Conduct for peace

Behavior that leads to peace; Closing sermon of the sermon series 'Peace'

Worship Service (Sermon Series Peace, Conclusion), , automatically translated , Evangelical Free Church congregation Leichlingen


We have now spent three weeks looking at the theme of "peace" in worship:

Somehow these three themes are connected. When you are aware that God has forgiven your sins, when you have really understood and internalised that, then you are also much more gracious with your neighbour and you are much more willing to forgive and that promotes peace with your neighbour.

And if you have this awareness that you are only a human being who makes mistakes from time to time, even stupid mistakes, and you know that you are still loved, then you are also much more at peace with yourself and can deal with your own shortcomings much better.

And one is naturally much more forgiving of one's neighbour's shortcomings.

Perhaps these three points can even be seen as building on each other:

  1. Peace with God as a prerequisite for peace with oneself.
  2. Peace with oneself as a prerequisite for peace with one's neighbour.
  3. Peace with one's neighbour, as a prerequisite for a community, a society worth living in, for political peace and much more.

And the theme today is: behaviour that leads to peace.

I think most of the time the opposite comes to mind. Behaviour that leads to discord.

I once had a colleague at work who made himself unpopular everywhere in record time and that also caused discord. I don't know if he did it on purpose, but the complaints piled up.

He always reminded me of the little Roman from the Asterix booklet "Quarrel about Asterix". I had Latin at school and therefore had to read Asterix to support my school education, of course.

This little Roman was an agent who had the mission of sowing discord between the Gauls. All he had to do was be present and people would start arguing. In this Asterix book, the speech bubbles were always drawn in green during such quarrels, so you could follow the development of the quarrel quite well.

The comparison with my former work colleague doesn't quite fit, because he rather united the others against himself, but in both cases it somehow went by itself.

Behaviour that leads to discord can be found in the Bible from the very beginning. It already starts in the Garden of Eden. The woman seduces the man to the forbidden fruit, the man blames the woman and God, and the result is a life that is not necessarily characterised by peace.

In Genesis 1:16b; NEÜ God says to the woman:

Your desire will be to possess your husband, but he will rule over you.

The Hebrew word for "desire" here actually means the effort to possess someone. "Desire" or "longing", as it is called in other translations, is somewhat ambiguous. It could also be understood as adoring, but it is more than that. The woman wants to possess the man for herself and the man wants to rule over the woman. Here the discord is already in the seed of the relationship.

Love actually means wanting the best for the other person, but that doesn't really fit in with possessing or ruling.

Possessing and ruling sounds more like being against each other than being with each other, like discord or like victory-peace. The strongest wins.

But if one loves the other and really wants the best for him, then the two will also be the best for each other and then a living peace will enter the relationship.

And I believe that in general peace is a mission for us, these three levels of peace peace with God, peace with oneself and peace with one's neighbour are a mission for us.

I would now like to look at two levels where peace and discord are at stake and would like to use some examples from the Bible.

Let's start with the

Factual issues

This seems to be relatively unproblematic because one can objectively decide what is good or less good. But how do you deal with different opinions and criticism?

I read from Exodus 18:13-27, where Moses was visited by his father-in-law Jethro. They had spent the day before together. Moses told what they had experienced with God and Jethro was happy about it.

13 The next day Moses sat down to do justice. The people stood before him from morning till evening. 14 When Moses' father-in-law saw all this, he asked him, "What are you doing with the people? Why are you sitting here alone, and the people are standing around you from morning till evening?" 15 Moses replied, "The people come to me to consult God. 16 Even if they have a dispute, they come to me. I decide their case and acquaint them with the precepts and instructions of God." 17 Then his father-in-law said, "You're not doing a very good job of that. 18 It is far too much for you and also for the people who stand before you. The task is too heavy, you can't do it alone! 19 Listen to my advice, and may God be with you: You should represent the people before God and bring their requests before him. 20 Explain to them the precepts and instructions of God and show them what they should and should not do. 21 But look around at all the people for capable and reliable men. They must fear God, love the truth and hate bribery. Put them in charge of a thousand, a hundred, fifty or ten people each. 22 Let them settle the everyday disputes and come to you only with the more difficult cases. Lighten your burden and let them help carry it. 23 If you do this, if God commands you, you will keep up your strength, and this people will reach their destination safely." 24 Moses took his father-in-law's advice and acted on it. 25 He chose reliable men from all Israel and put them in charge of a thousand, a hundred, fifty and ten people each. 26 From then on they could dispense justice at any time and settled the simple disputes themselves. Only with the difficult cases did they come to Moses. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law go, and he returned home to his land.

I find this procedure here very instructive. Jitro asks, he wants to understand the procedure before he judges it and gives advice. He asks for an explanation of what Moses is doing and why he is doing it.

And after the explanation, however, he dares and passes judgement on this approach. "You're not doing a very good job.

You can react differently here. We've always done it that way, there's no other way. You've been here one day and you think you can do better?

