“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3)
“Men’s hearts ought not to be set against one another, but set with one another, and all against evil only.” (Thomas Carlyle)
What sets one man’s heart against another man? What causes him to go out of his way to sow discord, anger, and malice between others or incite hatred against another individual? James pretty much nails it when he says to the Christians of his day, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1).
Once again, we find that old culprit “Self” at blame for the discord and strife in our world. One man turns against another or sows discord, spreading lies and stirring up evil against his brother, because his self comes first in his heart. Perhaps it is an issue of wounded pride. Maybe he simply wants something a certain way and won’t let anyone get in the way of his own comfort or ideal. And quite often, we feel perfectly justified in our malice and discord directed at one another because we honestly believe that what we are doing is “for the best.” If someone is liable to get hurt in the process, well, they probably brought it upon themselves by opposing us in our “rightness.” Besides, doesn’t the end justify the means?
Sowing and practicing discord is a form of idolatry – a blatant raising of the Self above God and His clear commands for us. My pride, my desire, my way of doing things comes first. God’s command to love one another gets shoved aside to make way for our selfish motives and hurtful means. Rather than serving our neighbor in love, we do a great disservice to everyone involved by convincing ourselves that what he really needs right now is to be “put in his place.” The animosity between us grows, the unity is shattered, and our witness to the world is greatly diminished as others look on in horror at the way these “Christians” treat each other.
So what weapons does God give us to combat this great evil in our midst – indeed, even within our own hearts? One weapon is singled out as particularly effective against discord, and the Savior Himself hands it to us today; “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). Paul encourages us to fight with all our strength against discord and to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). And James reminds us that the sowing of discord must be countered by God’s warriors with the sowing of peace; “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 4:18).
As God grants us peace with Him through His Word by the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ, He can also calm the raging tempest of wicked desires that battle within our hearts. He shows us the way and gives us the means to have peace with our neighbors; by using the weapons of love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Finally, we can also have peace within ourselves as we find true meaning in living a life as a redeemed child of God and serving Him by loving our neighbor.
God’s love empowers and compels us to sow the seed of the Gospel in peace, watching joyfully while the Holy Spirit raises up a harvest of true righteousness as those who hear it receive the very righteousness that comes through Christ’s own blood. The world and our sinful nature call us to the sowing of discord and the worship of selfish desires, but God calls us to glorify Him by sowing His Word, that His peace may be harvested in abundance throughout the world.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank and praise You for giving me the peace that comes from knowing You have reconciled me to Yourself through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Help me to share this peace with all those around me by boldly sharing the Gospel and by serving them in love. Amen.