The presence of the image of God in all human beings is cause for hope. God’s will concerning peacemaking, for both maintaining and mending peace, can be applied even in our workplaces, schools, communities, and digital spaces in the world.
We undergo a radical change in becoming Christians. We are born again to a living hope through true faith in Jesus Christ. We are no longer citizens of this world, and we become citizens of heaven. We are still in the world, but we are no longer of the world. Our citizenship in heaven involves alienation from the world. Our Christian commitments now differ starkly from the commitments of those in the world around us. We no longer share the same loyalties and priorities.
Psalm 120 vividly captures the reality of these divergent commitments. This psalm is the first in a collection of psalms that each bear the title “A Song of Ascents” (Pss. 120–34). The word “ascents” simply means “going up.” These psalms were likely given these titles because they were used by pilgrims as they made their way up to Jerusalem for their holy feasts (because Jerusalem is on a mountain, one always travels up to Jerusalem). In Psalm 120, we find the psalmist at the beginning of his pilgrimage. He is far from home (Ps. 120:5), surrounded by a world of “lying lips” and “deceitful tongue[s]” (Ps. 120:2). And the psalmist prays, expressing the desire for deliverance from a world of people who “hate peace” and who “are for war” (Ps. 120:6–7).
Of course, we thank the Lord every Sunday that we are able to “go up” to church and to our heavenly worship, fellowshipping with like-minded believers. But after the Lord’s Day, most of us are called to go “back down” into the world for another six days. Our jobs, our schools, our volunteer and recreational pursuits, even our digital and social media activities bring us into contact with the world. So how can we bring the peace of Christ to bear on a world that hates peace?
God’s people must begin with the calling we have received in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” This is an important passage because it reminds us of our God-given responsibility. We are to do what we can to live peaceably with all, including with the world. Wherever Christians can make peace without compromising godliness, we ought to do it.
In the first place, we live peaceably when we strive not to be the ones who interrupt the peace. Peace is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) and a characteristic of the wisdom that is from above (James 3:17). Psalm 120 reminds us that the world hates peace and is war-mongering. The hatred of peace and love of war are characteristics of the sin-cursed flesh and manifest themselves in enmity, strife, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions (Gal. 5:19–20). What Samuel Miller said to his incoming divinity students about their conduct in the church certainly applies to all Christians and their conduct with the world: If war is made and peace is broken, “see to it that none of you be found among the workers of the mischief…Do not lend your influence to the unhallowed work of corrupting and dividing.” Our God-given responsibility to live peaceably begins with not being the ones who break peace by our sinful conduct.