Peace is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I like peace and think that the church above all people groups should work for peace. What I’m aiming at is spiritual cowardice and poor leadership being masqueraded as “peace keeping.”
Here’s a typical example: A church I know was considering making some changes in terms of the use of women in worship. Many church members had been patiently asking for an open study of the issue. Church leadership decided to pursue it, but then—before the first Bible had been opened—the leaders responded to the backlash and opted not to broach the subject at all. The reason they gave was that it would cause division in the church. Clearly this was not a decision made out of conviction; either conviction to honor honest seekers with genuine questions nor conviction to make decisions based on an earnest examination of Scripture. My point here is not that this particular community needed to make some kind of change, but rather that the illusion of maintaining peace trumped what Christians should be doing—searching the Scriptures.
Yet this is frequently the way the church approaches things. This, I think, is what the pastor from the previous post was speaking to. Churches, to be healthy and a reflection of the heart of God must maneuver from a place of conviction and earnest belief. Anything less is other than what the ministry of Jesus indicated. Was Jesus concerned about peace keeping? I’m sure he was, but that took a back seat when he rebuked the religious leaders, chased the moneychangers out of the temple, and consistently provoked the Pharisees. Jesus comes to earth as a revolutionary and his ministry reflects it. He is a truth-teller and whatever comes from that telling is what comes. In fact, Jesus is so bad at keeping the peace that he upsets enough people that they eventually kill him.
What Jesus did do was call God-seekers to a higher ideal. He called them to Kingdom living that surpassed what they were already doing and he called them to a vision of the world that was different than what they had been taught. He called them to re-orient their lives, which is naturally tumultuous! Transformation, by nature, contains upheaval and disorientation, which people, by nature, do not like. Transformation is not a peaceful experience! Therefore, if church leaders focus on peace, when we know that upheaval and disorientation are part of the transformational process, then we are curtailing opportunities of growth for those under our care. While we think we are being Godly, in truth we are keeping people from experiencing the nature processes of spiritual formation and development. It’s what Erwin McManus refers to as “excessive nurture.” What McManus means is that churches are often so concerned with nurture—and peace is part and parcel with nurture—that they fail to mature and develop people. Where insufficient nurture leaves the back door of the church open, excessive nurture creates a logjam at the front door—to use McManus’ words. In short, sometimes the peace we wish to keep is the thing keeping us from becoming the people God wants us to become.