If you remember – we said that there was complete shalom in the Garden between God and man (Adam & Eve). This shalom was broken when man turned away from God and sinned. The restoration of that initial relational shalom is offered by Jesus as a gift to restore the broken relationship between God and man. As I mentioned earlier, we need to choose to step over the line and pass from Darkness (no Jesus) to Light (Jesus). When we accept Christ, we restore that core, central relationship to shalom, to the way it was intended to be.
But the first part is much more challenging to explain – total shalom (outside of that central relationship) is ALSO something that you learn as you get to know God. When the initial relational shalom was broken between Adam & Eve and God, it caused a ripple effect that went out into the world – causing evil, war, sickness, tragedy, suffering, pain, injustice, guilt, lust, and even death. As our shalom with Christ goes out, it collides with the rough waters – the lack of shalom, the negativity of the world in which we live, etc. – that’s already there.
As we grow and mature in our relationship with Christ, shalom starts to spread, impacting these areas of collision. Not because of anything that we’re doing, but because of what Christ is doing in us. The best verse that I can think of that speaks to this is in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In the beginning of Chapter 12, Paul tells the young church filled with young believers (new peacemakers), “in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
When we offer our body as a living sacrifice, when we turn our lives over to Christ, He changes us from within and renews our mind – literally causing us to think differently. We progressively move from wanting God to change the way He acts to wanting God to change the way we think. These new believers Paul is addressing (and us) will be able to test and approve, to understand, God’s perfect will and the ways that He is moving. We begin to have peace in the job loss, the miscarriage, the illness, the passing of a loved one. We also begin to get relational peace in the progress (or the lack of progress) and the persecution we face when bring peace to a person that desperately needs Jesus.
If shalom means the way things were meant to be and there is sin in the world can we ever really have true shalom here on earth?
JVD – In terms of world peace, or worldwide peace – I’m going to say definitely no. Worldwide peace is a beautiful ideal, but it is not one that will be realized until the return of Christ. In Matthew 24, Jesus is teaching – and it’s this dark, apocalyptic teaching on the end of the age, or the end times – and He says that until the day of His coming, there will be “wars and rumors of wars” and that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” “famines and earthquakes” – believers will be put to death and hated for the sake of Jesus’ name. It’s dark, but that’s the way the world will be until Jesus returns for those who are His. No shalom in the created order, in the natural world. No shalom among nations. No shalom among people of opposing kingdoms.
So will there be overarching, lasting shalom on earth? Not until Jesus returns.
Can we experience true shalom until then? I think we certainly can catch glimpses of it. In John 14:27, Jesus says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Colossians 3:15 says that we are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts. Galatians 5 says that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Scripture opens with peace in the garden, closes with peace when Christ comes back to rule, and everything inbetween seems to point to peace with God through Jesus Christ – so I have to say, that yes, we can experience pockets of shalom.
Do we have shalom with God? Yes – I believe that by faith, because the Scriptures tell me I do. The gospel assures me of a final, eternal shalom with God. I can live from that now. It is certainly a promise for later, but it is also a promise for now. Do we experience that shalom on this earth all the time? No. Not only do we live in a broken world – which is a major factor – we also live in a spiritual tension of being holy, yet being made holy.
I think of Hebrews 10:14 – For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Being sanctified, or sanctification, is the process of being made holy, of being perfected. This verse says that God has perfected (past tense) those who are being perfected (present tense). It is as if God says, “I have done what I am doing.” In this process we call sanctification, our present realities are still lining up with our eternal status.
Experientially, personally, I feel like I catch glimpses here and there – times of wholeness, fullness, rightness. This is a stupid analogy, but it’s like golf for me – I play maybe once a year, and I am horrible. But there’s almost always that ONE SHOT that makes me believe this is a viable game. It’s just enough of a glimpse of what it should be like to keep me coming back.
So while we are perfect in the eternal sense and being perfected in the intermediary, we are able to see dim glimpses of something greater that will not be fully, consistently experienced until Christ returns. We live in the tension of I Corinthians 13:12 – “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
Why does Paul start all his letters out with grace and peace to you? How are grace and peace related?
JVD – Paul often repeats that phrase, “grace & peace be with you.” He sometimes also uses the phrase “grace and mercy and peace be with you.” Briefly, I would say that peace is ultimately the result of grace and mercy. If grace and mercy are the foundation, peace is the house built upon them. A quick definition of mercy is not getting what we deserve (we deserve punishment, but God extends mercy and does not punish). In grace, we get what we do not deserve (God extending to us all the good things that we have no inherent right to).
As a result of God’s stance toward us in Jesus – mercy and grace – we have peace. I think when Paul says grace & peace (or grace, mercy & peace) be with you – he does this often in the epistles, those books of the BIble that were originally letters to local church congregations – it’s like a mini-sermon. It’s this tiny encapsulation of the gospel, reminding us that we are sustained by the faithfulness of God; it’s not by how good or bad we’re doing as we struggle through life – it’s the active grace and mercy of God that holds us, keeps us. Therefore, in light of His mercy and grace, we have peace because God made peace with us. We’re prone to forget, so Paul – like a good shepherd and a faithful apostle – is reminding us of the wonders of grace, mercy and peace we have in Christ.