I don't know about you, but this "government shutdown" really is disheartening. I certainly do have opinions and certainly do fall on one side of the argument, but I simply wish that people could get along. Why can't men get in a room peacefully and discuss their differences? Why do they have to resort to backbiting, lying, ignoring, and spinning in order to get their way? Why do they have to call each other names to perpetrate to the American people who is wrong and who is right? It just seems to me they have an elected responsibility to figure this out . . . peacefully!
Of course, if we are honest, this is not just a problem among our government. It is a problem among us. Our lack of peace with each other happens when neighbors fight over trees and land issues. It happens between friends when they fail to solve conflicts in a normal way. And it certainly happens among sports teams, who so despise their opposing teams that the mere mention of them creates animosity. Why can't men just get along? Why can't men just have fun with each other while rooting for the other team?
One answer, for sure, is that man is wicked and evil in their heart, and desperately self-seeking. We want what we want and will do anything in our power to get it. That causes conflicts. That hinders peace. The book of James very clearly tells us this:
"What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask." (James 4:1-2)
As I was thinking about this issue of peace among men, I came across some directions by Richard Baxter on how to keep peace with all men. These are helpful.
- Get your own hearts into a humble frame; and abhor all the motions of pride and self-exalting.
- If you would be peaceable, be not covetous lovers of the world, but be contented with your daily bread.
- If you will be peaceable, love your neighbors as yourselves.
- Compose your minds to christian gentleness and meekness, and suffer not passion to make you either turbulent and unquiet to others, or impatient and troublesome to yourselves.
- Be careful to maintain that order of government and obedience, which is appointed of God for the preservation of peace, in families, churches, and commonwealths.
- Avoid all revengeful and provoking words.
- Engage not yourselves too forwardly or eagerly in disputes, nor at any time without necessity: and when necessity calls you, set an extraordinary watch upon your passions.
- Have as little to do with men, in matters which their commodity is concerned in, as you can.
- Buy peace at the price of any thing which is not better than it . . . Money must not be thought too dear to buy it, when the loss of it will be worse than the loss of money, to yourselves or those that you contend with.
- Avoid censoriousness; which is the judging of men or matters that you have no call to meddle with, and the making of matters worse than sufficient proof will warrant you.
- Neither talk against men behind their backs, nor patiently hearken to them that use it.
- Speak more of the good than of the evil which is in others.
- Be not strange, but lovingly familiar with your neighbors.
- Affect not a distance and sour singularity in lawful things.
- Be not over-stiff in your own opinions, as those that can yield in nothing to another, nor yet so facile and yielding as to betray or lose the truth.
- Yet build not peace on the foundation of impiety, injustice, cruelty, or faction; for that will prove but the way to destroy it in the end.
What would happen if our government took some of this advice and implemented it in their negotiations with each other? What would it look like if they all spoke more good of others instead of the evil? What if they were not motivated by money, but the good of people? What would it look like if they avoided all revengeful and provoking words? What if they were not motivated by a covetousness of the world? Do you think that would change their peacemaking efforts?
What if we did these with our conflicts?