The Double Limitation of Peace (3-4-18)

There once was a married couple who had a complex relationship. Those dear and near to them would say that they were like fire and ice. The husband was a contentious man who enjoyed strife and reveled in violence. Due to this abnormal pleasure, who would constantly seek ways to begin quarrels with others and provoke them to violence. The wife was a temperate woman who was loved and known by everyone in town for her amazing ability to diffuse any situation, no matter how much it had escalated. She was often sought after by town leaders for her kindness and wisdom, especially when problems menaced the peace enjoyed by everyone. Needless to say that when these two joined their lives in marriage, many were shocked and intrigued to see how their antipodal attitudes would work together. Not long after being married, one day the husband arrived home irritated because he was unable to goad anyone into a fight. Determined to quench his blood lust, he decided that he would snare his wife to defy him so that this would justify him taking his anger out on her. The couple owned a mule that was old and rather large; so much so that it would be impossible for the beast to go through the door of their home. Therefore, the husband told his wife that he needed to bring in the mule, hoping that she would question his motive. Instead, she began to clear the furniture so that the mule would have enough space inside. Seeing that she did not take the bait, he continued by insisting that he would not be able to hold the door open and cross the mule inside simultaneously since the door was too heavy and the mule too old. So she went to get his tools and unhinged the door so that he would only have to struggle with the mule. Frustrated that for a second time he had failed in provoking her, he took the mule and began to try to get it across the door. Since the mule would not fit through the door, he began to beat the beast thinking this would get her to react in defense of the animal and would therefore give him what he wanted. However, when the wife noticed what her husband was doing she rose and went outside, put her back against the mule and began to push as he beat it, trying to get it inside. Stunned by her action, he soon realized that he would not succeed in provoking her to defiance and relented from his fruitless task. The moral of this story is best explained by the apostle Paul as he asked the Corinthians, “Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated” (1st Corinthians 6:7b)? Corinth was a congregation plagued by contention and childish strife. So much so, that they were suing one another over worldly and materialistic things in legal courts instead of seeking a wise brother to settle the dispute between them internally (1st Corinthians 6:1-7). It is wise to understand that Paul was not condemning their use of the law, for he himself did so when necessary. His focus was on their lack of preserving the peace between one another because their pride was making them “unworthy to judge the smallest matters” between them and they failed to seek “a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren” (1st Corinthians 6:2b, 5). In other words, their bruised ego blinded them and led them astray from their brotherly love. His rhetorical questions to them (v. 7), illuminates that the quarrel between these brethren could have been rapidly solved if one of them would have been humble and meek. Unlike the woman from our story, neither one of these brethren chose to push the mule along side his brother for the sake of peace. Indeed, to make peace is no easy task. It is why the Master taught, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9, emphasis added). One reason peace can be difficult to achieve is because it does not solely depend on one person. Unquestionably, there are those who enjoy contention and make it their mission to create chaos just to satisfy their ungodly lust. It is true that God commands us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord,” but it must not be ignored that peace is to be pursued from our behalf (Hebrews 12:14). This means that peace will not always be achieved, even if we do pursue it. Paul concurs with this truth for He elaborates “if it be possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18, emphasis added). Observe the double limitation established by both inspired scribes concerning peace. The Hebrew writer exhorts us to pursue peace, that is to say that we must not be the ones provoking strife or contention. Rather, we

should be the ones making every effort to quell a heated environment. However, it is in the inspired words of Paul where we are taught that there exist at least two limits to being able to achieve this goal. First he states, “if it is possible.” The implication of the apostle is that it will not always be possible to live peaceably with others. It is unwise to interpret this pericope as an instruction to sacrifice our godly convictions for the sake of peace. There are going to be moments where one must “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3b). Peter adds “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1st Peter 3:15, emphasis added). These three holy men concur that it will not always be possible to remain silent for the sake of peace. Peter’s lesson of how to confront these situations mirrors Paul second limitation of “as much as depends on you.” Remember that we are the ones making the peace; not creating the struggle. Like the husband in our story, there are people who are very contentious and love to argue. For this reason, one must analyze the situation and determine if it is prudent to speak or remain silent. If we do choose to speak, then James’ gives us this rule of thumb to follow: “So then my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20, emphasis added). The brethren in Corinth undeniably acted opposite to this and were unaware of the shame they were bringing to the Church over their petty quarrel. Therefore, let us be wise in the battles we chose to engage and the manner of spirit with we which we enter.

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