“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10
Recently at work our team took the StrengthFinders test. If you’re not familiar, StrengthFinders is a popular personality test that was developed out of Gallup surveys. There are 34 “strengths” divided into four categories (execution, influence, relationship building, and strategic thinking). My top five categories were “Context,” “Harmony,” “Intellection,” “Learner,” and “Discipline,” which basically boils down to this: I hate conflict. I like to read. I am creature of habits. That pretty much sums me up. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I share this with you because harmony (or, what the Bible calls peace-making) is hard wired into my DNA. I hate conflict. I love unity. As a pastor, I strive for unity in the local church because it is fundamental to its health and progress. As a husband and a father, I want my home to be peaceful and loving. As an employee, I want to work in an environment that is…(dare I say it)…drama-free! In its sanctified form, peace-making is a Christ-like virtue that blossoms out of the regenerated heart. After all, “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18).
But, O wretched man that I am! How easy it is turn peace-making into people-pleasing! While the former seeks the glory of Christ, the latter seeks the glory of man. Peace-making is lovingly sacrificial, people-pleasing is a cowardly acquiescence. Peace-making resolves conflict, people-pleasing avoids (even necessary) conflict. There is indeed a subtle line between the two, yet they are worlds apart. Our desire to “not rock the boat” can clothe itself in the pious language of Christian unity. But, the Gospel can be not only offensive but also divisive. What happens when a church drifts towards heresy? Should we seek heretical unity or should we draw a line in the sand and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus? What happens when a husband or wife adopts harmful sin patterns? Should we seek sinful family unity or should we take a stand on the values of Christ? What happens when employers urge unethical practices? Should we be a “peace-maker” and just go with the flow or should we stand our ground in the righteousness of Christ? Yes, some people (even Christians) are needlessly offensive, arrogant, and pushy. However, this will never justify cowardly passivity in the name of “winsomeness” or “unity.” Yes, Jesus was a peace-maker… but he was also known for flipping a table or two!
Though the Apostle Paul urged unity in the Church (cf. Eph 4), he was not afraid to double down on Gospel essentials. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal 1:10). Being a peace-maker doesn’t mean that we will never have conflict. No, being a peace-maker simply means that we will sacrifice our petty differences at the foot of the cross. Ultimately, we must yield our thoughts, opinions, preferences, and beliefs to the authority of God’s Word. The peace-maker leads the way. So, be a peace-maker, not a people-pleaser. And, should the time come to flip a couple of tables, lift with your knees.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Pastor Matthew S. Rickett