Editor’s Note: Tom Beutel, a regular contributor to PeaceSigns, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Balancing Acts is a monthly feature of PeaceSigns.
by Tom Beutel
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
Peacemaking tends to be pragmatic. Peacemakers are focused on accomplishing concrete objectives – providing for those in need, persuading those in power to act with justice, removing barriers, or empowering individuals.
Results are good. We do not want to see those in need remain in need or people suffering from injustice. But, it is all too easy to be caught up in “good works” and forget about why good works are good!
Maxwell Smart (from the American comedy TV series of the late 1960’s) would often lament, “If only he’d used his talents for niceness instead of evil.” But, peacemaking is more than “niceness.”
Peacemaking, and our call to being peacemakers, are rooted and grounded in the very nature of God. Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:17, that “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And Jesus instructs us saying, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Both verses focus on God as the reason and source of our peacemaking. Paul says, “in whatever you do, in word or deed,” – whatever we do, whatever we think, say, do, plan, or accomplish is ultimately to be done “in the name of Jesus.” Our “good works” should result in more than relieving need or injustice or oppression. They should cause others to “give glory to [our] Father in heaven.”
How to go about the business of peacemaking so that others will give glory to God is not necessarily straightforward. But, in some appropriate way, others ought to be aware that our “good works” spring from our faith in Jesus Christ and are intended to glorify God.
One way to do this is by being open about our faith. In Acts 3 a lame beggar sought alms from Peter and John. Peter responded to the beggar, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) Healing the lame beggar was certainly a practical result, and, we would assume, more than the lame beggar could have possibly hoped for. But, Peter made it clear that it was “in the name of Jesus” that this good work was accomplished. No credit to Peter; no glory for Peter; only practical results to the glory of God!
But, there are other ways to glorify God in our peacemaking. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:3-4, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” While this is significantly different from open proclamation of our faith, it glorifies God in that we do not seek recognition for ourselves.
A further example can be understood from the story of the “widow’s mite.” Mark tells the story of the poor widow who gave all she had to the offering. On observing this action, Jesus remarked to his disciples, ““Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44) When we give sacrificially of our time, finances, or other resources, we bring glory to God. As in this story related by Mark, others are likely to be aware of it, and while it would seem that by this action the widow brings glory to herself, it is her faith in God that motivates her.
Scripture has many references that remind us that more than pragmatism must motivate our “good work.” Take a few minutes to read and meditate on these verses:
I John 4:19
As Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10, our “good works,” our peacemaking, were “prepared beforehand [by God] to be our way of life.” May all we do bring glory to God.