Last week I posted Thomas Watson’s eleven reasons to attain a peaceable disposition, but this is easier said than done. Here’s Watson’s biblical advice for becoming a peacemaker.
It’s hard to read this without thinking about the Lambeth conference. At the last conference in 1998, hot tempers were on display for the whole world to see. As much of the furore was fuelled by biased and inaccurate media reportage, points 1(i) and 2(iv) give wise advice for how to handle the media.
Additional reasons I’ve heard given for the anger at the last conference include: lack of air conditioning in the main hall, long queues for food, language barriers, arrogant American pioneering and African/Asian post-colonial liberation confidence. All of these might have contributed, but Watson gets to the heart of the matter, the heart:
How shall we attain to peaceableness?
1 Take heed of those things which will hinder it. There are several impediments of peace which we must beware of, and they are either outward or inward.
(i) Outward: as whisperers (Romans 1: 29). There are some who will be buzzing things in our ears purposely to exasperate and provoke.
2 Take heed of inward lets to peace; for example:
(i) Self-love: ‘Men shall be lovers of themselves’ (2 Timothy 3: 2). And it follows they shall be ‘fierce’ (verse 3). The setting up of this idol of self has caused so many lawsuits, plunders, massacres in the world. ‘All seek their own’ (Philippians 2: 21).
(ii) Pride: ‘He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife’ (Proverbs 28: 25). Pride and contention, like Hippocrates’ twins, are both born at once. A proud man thinks himself better than others and will contend for superiority. …Let us shake off this viper of pride. Humility solders Christians together in peace.
(iii) Envy; envy stirreth up strife. The apostle has linked them together. ‘Envy, strife’ (1 Timothy 6: 4). Envy cannot endure a superior.
(iv) Credulity. ‘The simple believeth every word’ (Proverbs 14: 15). A credulous man is akin to a fool. He believes all that is told him and this often creates differences. As it is a sin to be a talebearer, so it is a folly to be a tale-believer. A wise man will not take a report at the first bound, but will sift and examine it before he gives credit to it.
2 Let us labour for those things which will maintain and cherish peace.
(i) As faith; faith and peace keep house together. Faith believes the Word of God. The Word says, ‘Live in peace’ (2 Corinthians 13: 11).
(ii) Christian communion. There should not be too much strangeness among Christians.
(iii) Do not look upon the failings of others, but upon their graces. There is no perfection here.
(iv) Pray to God that he will send down the Spirit of peace into our hearts.
All good Christians ought to be peacemakers; they should not only be peaceable themselves, but make others to be at peace. As in the body when a joint is out we set it again, so it should be in the body politic. When a garment is rent we sew it together again. When others are rent asunder in their affections we should with a spirit of meekness sew them together again. Had we this excellent skill we might glue and unite dissenting spirits. I confess it is often a thankless office to go about to reconcile differences (Acts 7: 27). Handle a briar never so gently, it will go near to scratch. He that goes to interpose between two fencers many times receives the blow. But this duty, though it may lack success as from men, yet it shall not want a blessing from God. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’ O how happy were England if it had more peacemakers! Abraham was a peacemaker (Genesis 13:8). Moses was a peacemaker (Exodus 2: 13), and that ever-to-be-honoured emperor Constantine, when he called the bishops together at that first Council of Nicaea to end church controversies, they having instead of that prepared bitter invectives and accusations one against another, Constantine took their papers and rent them, gravely exhorting them to peace and unanimity.