Moses has really worn himself out in his office for so long and then someone comes along and says that's wrong?

We know about Moses that he was a very humble, modest man (Deuteronomy 12:3). He continues to listen. And Jitro's advice is very sensible. Moses is relieved, more people are involved. The leadership of the people goes from being a one-man show to a team task. The whole daily routine becomes more efficient and better.

Moses has to take on other tasks as a result. He must learn to delegate, he must learn to trust people, to develop them and also to be able to assess them. How do you know if someone is capable and reliable?

What I also find very remarkable about Jitro's proposal is the subordinate clause "if God commands you". Jitro, too, is aware that he is not the only one with wisdom. As good as the proposal is in his eyes and I think in ours, he too could be wrong and he is aware of that. Maybe God had something else in mind after all.

You know what it's like. Someone has a great idea and is then totally offended when the other person still doesn't implement it.

In such factual matters, how to choose right structures, how to do a task properly, etc, humility is always appropriate. An outsider may have the right ideas to move forward, but not necessarily.

This humility, this awareness that the other person might have a better perspective, that provides peace in times of perhaps necessary change. The other person could be right.

When it comes to purely factual issues, such as organisational questions or even, for example, technical issues, different opinions and ideas and how to deal with them are one thing.

It is more difficult in ethical questions or in questions of faith. In such cases, objectivity is more difficult.

There is an example from Acts 10 and 11.

To explain the following incident, it is important to know that at that time Jews were not allowed to have fellowship with non-Jews due to religious regulations, e.g. eating together was forbidden.

This view seems somewhat strange to us, especially since we are not Jews ourselves. But the Jews understood it that way and considered it right.

And the apostle Peter, by the way, had also seen it that way at first, but God showed him through an experience beforehand that it was not right to think that way. He had a vision where he was shown animals that a Jew was not allowed to eat, and in this vision God commanded him to eat these animals. Three times this happened. And then messengers from Cornelius the Roman came by to get him and God told Peter to go with these Romans.

And in the house of these Romans Peter now understands what it is all about (Acts 10:34,35; NEÜ):

34 Peter began: "Now I understand how true it is that God does not prefer certain people to others. 35 He accepts from every nation all who live in awe of him and do his will.

These Romans then receive the Holy Spirit and are baptised.

This causes discord among Jewish Christians.

Acts 11, 1-3; NEÜ

1 The apostles and the brothers in Judea soon heard that the gentiles had also accepted God's message. 2 Then when Peter came to Jerusalem, the advocates of circumcision argued with him. 3 "You went to uncircumcised people and even ate with them," they reproached him.

Brief explanation: Proponents of circumcision is, of course, another word for Jews (some translations also say this directly) and uncircumcised people are non-Jews.

How does Peter react to these accusations?

4 Then Peter broke it down for them one by one.

In some other translations it says "then Peter reported exactly what had happened".

I think this first formulation is so great. It is a positive argument. Facts and arguments are broken down and presented in a way that the other person can understand.

One takes the time and explains and convinces the other.

Peter could also have said: Hey, I was travelling with Jesus, what do you want?

He does not do that. He gives a detailed account of his vision, of his being with the Romans and how these Romans received the Holy Spirit.

18 When they had heard this, they calmed down. They praised God and said, "So God has also made it possible for the gentiles to turn back to life!"

Peter convinced them, by facts and by his trustworthiness. Now everyone had peace about the fact that non-Jews can also come to know Jesus.

We find a similar situation further back in Acts, in chapter 15:

1 Then some believers from Judea came to Antioch and declared to the brethren in the church, "Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic custom, you cannot be saved." 2 Paul and Barnabas vigorously denied this and therefore had a heated argument with them. Eventually Paul and Barnabas, along with some others from the church, were commissioned to travel to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders to settle this dispute. 3 So they were given a solemn send-off by the church and set off. As they travelled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told the churches about the conversion of the Gentiles. In this way they brought great joy to all the brethren. 4 In Jerusalem they were warmly received by the apostles and elders and the whole church. They reported to them all that God had done through them. 5 Some who had belonged to the party of the Pharisees and had come to believe in Jesus stood up and declared, "You must circumcise the gentiles and instruct them to keep the Law of Moses."

Then there is a discussion, the different points of view are presented. Peter tells again of his experience with the Romans around Cornelius, and Paul and Barnabas tell of countless conversions of non-Jews.

Ultimately, it ends in a very pragmatic decision.

The church elder James sums it up:

19 Therefore I think it right that we should not impose unnecessary burdens on the gentiles who turn to God, 20 but write to them that they should refrain from the following things: participation in idol sacrifices, every form of sexual immorality, the consumption of meat that has not been bled and of animal blood in general. 21 For these requirements, which are found in the Law of Moses, have been preached in every city from of old, because the Law is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath." 22 Thereupon the apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church, decided to send two men from among them to Antioch together with Paul and Barnabas.

