Monthly Archives: July 2016

Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

We think of a peacemaker as one who stands in the divide between two opposing parties, one who mediates and brings about reconciliation. This is a major function and a needed one between man and man, and between God and man. Christ Jesus is the one mediator between God and man.  “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). People who believe in the redemptive power of Jesus submit to Him. They are disciples or students of His way. As a result, His disciples become peacemakers between man and man.

A peacemaker learns to love his family in the church, his neighbor as himself, and his enemies. It is a work of perfection. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It requires seeing others in a certain light and acting in a certain way. The light is that of the Lord’s mercy, and the actions are in accordance with that mercy.

Mercy is commonly thought of in terms of forgiveness, accepting repentance with grace: “the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13).   Mercy is what prompts forgiveness. It is the attribute of handling an offence with God’s love. It is redemptive. It makes a new day and a renewed fellowship.

A synonym for mercy is compassion. Mercy, from this perspective, has a broad scope. It creates a sympathetic bond with people. It does not have to hinge on handling another’s transgression. Compassion has understanding toward others and a willingness to be of service. It looks for the best in people, even when there is failure. This compassionate outlook causes us to become peacemakers. The servant who was cruel to his fellow servant who owed him money was condemned by his Lord, “Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:33). The cruel servant was not sympathetic toward his fellow. He was condemned for not reflecting the compassion of his Lord.

We are enjoined to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). It is realistic to understand there are irritations, disturbances, and failures among brethren –  things that might stir anger or offence. We all have differing levels of growth and spiritual maturity. There are brethren who have learned things that others haven’t yet learned. Sometimes it is a matter of age or one’s current lack of ability. Sometimes it is a matter of neglect. These are things we have to work out among ourselves. It can seem easier in the world, because the expectations aren’t as acute: “That is just the way the world is.” But with one another we can be tempted, “What’s the matter with you? Why aren’t you. . .?” These words — lowliness, longsuffering, forbearing, endeavoring – these words call upon us to be compassionate. God wants us to love each other in spite of our weaknesses. This is a work of friendship. It is a worthy walk. It is strength. This is fundamental to fulfilling our job of being peacemakers.

Sometimes we fail as peacemakers because we use the Bible as a tool for accusing or finding fault. Jesus’ disciples plucked heads of grain on the Sabbath. They were accused of working on the Sabbath. Among other things, Jesus said, “if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7). Mercy should temper our assessment of any situation so we can see as God sees. We may have a personal conscience that is acute. We will be held to the standards we make for ourselves. But our personal conscience is not the standard that will judge others. Beware of self-righteousness; it destroys the effectiveness of a person’s influence. “Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).

Peace comes from being corrected.

“But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. . . Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:8,11).

 The Lord’s peacemaker is not like a well-trained diplomat or one who has honed his skills in the art of negotiation. The Lord works in the world through His people. These are mostly people of low birth. They are the ones who have yielded to His mercy and are learning how to live life from Him, His word, and His wisdom.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).

~ Louis Garbi

Remembering Your Redemption

Recently a friend of mine was challenged with a question from a foreign exchange student. The student asked, “What does the word redemption mean?”  As she began struggling with the best way to explain such a spiritually meaningful concept, she thought to ask why the student wanted to know. The girl replied, “Someone told me that instead of throwing cans away I’m supposed to take them to the Redemption Center.” As with many words in our modern vernacular, the word “redemption” has lost much of its spiritual potency. The goal of the words I am writing is to hopefully remind you of the wonderfulness of this word and to help you to continually “Remember your Redemption.”

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul has much to say about the human condition. In Romans 3:23, he reminds us that, “we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In chapter 7, but in the same verse, he exasperates about how the sin in our life enslaves us and holds us captive. Finally, in chapter 6 and again in the same verse, we read that there is a price to be paid to release us from the bondage of our sin: “For the wages of sin is death.” DEATH! Who would be willing to pay such a steep price for our redemption? Who could possibly love us enough to lay down their own life?

In Ephesians 1:7, we find our answer to these questions. “In HIM we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” The Greek word for redemption in this passage is “apolytrosis,” which means “to be purchased out of the marketplace, to be set free.” Slavery, of course, was a very prominent institution in the ancient Roman world. Slaves were sold, purchased, and traded daily in the town marketplaces. Although extremely rare, sometimes a “redemption price” would be paid in a slave market for the sole purpose of setting the individual free. This is the redemption (apolytrosis) that was offered on our behalf through the blood of Jesus Christ. We were enslaved in sin in this marketplace of a world, but a Savior came and paid the ultimate redemption price.

It’s important for us to continually reflect upon the substantial price that was paid to redeem us. In Matthew 18 and starting again with the 23rd verse, Jesus tells us a story about an unmerciful servant. I think it’s very possible that some of the disciples laughed as Jesus began this exaggerated parable. Imagine your reaction if you heard Him begin the story with, “A certain man owed the king 200,000 years worth of wages!” This is an impossible debt. How did this man ever get himself into this situation. And how arrogant of him to tell the Lord that he would be able to repay him given enough time. Yet this is OUR story! We were forever lost in our sin without any possible means to repay the enormous debt that we had accrued, and like the man, sometimes we think we can do things on our own, but our Savior was “moved with compassion and cancelled our debt.” And woe to us, if we are then unforgiving to our brethren. We should easily let the compassion and love that was so lavishly poured out upon us when our debt was cancelled to overflow onto those around us, even when we might perceive we are being treated unfairly. If God can forgive us for the death of his son, surely we can overlook the insignificant and petty differences we have with those whom we might come in contact with in our daily lives, especially those of the household of faith..

The evil institution of slavery is still present in parts of our world today. Recently it’s been reported that the continual paying of the “redemption price” has actually kept the slave markets flourishing. Slave traders can get four times as much per head from people redeeming their loved ones rather than from people buying them for servitude, and the price of redemption is paid over and over again. Thank the Lord that this is not the case with our redemption, for Hebrews 7:27 tells us “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

The story has been told of a man who saw a young girl being sold in a slave market. He had compassion on her and paid the redemption price. When she was brought to him, he told her she was free. “What does free mean?” she inquired. “It means you can choose for yourself what to do and where to go. Where would you like to go?” he asked her. With tears of joy she replied, “I want to go with you!”

If we truly understand the magnitude of our debt which was cancelled and can continually remember our redemption, we will inevitably come to the same conclusion as this slave girl and have only one desire…to choose to follow our blessed Redeemer. In John 6 when Jesus asked Peter if he would leave him like so many had just done, Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? For only you have the words of eternal life.”

We encourage you as you continue in your daily walk that you constantly remember your redemption,

knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”  (1 Peter 1:18-19).

~ Marc Hermon