The uniting power of peace

Many people, many conflicts: vegetarians clash with meat eaters, people fight over differing political positions, world religions collide, and the rich oppress the poor. And what has happened to peace?

Winning or losing? That is the maxim that is often followed when it comes to human interaction. It is nothing new and is by no means a phenomenon of modern times. In the first Christian congregations, for example, there was a dispute over dietary laws. Should they be observed, yes or no? Sustainable solutions were fiercely fought over and sought, creating a great uproar. Camps formed and all wanted to be in the right.

Finally, the Apostles worked out that inner cohesion and a peaceful coexistence was far more important for a young and vibrant congregation than outward appearances. And born was the hypothesis of unity in diversity. Everyone was to feel good under the roof of faith in Jesus Christ and His disciples—without regard for person.

Anger kills peace

But to this day, mankind still has not really understood this. It seems there are still too many individual interests, too many loud conflicts because of differing opinions, and our personal possessions still mean too much to us. But there is an alternative, namely peace through Christ. This is the main theme in the divine services of the New Apostolic Church in September. The sermons will remind the congregations that inner and outer peace are infinitely important. Despite unfulfilled expectations, differing perspectives, and disputes among human beings, the congregations are called upon to preserve divine peace.

Jesus, a stumbling block? Well yes, for those who had been hoping for something specific and whose expectations were disappointed. False hopes had led them to a lapse of judgement. Jesus’ penchant for the truth outraged them. Some were even offended, even His own disciples. Jesus Himself said, “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” (Luke 7: 23). In the end, they killed the man of peace from Galilee!

Peace builds

In times of peace society thrives. War tears everything down, whereas peace rebuilds. What nature takes many years to do, war tears down in a few days: everything is obliterated, destroyed, and crushed.

The fellowship that we share in divine service, however, serves to interact with each other and to forgive each other. Ambition, hunger for power, and selfishness can be overcome and allows for an enriching kind of peace to come into being in the congregation. A me-first-attitude helps only one. But a one-for-all-attitude helps everybody.

Paul, for example, wrote to the church in Rome about the relationship between the weak and the strong in faith. He called upon them to have consideration for the weak. Disputes in the church over adherence to the dietary laws were the catalyst that caused him to write about this. Some observed these laws, others did not. Those who observed the dietary laws found it difficult to tolerate those who did not. Romans 14: 20 makes it clear that the work of God was far more important and should not be destroyed for the sake of food or other things.

All are equal before God

We have also not yet understood that all human beings are equal before God. Not even the most important principle of humankind, namely equality before the law, is properly anchored in our conscience. There are far too many tyrants, rulers, and dictators.

When it comes to our congregation things must be different. Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28). In union with Christ we are one! Not a bad recipe.

As long as people are inclined to always compare themselves with others they will always emphasise the differences: skin colour, social status, nationality. One’s own position is considered the only right one. Other points of view are eyed suspiciously and often condemned. A classic motif for hostility.

Such thinking is far removed from the core of all ethics, namely equality before the law. The Apostles already then warned the congregations of differences that were evident. James said that man does not produce the righteousness of God. Paul said that God makes no differences in terms of origin, status, race, or gender. And our love for God and our neighbour is to integrate others and not accentuate a division.

Peace inside and outside

The International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September is observed around the world and unites Christians in their wish that “Peace be with you!” effectively becomes possible. In New Apostolic services verses 7 to 9 from Psalm 122 will be the focus of the sermon: “Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you. Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.”

These few words express an important hope: may this peace still draw many people into its spell. Peace in our own hearts, in our family, in our congregation, and in our wonderful world in which we all live.

Photo: Jacob Lund - stock.adobe

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Peter Johanning
Divine service