One could agree on a solution. And that was a difficult question. On the one hand, these four points were due to the fact that there were Jews in every city and they wanted to win them over. And these points were also prescribed in the Old Testament for non-Jews who wanted to live among Jews in Israel (Exodus 17.18), for these people circumcision was not prescribed at that time either. And so the Jews, who did not yet know Jesus, were not alienated too much. Therefore, it was a very pragmatic solution that led to peace.

Behaviour / Relationship

After the factual questions, we come to behaviour. This is a bit more difficult. We find many prophets in the Bible who denounced the behaviour of their fellow countrymen. Such people are usually not liked.

And these prophets were persecuted, chased away and sometimes murdered.

John the Baptist, who had publicly criticised the ruler Herod Antipas for his lifestyle, was also imprisoned and later murdered (Matthew 14).

But nobody does that any more. Who would blame Schröder for his five wives?

But let's take it down a notch. What is it like when someone else criticises my behaviour?

We find an approach in Matthew 18:15-17; NEÜ:

15 "If your brother sins, go to him and confront him in private. If he talks to you, you have won back your brother. 16 If he does not listen to you, then take one or two others with you and go to him again so that everything can be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If even then he will not listen, bring the matter before the congregation. If he does not even listen to the congregation, then treat him as an ungodly man or a deceiver.

I think this is more about obvious misconduct. This is already indicated by the wording "confront him".

But also for behaviour in the grey area, or when one thinks that he is harming himself with this behaviour, one can at least partially apply v.15, a conversation in private.

How do you manage to criticise the other but still keep real peace with each other?

Just as Peter, as mentioned earlier, justified his behaviour by explaining it to the others piece by piece, we could also try to justify what we praise and what we criticise. To do this, however, we must also understand why the other person behaves the way he does. You have to try to look through the eyes of the other person.

But of course you have to be ready to be criticised yourself.

We also find countless references to this topic in Proverbs, e.g. Proverbs 12:1; NEÜ:

Those who love rebuke love to learn, those who cannot stand admonition are simply stupid.

According to the Elberfelder Bible, "admonition" can also be translated as "rebuke". When I read something like this, I feel quite stupid.

And of course the tone makes the music (Proverbs 15:1; NEÜ):

A gentle answer soothes the anger, but an insulting word stirs it up.

or Proverbs 15:4; NL:

Kind words give life; but a deceitful tongue destroys the spirit.

When it comes to our behaviour, we don't get anywhere with a purely objective view; it's about compassion, about understanding, about relationship.

In Galatians 6:1.2; NEÜ this is very beautifully formulated:

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if one of you stumbles into a sin, then you, as people ordained by the Spirit, must bring him back to the right path with understanding. But you should be careful not to fall yourself! 2 Help each other to carry the burdens! In this way you fulfil the law of Christ.

In the end, "understanding" means understanding the other person, seeing through his or her eyes.

And you always have to keep the story of the beam and the splinter in mind ;-)

Then perhaps we can also manage to rebuke each other in peace.

False peace

For the sake of completeness, I would like to point out that there can also be false peace. I don't actually have a concrete situation in mind, but it is somehow part of it.

There is a story in the Bible where a single prophet causes strife.

This is one of my favourite stories in the Bible:

Two allied kings wanted to go to war (1 Kings 22:10-23; NL):

10 King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah were sitting in their royal robes on their thrones in a place by the gate of Samaria. The prophets prophesied before them. 11 Zedekiah son of Kenaanah made himself horns of iron and proclaimed, "Thus says the Lord, `With these you will strike down the Arameans until you have destroyed them!'" 12 All the other prophets agreed with him. "Yes," they said, "go up to Ramoth in Gilead and triumph, for the Lord is giving you victory!" 13 The messenger who had gone to fetch Micah said to him, "Do you hear? All the prophets prophesy good things for the king. Why don't you join them and promise him success too?"

It's nice when everyone is in agreement. No conflicts, no discord, everyone pulling together. But this prophet Micah was unfortunately a spoilsport.

19 Then Micah continued: "Hear therefore what the Lord says! I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, surrounded on his right and left by the heavenly hosts. 20 And the Lord said, `Who can tempt Ahab to go to war against Ramoth in Gilead, that he may die there?' Many suggestions came, 21 until finally a spirit came before the Lord and said, `I can do it!' `How will you start it?" the Lord asked. 22 And the spirit replied, `I will go and make Ahab's prophets prophesy all the lies,' `You will succeed in that,' said the Lord. `Go and do it.' 23 So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of your prophets. For the Lord has determined to bring disaster upon you."

That nutcase, you might think, but he was right. It turned out just as Micah had predicted.

I believe that a single troublemaker is usually not right, at least that is my experience, but it can happen and in this case the troublemaker stirred up the wrong peace.

Is one prepared to reflect on one's own behaviour and thinking? Even if one is part of the majority, such humility as Moses', which I described earlier, should be a model. The other person might be right.

That was just a special case that I added for the sake of completeness.


I come to the conclusion: