God created man to be united together with Him, as well as to be united together with one another. Though the world is filled with division, Jesus was promised to be the Prince of Peace (cf. Isaiah 9:6) and He offers the world a path of peace. Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, recognized that in Christ such peace was possible, and had this prayer for them: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way (2 Thessalonians 3:16; ESV).”
Christians need to recognize how important it is for them to seek for peace, not least because God has commanded it. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18; ESV)” And elsewhere, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10; ESV).” Christians who do not seek after peace are ignoring the clear will of God for them in their lives.
As with all those things God commands His people to seek after, God values peace and unity as a good within itself. Unity is one of the high ideals that God wants men to seek to obtain so that they might have a better life. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)”
Our lives are demonstrably better when we have peace with those around us. Our souls are only secure when we have peace with God. We can only have lasting joy when we have obtained peace within ourselves. Peace is greatly to be desired.
It follows reasonably, that if peace, unity and love are good and right for men to seek, then that which destroys unity, dividing men and creating hostility, is naturally wrong, evil, and undesirable. The Bible declares there are seven things that are an abomination to the Lord. The penultimate of these is a false witness: one who spreads slander and lies. The last and final is one who sows discord between brothers (cf. Proverbs 6:16-19). It is no small thing, in the eyes of God, to bring about discord and disunity. The person who works to create division is seen by God as being one with liars and murderers, and other such, who have no part in God’s kingdom. “Now the works of the flesh are evident:…” says the Word of God, and these works include: “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,… and things like these.” The passage goes on to say, “Concerning such behavior I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21; ESV)”
James bluntly says that wisdom which promotes selfish ambition, bitter jealousy, and discord is demonic in origin. The wisdom of God is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).” James also wisely advises: “let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).” Whenever we are losing our temper, jumping to conclusions concerning other people, or refusing to listen to their side of the story, we are failing to produce the interactions God wants us to be producing. Whenever we are actively working to promote division and discord, we are actively doing the devil’s work. If we desire to produce the righteousness of God, we must follow a different path: one of peace. “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:18; ESV).
Over and over and over again, God warns us in His word that His creation needs to seek to get along with one another. So important is this, that it was part of the reason for the death of Christ. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. (Ephesians 2:14-17; ESV)”
The world is filled with constant turmoil. Christians, as far as depends on them, should try not to participate, instead seeking to reflect the peace of Christ in their lives and their attitudes towards others. Anger and division is easy. Anyone can do it and there are many that walk that path. Gentleness, kindness, forgiveness and empathy are harder and more difficult, but the rewards are worth it.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author.