In relationships between people, it is common for there to be conflict. There can be conflict between co-workers, between parents and children, between husbands and wives and even between brethren within the church. Conflicts can become very heated, and it may be difficult to find a good solution. Sometimes a conflict becomes so great that a division or separation occurs because the two parties feel they cannot stay together. The Bible is clear that we must desire peace and seek to be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Since you are a child of God, you should be a peacemaker. Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” There may not always be a peaceful solution to a conflict, but you should do whatever you can to live at peace with everyone else.
I want to specifically address ways to maintain peace within the church. In my years within the church, I have seen multiple instances of conflict between brethren. In most cases, peace was possible by following the principles of the Bible. There may not always be a peaceful solution but let us look at some ways to work for peace within the church.
Allow for others to see things differently. Husbands and wives don’t always agree. Why should it surprise us that brethren in the church don’t always agree? Romans the fourteenth chapter addresses a couple of examples of believing and practicing differently. Paul gives this admonition in Romans 14:10-13 “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” If possible, allow for your brother to see and do things differently; don’t judge him. Allow God to be the judge. There may be areas where your faith is different from others. But you do not want to put a stumbling block or cause to fall in your brother’s way. In the interest of peace you may need to keep it to yourself and even restrict your actions. Romans 14:22 “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” I have a few of these subjects where I know I believe differently about a subject, but in the interest of peace, I keep them to myself and seek not to offend others.
Speak the same thing. 1 Corinthians 1:10 “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” There were divisions within the church at Corinth and they were not speaking the same thing. You could have a battle in your congregation – one person saying or teaching one thing and another person saying or teaching something different. That would be violating this scripture. As much as possible, speak the same thing and be of the same mind and judgment.
The apostle Paul gave a prescription for peace in Ephesians 4:1-3 “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” First, he talks about lowliness. I understand this to imply that you should be humble and not proud – to esteem others better or more important than yourself (Philippians 2:3). It may be necessary to submit to others. Next, he says to have gentleness. This implies to me that you are easy to be approached and are not harsh or difficult to talk to. Then he talks about longsuffering. That means that you are patient and suffer a long time without giving up. Finally, he tells us to bear with one another in love. Showing true love to your fellow Christian will most of the time bring about peace. Here are the characteristics of love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Acting out of love is perhaps the biggest answer to maintaining peace among brethren.
Accept harsh or critical words from others without being offended. Forgive your fellow Christian. Even if you don’t agree with the criticism, there may be some truth that you need to find and modify your actions. Proverbs 9:8-9 “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.”
You are instructed to pursue peace. Romans 14:19 “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” To pursue is to follow or go after something in order to overtake it; to eagerly seek it. Sometimes, pursuing peace may require considerable effort on your part. There are other scriptures which instruct you to pursue peace. Hebrews 12:14 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 “For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” It should be obvious that God wants you to work for peace.
I encourage you to be a peacemaker. Work for peace in the church. As much as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all the brethren (Romans 12:18).