(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New Revised Standard Version)
Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.
Isaiah 42:2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.
Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
Isaiah 42:4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (NIV).
Today, it’s common to see some Christians (including ministers of the gospel) deliberately displaying rank hostility towards people of other faiths, as well as other not-so-conservative Christians. These “firebrands” are hailed by their fellow travellers as uncompromising Christian warriors, as they aggressively confront nonconformists and freely throw flames and bombs around, in their reviling and denunciation of people of other faiths. To such people, living at peace with infidels and unbelievers is a sellout and a sign of compromise and weakness. What does the Bible say about our relationship with people of other faiths? Is seeking peaceful coexistence with all men (as much as it lies with us) a sign of compromise and a selling out of the faith? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.
1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
1 Corinthians 10:33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.
The Apostle Paul, one of the greatest soul winners in the history of the Church, left some hard words for some Christian hardliners in Corinth who appeared to favour a more confrontational approach to the practice and spread of Christianity. Paul was quick to make these provocative firebrands realise that Christianity is fundamentally a religion of peace that seeks reconciliation with both God and man. The gospel we preach is called the gospel of peace, not of war, and the Lord we serve is the Prince of Peace. True Biblical Christianity does not stoke divisions and wars, but promotes peace and harmonious coexistence with all, in order to create a conducive environment for the preaching and acceptance of the gospel. Paul admonished the Corinthians (and by extension all Christians) to desist from practices that deliberately offend Jews, Greeks (heathens) and other members of the body of Christ. His reason was simple- to avoid roiling up non-believers and other believers unnecessarily, especially in the non-essential grey areas of the faith and matters of conscience, so that we can have the opportunity to access them easily and win them for Christ. Paul was seeking, not his own good, but the good of others. We see that view elaborated further in another portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.
1 Corinthians 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.
1 Corinthians 9:21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.
1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.
1 Corinthians 9:23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.
Romans 10:15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (NKJV).
Ephesians 6:14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
Ephesians 6:15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; (NKJV).
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (NKJV).
Paul further exhorted Christians to pursue peace with all men, as much as it depends on us. Following peace with all men and living sober righteous lives was seen by the original apostles as a necessary prerequisite for the successful preaching of the gospel. Even in the face of extreme provocations and malicious attacks, the apostles enjoined Christians to hold their peace, and not retaliate or return fire for fire. Like the example set by the Lord Jesus himself, when abused we’re not to return abuse, but we’re to commit all things to God who judges righteously. We’re told in the Scriptures that the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome, but must be kind and gentle, correcting with patience unbelievers who do not yet understand spiritual truths. After all, we were once like them, and we’re are what we are today by the grace of God. That same grace is available to all men to bring them into a saving knowledge of God.
Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
Romans 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
Romans 12:18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Romans 12:20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled.
2 Timothy 2:22 Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
2 Timothy 2:23 Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient,
2 Timothy 2:25 correcting opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant that they will repent and come to know the truth,
2 Timothy 2:26 and that they may escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.
1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”
1 Peter 2:23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.
Christians do not win other people over by hurling verbal insults and missiles at them, or by demeaning others and making them feel little. We do not win people to Christ by displaying a holier-than-thou attitude. What convicts and converts unbelievers to the Christian faith is not provocative and demeaning utterances, but a Christ-like life of love, meekness and gentleness, and the use of words seasoned with salt that minister grace to the hearers. It is the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit in our lives and words that win the hearts and minds of unbelievers and turn them to Christ.
Colossians 4:5 Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.
1 Peter 3:1 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct,
1 Peter 3:2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.
1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:10 For
“Those who desire life
and desire to see good days,
let them keep their tongues from evil
and their lips from speaking deceit;
1 Peter 3:11 let them turn away from evil and do good;
let them seek peace and pursue it.
There was a time when some of the apostles of the Lord displayed such intolerant attitude towards opposition and resistance. In their misguided zeal for the Lord, these apostles were ready to call down fire from heaven to consume and devour all opposition and adversaries, like Elijah of old. They thought they were still operating under the old testament anointing of tit-for-tat and fire-for-fire, like a lot of Christians today still believe. But, did the Lord put them in check! What a stern rebuke they got from the Lord Jesus, who promptly made them realise that they were under a different covenant from the one Elijah operated under, and that the spirit he came with, which should now operate in his disciples, was different from the spirit upon Elijah! Jesus did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them! We need to take heed to that rebuke of the Lord more than ever today, because that incendiary spirit of those sons of thunder has possessed a lot of Christians! A lot of Christians today are operating under the spirit of Elijah rather than the Spirit of Christ!
Luke 9:51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,
Luke 9:52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.
Luke 9:53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.
Luke 9:54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
Luke 9:55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
Luke 9:56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village (NKJV).
In conclusion, Christianity seeks to reconcile men to God and to one another, through the preaching and the out-living of the gospel of peace. As carriers of the gospel of peace, we should strive to be at peace with all men. Biblical Christianity does not seek to unnecessarily provoke, antagonise or ridicule people of other faiths. Christians are not rabble-rousers or bomb-throwers who delight in stoking divisions and encouraging strife. Our aim is to direct men to the Saviour and convince them, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to save themselves from the wrath to come, by embracing the Saviour Jesus Christ. Only a peaceful coexistence with our neighbours and a humble and godly interaction with unbelievers will bring them to Christ. Let us therefore seek peace with all men and ensure it. Let’s stop provoking one another. Instead, let’s follow the things that will promote peaceful coexistence with our neighbours. Like the Scripture says, let us give no offense to Jews, Gentiles or the church of God, for the sake of Christ and his gospel. There is a blessing to being peacemakers, and that is what children of God are!
St. Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.