Rude Leads To Rude
A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.
We don’t need to be wise as Solomon to see this proverb in action every day. The pace and pressures of life have escalated in recent years. Only two generations ago, most Americans lived on farms, where the pace was measured in seasons, and the expectations were far lower than today’s. A generation ago, many people still walked to work, and they enjoyed a stable family life, nightly dinners together, and minimal distractions. Today, we live in a whole new world. Greater mobility and high expectations create tremendous stress, and when stressed people don’t get what they demand, the lid blows off.
We call them hotheads because the slightest provocation causes steam to blow out of their years and produces fiery words. The people around them are just as stressed, so in reaction, they erupt like volcanoes! The cycle continues until somebody finally backs off, but they remain on “simmer” waiting for the next encounter that will trigger another explosion. Where do these people with short fuses live? Next door, in the next office, in the next bedroom, and next to us in bed.
Cooler heads, though, can reduce the fire and tension. God calls us to be peacemakers. That does mean we’re to be pushovers, but it means we can speak the truth calmly and pursue resolution instead of escalating the problem. To be a peacemaker, we first have to be at peace with God and not be stressed out ourselves. Our first task, then, is to take stock of the stresses in our lives and take steps to reduce them. Only then can we be slow to anger and reduce the fires of anger in people around us,
Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember, the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ told us that those who are peacemakers are blessed for they will become the sons of God. We often confuse peacemakers with peacekeepers. Anybody with enough power and influence can be a peacekeeper. Every parent with at least two children knows how easy it is to be a peacekeeper. From a position of authority and power, we can force our children to be at peace with each other and as long as we are in the room, they will get along- at least on the surface. They won’t act out their ugliness toward their sibling because they know there will be consequences from the parents. It’s not that they have any desire to get along, accept, share or play with their sibling. They do so because it’s expected and demanded and the enforcer is in the room. There is a reason we call soldiers and police officers peacekeepers. Through their position, with their authority and the ability to bring about unpleasant consequences, they can enforce the keeping of the peace. As we know from experience, the moment their presence is removed, those who have been waiting for the opportunity almost immediately begin to visit retaliation and atrocities on others. Forcing people to sit in a room around a table and work out a distasteful compromise in which both parties are required to give ground is the occupation of a peacekeeper. How many times has the world went that route only to have it disintegrate just as soon as one party sees an opportunity to grab back what they had to give up in the compromise? How many family counselors have worked with opposing parties, trying to find a meeting of the minds only to discover that it doesn’t take long before the conflict begins again? How many times have church leaders brought congregations through a process of dissolving conflict and division only to discover that soon the people have created another chasm of separation? To be sure we can place restrictions, place enforcers and write rules of compliance and engagements but at best those are temporary.
When Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, we must recognize that real peace comes only through true heart transformation. Paul in Romans tells us that at one time we were enemies of God. We know from the Pharisees that religious practices doesn’t reconcile us with God. Although they practiced rituals with excellence, they were still adversarial toward God and Christ. The truth is our sin nature will always be the enemy of God for it is controlled by the Adversary- the devil. I was reading the other day about the millennial reign of Christ. The Bible says that at the end of the Great Tribulation, Christ comes, conquerors the Antichrist, and locks up Satan for a thousand years. He sets up His kingdom on earth and rules and reigns. His authority is so absolute that lions fear to eat lambs and serpents fear to bite children. All is at peace. I suppose that in this role, Christ is the ultimate peacekeeper. But if you will read a little farther, you will find that at the end of the thousand year reign, Satan is loosed for a season and he convinces many of the nations to align with him in battle against God once more. Of course he loses and along with the rebellious angels and humans is consigned to the prison of hell for eternity. You see unless our heart is truly transformed, we will go back to our old sinful enmity against God and humans.Then peace reigns over the new heaven and earth for the inhabitants will have all had a heart transformation. Sin won’t be found in heaven because the hearts of those occupying it will have had their desires changed and now they desire to be at peace with God and fellow mankind.
Peacemakers work to change hearts. When an angry heart or a evil heart is transformed by the power of God and it becomes a loving and forgiving heart, it seeks to be at peace with God and others. Until we have that transformation we will always find ourselves in seasons of warring against one another. When our hearts are corrupted by sin and evil, we can always justify being at war with others. But when Christ transforms our hearts and we become reconciled with God and the barriers we have erected between us torn down, we can then become peacemakers reconciling others with God and each other. James in his letter to the churches says it this way:
“What leads to [the unending] quarrels and conflicts among you? Do they not come from your [hedonistic] desires that wage war in your [bodily] members [fighting for control over you]? You are jealous and covet [what others have] and your lust goes unfulfilled; so you murder. You are envious and cannot obtain [the object of your envy]; so you fight and battle. You do not have because you do not ask [it of God]. You ask [God for something] and do not receive it, because you ask with wrong motives [out of selfishness or with an unrighteous agenda], so that [when you get what you want] you may spend it on your [hedonistic] desires. You adulteresses [disloyal sinners—flirting with the world and breaking your vow to God]! Do you not know that being the world’s friend [that is, loving the things of the world] is being God’s enemy? So whoever chooses to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].” Or do you think that the Scripture says to no purpose that the [human] spirit which He has made to dwell in us lusts with envy?”
James 4: 1-5
The cure for every division is repentance and forgiveness. We first repent to God that we have allowed things to separate us from Him. Second, we repent of grudges we hold against others. By the way this doesn’t mean we go back and subject ourselves to an abusive, hurtful relationship. Forgiveness isn’t the same as acceptance. I can forgive your conduct without continuing to accept it. For example, I can forgive you for striking me but that doesn’t give you permission to strike me again. Third, we seek a path of reconciliation if possible. The sad truth is that we won’t always be reconciled. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree and respect and be at peace with the other person. Peacemakers can embrace the person without endorsing their conduct. Loving someone doesn’t mean agreeing with, accepting or even tolerating their actions or conduct. Most important we ask God to help us see through the eyes of the Spirit and to help us discern the difference between what is right and truth and what is preference and culture.
It’s easy to put on a smile and pretend to be friends while at the same time our thoughts are saying something else. It’s another thing quite different to make peace. We can force ourselves to get along for a season if we must but it takes a lot of work to come together in peace and unity. Our human will can help us keep the peace but it requires a submission to the will of God to make peace.
To again echo the words of Jesus: Blessed are the peacemakers!
Dr. John Thompson