It’s not long until the Anglican Lambeth Conference. The last conference in 1998 will be remembered for flared tempers, angry disputes and a media circus which fed on the strife like famished piranhas. Most Christians know of those who have left church or been put off faith in Christ because of strife between church members. In my case, people have been scared away from Christ because I have been grumpy and short tempered with them or around them.
I have found Thomas Watson’s exposition of “blessed are the peacemakers” pours cold water on my fiery temper and should be compulsory reading for all Christians, especially delegates at Lambeth. Here’s an abridged excerpt:
If Christians must be peaceable-minded, what shall we say to those who are given to strife and contention? To those who, like flax or gunpowder, if they be but touched, are all on fire? How far is this from the spirit of the gospel! It is made the note of the wicked. ‘They are like the troubled sea’ (Isaiah 57: 20). There is no rest or quietness in their spirits, but they are continually casting forth the foam of passion and fury. …The lustful man is brutish; the wrathful man is devilish. Everyone is afraid to dwell in an house which is haunted with evil spirits, yet how little afraid are men of their own hearts, which are haunted with the evil spirit of wrath and implacableness.
And then, which is much to be laid to heart, there are the divisions of God’s people. God’s own tribes go to war. In Tertullian’s time it was said, See how the Christians love one another. But now it may be said, See how the Christians snarl one at another, ‘They are comparable to ferocious bears’. Wicked men agree together, when those who pretend to be led by higher principles are full of animosities and heart-burnings.
Be of a peaceable disposition. ‘If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’ (Romans 12: 18).
1 A peaceable spirit seems to be agreeable to the natural frame and constitution. Man by nature seems to be a peaceable creature, fitter to handle the plough than the sword.
2 A peaceable spirit is honourable. ‘It is an honour for a man to cease from strife’ (Proverbs 20: 3). We think it a brave thing to give way to strife and let loose the reins to our passions. Oh no, ‘it is an honour to cease from strife’.
3 To be of a peaceable spirit is highly prudential. ‘The wisdom from above is peaceable’ (James 3: 17). A wise man will not meddle with strife. It is like putting one’s finger into a hornets, nest;
4 To be of a peaceable spirit brings peace along with it. A contentious person vexes himself and eclipses his own comfort. He is like the bird that beats itself against the cage.
5 A peaceable disposition is a Godlike disposition.
6 Christ’s earnest prayer was for peace. He prayed that his people might be one (John 17: 11, 21, 23), that they might be of one mind and heart.
7 Christ not only prayed for peace, but bled for it. ‘Having made peace through the blood of his cross’ (Colossians 1: 20).
8 Strife and contention hinder the growth of grace. Can good seed grow in a ground where there is nothing but thorns and briars to be seen?
9 Peaceableness among Christians is a powerful loadstone to draw the world to receive Christ.
10 Unpeaceableness of spirit is to make Christians turn heathens.
11 To add yet more weight to the exhortation, it is the mind of Christ that we should live in peace.