Romans 12:17-18: Blessed are the Peacemakers: Part Two
‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.’ When we are the peacemakers we ought to be, out of the peace we have with God spreading peace by being at peace with all and sharing the gospel of peace; when we live lives that look like the grace and mercy and holiness of our Father, the onlooker will call us sons and daughters of God. It is to this visible aspect of our witness that we turn next as we look at the second part of Romans 12:17, ‘but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all.’ There are a number of tensions that the Christian has to negotiate as they think about their lives as visible saints. On the one hand we are not to do our good deeds before others, yet on the other we are to put our light on a lampstand. We are called to silence the mouth of the unbeliever by our good deeds, and yet we will be slandered for those very deeds. The good life of a Christian serves many purposes; it vindicates the God who saved us putting on display His power to save sinners. It manifests the holiness of God before the eyes of unbelievers. It displays to the world humanity and community and religion as it ought to be and acts like salt to make people thirsty. But the same spotlight that illuminates darkness draws enemy fire from those who love the darkness. And so our good deeds can play a prophetic role in convicting sin and in them being mocked and rejected God works out His judicial purposes in hardening hearts, while at the same time with those same deeds softening others. Our lives are the aroma of life or death.
In the early church loving our enemies and suffering with hope were encouraged as a necessary part of our witness and an apologetic for our faith. For example look at 1 Peter 2:12-13, ‘Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.’ In Peter’s day there were many lies flying around about the Church, the Church was accused of cannibalism, for eating the Lord’s supper; they were accused of holding sexual orgies in their meetings; when they had to flee to the underground graveyards, the catacombs because of persecution they were accused of tampering with dead bodies; and because they saw Jesus and not Caesar as Lord they were seen as enemies of the state. Ignorance and prejudice caused much harm to the cause of Christ, and Peter is urging his hearers to live lives that will silence the lies that were being spread around. The need is no less great today as we see those in the name of Christianity promoting the prosperity gospel, being caught in sexual scandal, historically many churches have been part of war and crime, and add to that the perception that Christians are an enemy to human rights as we stand against homosexual marriage, abortion and euthanasia. We will never win the publicity war, not as long as there is a devil, but we can by our good deeds bear witness to God’s saving work and witness to our neighbour. We may never turn public opinion but we can reach in the individuals in our lives that we are among.
As we open this aspect of the text we want to consider two aspects of our public witness. Firstly, we want to answer the matter of people rejecting the faith because Christians are hypocrites. Secondly, we want to consider the prickly matter of doing what is right in the sight of all in a relativistic society.