Today, for the Christian that undergoes conflict, it does not mean that he is out of God’s Will. It is true that the Bible does call us to live peaceably among those in the world and in the Church. “If possible, so far to as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) We should do our uppermost to be at peace with others. Yet, it may not always be possible all the time, especially in view of the fact that negative and harsh attitudes toward Christianity have been developing for some time now. When we find ourselves in troubled situations, we must recognize this as part of God’s Will so not to become embittered, but instead learn to demonstrate a Christ-like attitude by not exchanging evil for evil (vv. 19 & 20). Believers should never anticipate a trouble-free existence since Jesus Himself taught His disciples that they will suffer tribulation while in the world. Not to despair though, since the Scriptures give hope to the Christian that he may experience a joy filled life even while under the strain of difficulties and conflicts. To capture some of this, let’s return to the 1st century and visit one of the worst cities of any age to live in.
Ephesus could be described as a second Sodom. The seaport city of Ephesus was a center of paganism. It was corrupt from top to bottom. For those who might think that they cannot live decent lives and reach the lost due to the amoral conditions in our society should think about the conditions in which Paul operated under during the first century. Many Ephesians had been subject to widespread immorality and caught up with superstition and magical practices better known today as black magic. The goddess Artemis was a “mother earth” deity emphasizing fertility and reproduction. The many priests employed in the temple performed animal sacrifices, and the many priestesses, in keeping with the fertility theme engaged in ritual prostitution. Paul encountered great opposition from the business sector because many former adherents who previously had bought miniature statues of their gods now had renounced their sinful practises and had chosen the gospel and joined Christ’ followers instead. They no longer participated in demonic worship and destroyed their books of magic. All this was not good for business since Ephesus was a popular commercial centre and tourist attraction in Rome. In the face of growing opposition to his missionary enterprise, Paul recognized that man was not really the root cause of his problems “we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies …. but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) Paul identified the real nemesis as Satan. The gospel of John warns that Satan seeks to “steal and kill and destroy” (10:10). Christians therefore must be vigilant for there are Satanic forces at work whose purpose is to prevent the gospel from being propagated. In closing, several things bear repeating:
- A trouble-free life is not in God’s plan for His followers. While Christians are called to live peaceably still you can expect troubles and adversities since Satan is at work in the world and the Church. To counteract Satan’s strategy, Paul stresses strong bonds on several fronts: in marriages, among Believers in the Church, and in families where children are to obey parents. (Ephesians 4:3, 22-33)
- Christians have a duty to avoid schisms in the Church. We are told to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3). We are to make every effort to strengthen our ties with each other in the body of Christ.
- We face a formidable foe in Satan. He wishes to prevent Christians from evangelizing by creating an environment of hostility that may intimidate Believer’s into silence. Putting on the armour of God as commanded in the final chapter of Ephesians is very wise. Spiritual readiness helps to maintain our day-to-day relationships and defend against Satan’s tactics to cause dissent in the Church and lessen gospel effectiveness in the world.
Relationship building is of great concern to God. He has enabled us to experience relationships that bring honour to Himself because of our union in Christ. Where once man’s relationship to God was severed due to sin, now through faith in Christ, who having paid the price for our sins on Calvary, has brought us into a living relationship with each other and given us a ministry of reconciliation to the world. All things considered, it is motivating to know that in each Christian’s ministry, its effects on others may last into eternity.