Bringers of Peace (1)
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon…Jeremiah 29.4
As bad as it gets?
How bad could things get?
Their capital city had surrendered to a powerful enemy, who had destroyed their temple, razed most of the city, installed a puppet government, deported the most productive of the citizens, and put those who remained under a severe tribute.
But those who were still living in Jerusalem, under the strong hand of Nebuchadnezzar, at least considered themselves better off than those who had been sent into exile in Babylon. They must have felt this way, for even when Jeremiah urged them to yield to the Babylonian king and go peaceably with him to captivity, they refused, insisting on fleeing to Egypt instead.
In their minds, going to Babylon was surely as bad as things could get, and they wanted nothing of it. The remnant left behind in Judah preferred the misery of ruined Jerusalem or the uncertainty of far-off Egypt to being servants of the Babylonian king.
Subjugation in Babylon was humiliating and demeaning. Precisely as God intended.
Looking for a little peace
In different periods of Church history, members of the believing community, seeing the corruption and hypocrisy of their age, have withdrawn or separated from the conditions of the day, seeking to carve out a space of peace for themselves away from it all.
The spiritualists who fled to the deserts in the third and fourth century wanted nothing to do with the doctrinal wars and political compromises of the established Church. They holed up in the deserts, as individuals or in isolated communities, hoping to keep themselves unstained from the world, while they waited for the arrival of a better day.
The various religious orders that sprang up during the late Middle Ages separated themselves from normal life in the Church, seeking to create communities of the sanctified, and to distance themselves from the ecclesiastical pomp and degradation they saw on every hand.
During the Reformation, Martin Luther insisted that the Church had fallen under a kind of “Babylonian captivity,” and was desperately in need of reform. Ultimately, he would lead large segments of European Christians to break away from the Roman Church, only to end up fighting among themselves and fracturing the Body of Christ even further.
Within the Protestant movement, certain Anabaptist leaders went even further, and walled themselves and their followers off in cities, in a vain attempt to fend off what they regarded as the wickedness all around. They pronounced a curse on both houses of the European Church – Roman and Protestant – and then proceeded to sponsor their own schisms and upheavals.
Even in our day some believers, seeing the wickedness on every hand around us, have chosen to withdraw from the world – its culture, society, and institutions – and to keep to themselves in holy enclaves, where a strict legalism reinforces their negating posture toward all things “worldly.” There they hope to realize a modicum of peace in an age of upheaval and uncertainty. Other Christians have made their peace with our materialistic and sensual age, and practice their faith in a manner largely indistinguishable from the surrounding world.
Always the people of God
The people of Jerusalem whom Nebuchadnezzar took captive to Babylon may have been tempted to agree with the assessment of their contemporaries: Living in Babylon is about as bad as it can get. They must have wondered aloud concerning what they would do, how they would live, and by what means they would manage to keep themselves separate from and untainted by their pagan neighbors and oppressors. Certainly, they harbored ill feelings toward their captors, and they must have felt fear and revulsion toward them. The less they had to do with these people, the better. Doing anything to bless the Babylonians was doubtless the furthest thing from their minds.
But as Jeremiah would explain in the letter he wrote to the captives in Babylon, conditions are never so bad that the people of God can simply forget their calling, deny their mission, set aside their mandate, circle their wagons, and hold on, hoping for the best, against the corruption and wickedness on every hand.
For the people of God never cease to be the people of God, no matter how bad it gets; and things can never get so bad that the Church cannot make a powerful impact for grace and truth – if only we are faithful and obedient to our calling from the Lord.
And you and I, as members of the divine household in our day, never cease having been sent into the world as agents and ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. As such, we are called to be bringers of peace, beginning in our own Personal Mission Field.
1. What does it mean to be a bringer of peace to your Personal Mission Field?
2. Jesus said He is sending us into the world in the same way He was sent (Jn. 20.21). Why was Jesus sent to the world, and what are the implications of this for you?
3. Jesus used images of salt, light, and leaven to describe His followers. How do these images direct you to think about your Personal Mission Field?
Next steps – Preparation: Have you mapped out your Personal Mission Field? Watch this brief video, then download the Personal Mission Field worksheet, and get started being a bringer of peace to your world.
T. M. Moore
This week’s study, Bringers of Peace, is available in a free PDF download, suitable for individual or group use. Simply click here.
Our booklet, Joy to Your World!, can help you get into a more consistent groove as a joy-bringer to the people around you. It will help you identify, map, and begin working your Personal Mission with greater fruitfulness. Order your copy by clicking here. Order two copies, and work through it with a friend.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.