“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 10:34-39
In these words from Jesus, at first glance, we have a seeming contradiction. If people who bring peace and work toward peace are blessed by God, how can Jesus say that He did not come to bring peace? If Jesus is truly the Prince of Peace what are we to do with His very clear teaching in Matthew 10? How are we to understand and make sense of this paradox? The key is to remember what it is that brings true and lasting peace, “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:19-20 True Peace is Jesus, and the forgiveness, life, and salvation that only He can provide!
For many, the term “peace” means only the absence of war and hostility. While that definition is certainly true, it is only a partial definition. The peace that Jesus brings is clearly explained by the Apostle Paul, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:14-22
Several weeks have passed since the close of the 2013 LCMS Synodical Convention. I have heard from many different people (from all sides of the political spectrum) that it was the most “peaceful” convention in many, many years. While it is true that there was little fighting and contention, does that mean that it was a convention of “peace”? Many have said that there was a “positive mood” and that delegates generally “felt good” about the work that was accomplished. I ask again, are these the things that make for true peace in our beloved synod?
Anyone who is honest must admit that there are serious issues troubling the LCMS, issues that have been growing in intensity over the years. There seems to be much division, in both doctrine and practice, over topics like fellowship, Holy Communion, pastoral formation and the divine call, the propriety of mixing business principles with theology, and the giant elephant in the room, worship. Some of these issues were addressed at the recent synodical convention, however, all the issues that were addressed were simply delayed to a later date, generally for more study. Perhaps the church militant was simply put on hold.
One can certainly appreciate the pastoral approach to many of these issues by President Harrison. His critics claimed, after his first election, that he would be on a witch-hunt to ferret out false doctrine. Those critics are very quiet now. President Harrison has been like a pastor in a new parish that is beset with aberrant teaching and practice. He has been very patient and has sought to teach the Truth. But the LCMS is much different than an erring congregation. Our Synodical President cannot preach and teach in every congregation each week. Many of the same issues that were dividing our Synod before 2010 are still tearing us apart today. Each day the roots of error, error unchecked, are growing deeper and deeper among us. It appears that it is impossible to exercise godly church discipline among us. A family that has all the right rules but has no discipline will end in chaos; the same is true for the church. True peace is then absent.
True peace comes with godly reconciliation while contending for the Truth. Error is not ignored but dealt with, lovingly and evangelically, under God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. In the forgiveness of sins Christ heals our wounds and divisions and binds the broken hearted. God has some pointed words for those who offer a false peace in His name; “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace,” Jeremiah 6:14 and “We looked for peace, but no good came; for a time of healing, but behold, terror.” Jeremiah 8:15. Time will tell if the proposed studies and task forces from this year’s convention will bear the fruit of true peace, or if they will be more of the seemingly endless discussion with the goal of “unity in diversity.” Time will tell if the Koinonia Project will be a vehicle for honest discussion and godly resolution of the errors in our midst or if it will be just another program where “people agree to disagree,” as long as we “play nice.” In the meantime, for at least three more years, the pastors and congregations of the Synod are left to deal with the growing divisions in both doctrine and practice that we have been saddled with over the past 50 plus years. As we contemplate these matters in the weeks and months ahead, may God bless our elected leaders, our pastors and lay leaders, our congregations, yes, our entire synod, with a spirit of peace, true peace, in Christ our Savior and Lord.
Yours in Christ’s Service,
Rev. Clint Poppe
Chairman, ACELC Board of Directors
P.S. If you would like to assist the ACELC in this effort you may encourage your congregation to join as a full Member of the ACELC. As an individual you may join as an Associate Member. You may also support our work by making a donation online. Or, if none of those options work for you, we would like to ask that you remember our efforts in your prayers – that all we do would be pleasing to God and beneficial for the building of up His kingdom of grace