No, we’re not thinking now of Grand Rapids, often called the “Jerusalem” of the Christian Reformed churches, and that by reason of geography, history, and circumstances.
We have in mind just now Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah and of Palestine, especially representative of God’s ancient covenant people, and now figuratively of God’s Zion amidst the nations and the ages. In that sense, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem is to pray for the peace of God’s people.
THE INDISPENSABILITY OF PEACE IN THE CHURCH
That’s a petition that is needed always and urgently, very much also in our day. In his great high-priestly prayer Jesus implored concerning his church “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). That is so wide, so deep, so challenging! We must fervently join in the supplication: “seek peace and pursue it.”
So we arc to sense and to practise our oneness with God’s own everywhere and all the time. The closer they all are to our heavenly Father, to our Savior, and to our Bible, the closer they all are to us as we abide in that same intimacy.
We want to sense and to express that oneness across denominational lines as best we can. True, those lines are often very necessary and good, somewhat like two very friendly housewives who still stick to their own individual housekeeping. But across denominational lines, love and co-operation seek ways to flow, but without compromise of principle.
It is especially vital that we sense and practise peace and oneness within our own denomination. Fervent prayer is needed that we may live in harmony in our own household of faith.
WHAT KIND OF PEACE?
As we earnestly plead for the peace of God’s people and especially of our own church, we very much need to realize what kind of peace we mean. It must be basic and thorough-going. When, a few weeks ago, churches joined in prayer for the unity of the church in Nigeria, we were not thinking of a surface unity, belied by basically conflicting under-currents. We meant a unity according to the Scriptures.
When we are told that an esteemed veteran colleague is characterized especially by his aversion to controversy, we can warmly sympathize with his sentiment but we also fervently hope that his attitude may not be carried too far. What if Luther and Calvin had said: “Well, more than all, we want peace”? Paying too much for peace is perilous!
PEACE WHICH MAINTAINS THE TRUTH
It is for us all to pray for a peace which will maintain the troth. “Great peace have they that love thy law” (Psalm 119:165). 10 the law and to the testimony! if they speak not according to this word, surely there is no morning for them” (Isaiah 8:20).
Fervent prayer is needed that we may be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), thus growing up into Christ, not being “carried about with every wind of doctrine” as verse 14 warns. So we are told to speak the both against deviating views wherever we meet them. That requires a keen doctrinal sensitivity. Subtle initial deviations are so difficult to discern and so easy to tolerate. The forces of error are like a powerful woodsman; when the wedge-point is once inserted mighty splits often follow.
In order rightly to resist beginnings of error it is necessary for us to learn to know God’s truth as fully and faithfully as we can. Our search for clear and systematic understanding of God’s revealed truth should bring theology into high honor and urgency. That deserves special emphasis among us today. A colleague in our ministry said to me, “I’m no theologian; I’m a preacher.” As if the two were separate, or separable! I heard another say from my pulpit: “Now, I’m not going to get stuffy and theological.” Was that giving theology honor due? Is this heresy-hunting? No, but tendency-pointing.
Jesus said: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace” (John 16:33). Note well, peace through heeding and studying what he says. Let us honor theology and Christian doctrine, both in pulpit and pew. The road to decay of sound doctrine has these way-maries: neglect, indifference, unbelief.
UNITY IN THE SEMINARY
With a sense of high gratitude and deep responsibility we think now of our new memorial seminary building with its symmetry of line and beauty of setting. Yes, “God’s favor is our challenge.” So it will be far more meaningful and beautiful to have in our seminary a noble harmony and beauty in what is taught there—a symphony of truth, each chair teaching in close harmony with every other because all is closely founded upon God’s inspired and inerrant Word, loyal in all details as much as devoted and Bible-loyal scholars can make it so. Our seminary president authored a book, titled and sub-titled: “The Christian Reformed Church: A Study in Orthodoxy.” May that characterization apply to our church always and most of all to our seminary.
Our lands have many beautiful seminary buildings and campuses where the teaching is not sound. It started with so-called “peripheral” matters and ate to the very heart. Church history rises to sound earnest warning to us. This should not be construed as casting unwarranted reflections but still as having a definite note of urgency.
PEACE THROUGH SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE
Let us pray that Zion’s peace may be furthered by our “speaking the truth.” What an example Jesus’ gave us! He did not soft·pedal but spoke out pointedly against the errors of his day. Surely, we must not be found wanting when the cause of truth requires our speaking out.
That brings our thought to a colleague who is reported to have stated publicly that we, as Christian Reformed, are not required to hold to the doctrine of plenary inspiration. As stated in the February, 1960, TORCH AND TRUMPET, it offered him space to more fully explain his position on this, but he replied that he would rather clarify his views in the Reformed Journal. After these many months we are hoping that he will soon speak out in the interest of good understanding among us all.
Speaking the truth in love is also urgent. Let us pray that we may not run out of good will toward others. In mightily fighting the good fight of the faith, we are often tempted to under-emphasize the love that “beareth all things.”
However, on the other hand, we should not forget that hewing to the line does cause some chips to fly. Keeping the line is of paramount concern. Truth often does hurt; sometimes must hurt before it heals. We must not be too sensitive when our weaknesses are shown.
Right now let us pray that while avoiding large-scale clashes we may not still have widespread partisan murmuring. God’s church must not be divided into “camps” or sharply divergent groups. It is not good to belittle views of a different “stripe” than our own. We can learn so much from those with a different viewpoint, just so they are true to the Bible. “As iron sharpens iron, so a man the face of his friend.” Let’s emphasize that “friend” element and do the sharpening in love.
Prayer is the grand key-note. In private devotions, at family altars, and as congregations, let us heed the word: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee” (Psalm 122:6).