What price would you put on peace? Imagine that you’ve been sent to negotiate with a neighbour at war with you. The war has been fierce and bloody over many years. Neither side looks like winning. The enemy are willing to make peace too but they have demands. They want your country to give up substantial amounts of territory and to pay tribute to them. Would you say yes.Over the years, some people have decided that peace wasn’t worth the cost. Others have. In Northern Ireland, a peace process has made great progress because leaders and communities felt it worth sacrificing reputation, traditions etc for the sake of peace. One of the reasons that we have the EU is because leaders of western countries wanted to find a way of preventing another world war after 1945.
What price would you put on peace between you and neighbours, work colleagues, family, people in the church?
Jesus tells a parable about a man who brings his offering to the altar and then realises that his neighbour has something against him(Matthew 5:21- 24). We tend to think of this as being about sorting out an argument before taking communion but this is not about just popping across the church hall. Sacrifices could only be made at the Temple in Jerusalem. We are probably talking about a round trip all the way to Galilee and back – a week’s journey.
It’s more like turning up at the Keswick Convention and to your surprise being given the chance to share your testimony to the 3000 people gathered in the main tent. What a privilege, honour and opportunity to serve the Gospel. But as you stand up to speak, you remember those cross words with your friend back in Birmingham.
Or imagine someone experiencing a call to cross cultural mission and travelling from the UK to Asia. They arrive but realise tht they’ve left some serious hurt behind.
Well of course, the mission is now the priority. Surely if they repent in their heart that’s what counts? They can always resolve to sort things out when they get home.
But Jesus would say “no” -the reconciliation is the priority not the mission. Surprised? You see, how we relate to others tells people a lot about how we relate to God
Peace starts with our relationship with God
In Ephesians 2, Paul offers the following images of what it means to be a sinner (v 1-3).
We were Dead
We were serving God’s enemy
We were Hostile
We were subject to God’s righteous anger and judgement
We picked the wrong side. Just like Cabinet ministers who backed the wrong candidate could expect the new Prime Minister to remove them from office, so we can expect to face God’s judgement.
But what has God done? He shown us mercy and grace. He has offered peace (v 4-10). Through Jesus we have been reconciled to God.
Peace with God must lead to peace with each other
Then in verse 14, Paul tells us that Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.
This is about the division between Jews and Gentiles. The temple had walls and courtyards so that Gentiles were preventing from joining the Jews in the inner sanctuaries close to where the offerings were made. The Gospel breaks that barrier wall down.
We put up walls all the time. Not physical walls but emotional and spiritual walls. We put up walls telling the wrong types of people they are not welcome. We put up barriers to keep others out of our lives, to hide our shame behind to try and protect ourselves from being hurt again.
But when we find our refuge and salvation in Jesus, those walls can come down.
This means that our churches should be:
- Cross cultural -multi -ethnic
- Welcoming and including
- Places where people can see that we love for each other
We are back to the person at the altar again. Turning around and going back will be humbling. Others will see, it will be public. It will be deeply embarrassing. It will be costly and it will be risky. The other person may not reciprocate. They may even use this as an opportunity to humiliate him further. Maybe these fall outs were regular, maybe it will happen again next year. Maybe it’s happened every year. But all the same, he is to leave his sacrifice and go.
If the man in the parable could do something that extreme, then we can cross a room, knock on a door, visit a lost friend to put things right.
How do I make peace>
- I need a humble heart – willingness to make the first move, ready to take rejection, risk of being hurt again
- We need a church family to help each other do this.(Matthew 18)
Direct question – where do you need to make peace?