What’s Wrong With The Ideology Of, “Truth If Possible, Peace At All Costs?”

For many years I held to the idea that a healthy church is a loving church. All sorts of love, happiness, warmth, and smiles in a church must make it real and it certainly must make it healthy. As a result of this belief I tried to preserve peace at all costs, while keeping love front and center as the highest ideal in the church. My inclination was to forget principle because warmth, happiness and getting along were of true importance. I have also painfully witnessed and participated in the backlash of ridicule, as well as the vilification of pastors who have disturbed a church’s peaceful bliss by proclaiming unwanted truth. Unfortunately I have subscribed and many churches have endorsed the idea of, “Truth if possible, peace at all cost.”

Over the years as I have read through the scriptures and have had more experience as a pastor, my mind has changed on peace and truth. Please don’t get me wrong now, I don’t deny the importance of having the virtue of love and peace in the church. Peace and harmony in the church are extremely important, but they are not the highest ideal. What changed though? I have come to believe that The Word (i.e. The Bible) is of the utmost importance and when it is properly divided and taught that there will be tension in the church whether we want it or not. In other words, the inevitable conclusion to the Word being taught and divided properly is tension. This means that an absence of this tension in the church can be unhealthy because quite possibly the Word may have been lost. Yes, if a church does not have an ounce of tension over the scriptures but a plethora of love, I believe this may be a cause not for celebration but for alarm. C.F.W. Walther once said,

“…as soon as My Word is proclaimed, men will divide into two camps: some will receive it with joy, others will be offended by it and will begin to hate and persecute those who receive.”

Walther goes on to say,

“…the Church cannot be built up in peace; for it is located within the domain of the devil, who is the prince of this world. Accordingly, the Church has no choice but to be at war. It is eccelsia militans, the Church Militant, and will remain such until the blessed end. Wherever a Church is seen to be, not ecclesia militans, but ecclesia quiescens, a Church at ease, that–you may rely on it!–is a false Church.”

More specifically it is impossible to escape this tension because the Word always confronts the sinful nature, false doctrine and false gospels that arise in the church. Thus, there will always be a degree of tension between the hearers of the Word and the Word itself.

But what does this mean for the pastor of the church? Does the pastor seek out tension? Does the pastor look for fights? Martin Luther said it best when he spoke these words, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.” Walther also goes on to instruct pastors on this subject saying, “If you wish to be faithful ministers of Christ, you cannot possibly become such without striving and fighting against false doctrines, a false gospel and false belief. In the view of the worldly men your lot will not be particularly enviable. It is impossible for you to escape affliction if you wish to be a faithful servant of God.”

While we can rejoice in the virtue and fruit of love in the church, we rejoice even more when the Word of God is clearly presented and when the Word brings about conviction of sin as well as faith in the Gospel. As members of the church we strive for peace when possible but hold to the truth of the Word at all costs while anticipating the words of Jesus as expressed by Walther, “Well done! You were right; you did not look for ease and comfort: you only strove faithfully to keep what was entrusted to you.”

Peace if possible my friends and truth at all costs, for without truth, love is not possible and without truth we lose everything.

Walther Quotes Taken From:
The Proper Distinction Between Law And Gospel (CPH, 1928), 265-267.


About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


What’s Wrong With The Ideology Of, “Truth If Possible, Peace At All Costs?” — 5 Comments

  1. It amazes and appalls me that Christians will use the [so called] “peace sign”.

    It is a symbol of Satanism, depicting the broken upside down cross of Christ!
    It is used in the Satanic “mass”, a parody of the Mass where everything is done upside down and backwards in homage to the Devil and evils better not written here take place.

    If you think that doesn’t concern Lutherans, take a good look at your chasubles and then look at the demon sign again.

    It may be a fit symbol for the false peace that the Devil delights in, in acquiesent churches, but for nothing else!

  2. Martin Luther said it best when he spoke these words, “Peace if possible, truth at all costs.”

    Yes, and Dr. Luther wrapped a bunkerbuster around those words, which he then detonated on Erasmus in his Bondage of the Will (LW, Vol. 33, Fortress Press, 1972):

    “You thus plainly show that outward peace and quietness are to you more important that faith, conscience, salvation, the Word of God, the glory of Christ, and God himself.

    “Let me tell you, therefore — and I beg you to let this sink deep into your mind — that what I am after in this dispute is to me something serious, necessary, and indeed eternal, something of such a kind and such importance that it ought to be asserted and defended to the death, even if the whole world had not only to be thrown into strife and confusion, but actually to return to total chaos and be reduced to nothingness. If you do not understand this or are not concerned about it, then mind your own affairs and let those understand and be concerned about it on whom God has laid the charge.” [pp. 50-51]

    “The world and its god cannot and will not endure the Word of the true God, and the true God neither will nor can keep silence; so when these two Gods are at war with one another, what can there be but tumult in the whole world?

    “To wish to stop these tumults, therefore, is nothing else but to wish to suppress and prohibit the Word of God…. For myself, if I did not see these tumults I should say that the Word of God was not in the world, but now, when I do see them, I heartily rejoice and have no fear….

    “I am aware, of course, that you, my dear Erasmus, complain in many books about these tumults and the loss of peace and concord, and with the best of intentions (as I verily believe) you try hard to find a remedy for them. But this gouty foot laughs at your doctoring hands; for here in truth you are, as you say, rowing against the stream, or rather, you are putting out a fire with straw. Stop your complaining, stop your doctoring; this tumult has arisen and is directed from above, and it will not cease till it makes all the adversaries of the Word like the mud on the streets.” [pp. 52-3]

  3. A provocative way to start a discussion on the topic of whether love is the highest ideal is to ask if that premise is true.

  4. any congregation/leader that does not have God’s truth at the forefront is faithful? let’s join together in unity around Word and Sacrament and clean up the messes lest we become guilty of the sin of omission by tolerating falsehoods in teaching and practice

    there are those here who are suffering ministerial martyrdom with their faithful wives and kids-Shame on those who have fed such things on any level

  5. where do you stand LCMS-Truth or Peace? when Jesus states He has not come to bring peace,but the sword.What side are we/you on when it comes right down to it????TRUTH and no compromises.

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