“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding…Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (Proverbs 3:13, 17)
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
“…charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers.” (2 Timothy 2:14)
Have you ever heard of “Pleasant Green YouTube Videos?” It’s just a site with videos that go viral, about scams and conspiracies, especially those in Africa. What’s confusing is the name of its creator, “By D Grace of God.” I have no idea of the connection between the content of the website and the founders claim to God’s grace, or why it’s called “Pleasant Green.” If I greet you with “Have a nice day” or “Have a pleasant day,” I wish you agreeableness, enjoyment, and satisfaction (which is not how I experienced the website). Except for student and political debaters among us, most of us would conclude that a pleasant day or experience excludes disagreements or quarrels. Proverbs 3 clearly states the principle that godly wisdom leads to blessedness, understanding, and pleasantness, resulting in peace, or characterized by peace. In Romans 12, Paul commands us to live peaceably. Through Timothy God urges us to refrain from quarreling about trivial matters because it does no good but only ruins those who hear us argue. (“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone…” (2 Timothy 2:23-24a)
Paul recognizes it is not always possible to be at peace with everyone, even when we try, when he writes, “if possible…” While I was having my hair trimmed the other day, I overheard some hairstylists talking about the possibility of customers misunderstanding a sign placed outside their studio about special pricing. When I asked my stylists what it was like to work with the “general public,” she remarked, most kindly, that she sees all kinds of people, and stopped there. I appreciated her restraint and pleasantness since she could have complained or gossiped but didn’t. Her reaction made me think of Paul’s instruction; perhaps she has learned the wisdom of how to live at peace with all different kinds of people.
The instruction of Solomon, Paul, and Timothy all have this in common: no matter how others act, we are to be peaceful. Of course, there are times when we must disagree with those who might speak falsely, affecting their beliefs and those of others, or those who enjoy a “good” argument. “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:3-5) So what are we to do when so many people have ungodly beliefs and opinions? How do we live at peace in the world today without being a doormat or being unengaged with people?
First, we must find our joy and pleasure with God, if we are to have any satisfaction with His creation and creatures. That, I suspect, is why the tradition has developed for Christians to spend time with the Lord in the morning, studying the Bible and praying our “quiet time.” In Matthew Henry’s Sermon on “The Pleasantness of a Religious Life,” he lists twelve pleasures that “Christians enjoy: 1. Knowing God and the Lord Jesus Christ; 2. Resting in God; 3. Being God’s child; 4. Tasting God’s gracious goodness in all creature comforts; 5. Relying on God’s care; 6. Delighting in God; 7. Praising God; 8. Escaping slavery to our appetites and passions; 9. Loving and doing too to others; 10. Communing with God constantly; and 11. Looking forward to heaven’s glory.” (1) Armed with joy in Christ, we are protected from the danger of false ideas and arguments. “…rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” (Philippians 3:1) “When the heart is enlarged with the love of God and Christ; when assisted therein by the Spirit of God, having good food and refreshment in them, and good company with them; and which, though attended with much tribulation, end in eternal pleasure.” (2)
Having peace within ourselves, it is not our right or responsibility to cause disturbance or conflict in others. Do any of our friends or family members reject Christ, being humanitarians or living by some other “spiritual” ideas? Who are we to disturb them? Only God, the Spirit is responsible with them for their beliefs and final destiny. However, that does not mean we are to neglect them or write them off. We may pray for gracious, gentle, and contextually appropriate ways to share the gospel and encourage our loved ones to seek God’s truth. Christians “…living themselves peaceably and quietly, in all godliness and honesty… ‘as much as lies in you’; for more than this is not required of us; nothing should be wanting on our parts; every step should be taken to cultivate and maintain peace; the blame should lie wholly on the other side; it becomes the saints to live peaceably themselves, if others will not with them.” (3) When I pray for my family and others I do pray that God will break into their lives and turn their hearts to Christ. But we all know that some disturbance and inner conflict is part of our confession and regeneration when the Spirit works in us.
You, like me, might be surprised at what causes you to lack peace. For example, I am seeking God’s help to get more and better sleep, since I know that I am more patient, gracious, and wise when I am rested. Do you have habits that affect your peacefulness? Are there responsibilities that you should delegate to have a more pleasant view of your life and the people in your life? Is your lack of peace a physical, spiritual, emotional, or intellectual issue? Do you need to change your thinking, or perhaps your expectations of yourself or others? During this season of preparation for Easter (Lent), what might you do differently to encourage peacefulness and pleasantness in the lives of others? What might you stop doing? Which of the pleasures listed by Matthew Henry might you be neglecting?
(1) Packer, J. I., Editor, “Puritan Portraits,” Chapter 4, “Matthew Henry: The Pleasantness of a Religious Life,” Christian Focus Publications, 2012.
(2) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 3:17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-3.html
(3) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Romans 12:18, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-12.html
March 7, 2019