15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
My wife, Janine, once received a note pad from a friend of ours that read: “I meditate, I exercise, I drink green tea… and I still want to smack someone. Peace can be an elusive thing… particularly in church. Church fights and tension have done more to drive people out of church than bad doctrine ever has.
Some important ways for churches to find peace is through “being thankful” and “letting the Word of Christ dwell richly.” As we teach the Word, encourage one another with it and sing it to one another… we find the peace that must rule in our congregations. Paul says that there not only should be peace in church, but peace should rule there. The Greek word for rule is “barbeuto” meaning to arbitrate, to decide every debate.
A lot of negative stuff has been said of churches, much of it warranted. But a church at peace is a powerful thing. As we put on the clothes of our new life in Christ (compassion, humility, etc.) we help others join the community of faith.
Terry Muck talks about a letter written by a man who used to have no spiritual interest. He lived next door to a Christian, and they had a casual friendship. Then the non-Christian’s wife suddenly died. Here’s part of a letter he wrote afterward:
I was in total despair. I went through the funeral preparations and the service like I was in a trance. And after the service I went to the path along the river and walked all night. But I did not walk alone. My neighbor – afraid for me, I guess- stayed with me all night. He did not speak; he did not even walk beside me. He just followed me. When the sun finally arose over the river, he came over to me and said, ‘Let’s go get some breakfast.’
I go to church now. My neighbor’s church. A religion that can produce the kind of caring and love my neighbor showed me is something I want to find out more about. I want to love and be loved like that for the rest of my life.” – Lee Strobel (“Handling Christianity’s Toughest Challenge”, Christian Research Journal, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2001)
How is the church doing producing that level of caring? A church where the peace of Christ rules and the Word of Christ dwells will certainly be that kind of place.