Wednesday, September 12, 2012

1st Clement 19 to 20 - Let us pursue peace

Along with humility, Clement encourages to pursue peace.
"Wherefore, having so many great and glorious examples set before us, let us turn again to the practice of that peace which from the beginning was the mark set before us; and let us look stedfastly to the Father and Creator of the universe, and cleave to His mighty and surpassingly great gifts and benefactions of peace. Let us contemplate Him with our understanding, and look with the eyes of our soul to His long-suffering will. Let us reflect how free from wrath He is towards all His creation." (1 Clement 19)
The Latin literally says to, "return to the aim of peace delivered to us from the beginning." God is a God of peace and, from the beginning, His intention was that we too would be people of peace. From the beginning God's goal for our lives was not only to be people of peace but to actually practice peace towards one another. In this way we would be the image and likeness of God. Even David reminds us to, "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:14)

God's disposition towards mankind is one of peace. When Jesus was born, the angles proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:14) Clement also reminds us that God is long-suffering and completely free from wrath towards all His creation. God bestows His peace on us for our good, what Clement calls the benefactions of His peace, and He wants us to extend that same peace towards others for their benefit as well. Peace does not only benefit us, but it also benefits others on who we have peace.

But this peace is not just the absence of malice, its not just the long suffering of the soul, but it is also a peace that is free from competition. To illustrate this, Clement draws examples from nature of God's peace in His workmanship.
"The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed... The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance... All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Clement 20)
Clement says that even the things of the natural world stays "within their prescribed limits," "give place to one another", and exists and give service "without hindrance." There is no competition among the natural creation. The moon does not compete with the sun for glory. Spring does not compete with summer for time. The seas do not compete with the dry ground over their boundaries. Each knows its appointed boundaries, times, and service for which it has been created by God and each is content with is allotment.

However, we tend to compete with one another. We want to be first, we want more than we have, we want to do things our way, and so on. This competition is the antithesis of peace and leads to all kinds of problems for ourselves and others. Instead of letting our practice of peace benefit others, we harangue them with our ambitions, fretting, and anxious ways. The peace of God becomes diminished among us as the agitation of the devil increases.
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing." (James 3:16)
We must learn to be content with what God has appointed to us: with our calling, our provision, and the limits of our prescribed service. When we learn to live side-by-side with others, not competing with them, but complementing them, then we will see the peace of God increase and take hold in our midst.

David Robison

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