We discuss Christ teaching and explanation by Paul to understand that every person is individually responsible to seek a path to peace in every situation. Focus on the aspects that depend on you, irrespective of what others do or fail to do. To illustrate finding path to peace, Jesus paid the temple tax despite acknowledging unfair implementation of the tax law. Also, Paul recommended circumcision of Timothy despite a church ruling that circumcision of Gentile believers was not necessary. Other examples include Daniel negotiating a compromise diet of vegetables and water to avoid violating his relationship with God while obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar; and a city clerk in Ephesus that diffused a developing riot instigated by craftsmen concerned about their business shrinking because of growing acceptance of Paul’s message.
This bible study discusses the individual responsibility for peace based on Christ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and an explanation by Paul in his letter to Romans. Christ message declares God’s promise of blessing and binary classification of people based on performing the individual responsibility for peace: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” [Matthew 5:9]. Further, Apostle Paul explains the individual responsibility for peace by advising every person to seek a path to peace in every situation, focus on aspects that depend on you, irrespective of what others do or fail to do.
Both Christ and Paul also provide examples for finding a path to peace by avoiding battles that do not have to be fought even if they appear justified. Jesus illustrated this strategy for peace by paying the temple tax after acknowledging potential grounds for objection based on unfair implementation of the tax law. He paid the tax “…so that we may not cause offense…” [Matthew 17:27] to avoid potential issues that could distract people from his mission. In his illustration of the peace strategy, Paul recommended circumcision of Timothy (Acts 16:3) despite a church ruling that circumcision of Gentile believers was not necessary. He recommended the circumcision to forestall potential arguments that could distract people from his message.
Additionally, we discuss two examples of finding a path to peace through conflict resolution. One example comes from Daniel, regarding his negotiating a compromise diet to substitute unacceptable diet decreed by King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:8–16). The other example comes from Ephesus, where a city clerk diffused a riot instigated by craftsmen that were opposed to Paul’s message. The craftsmen saw their business of making shrines for idol worship was shrinking because of the growing acceptance of Paul’s message (Acts 19:23–41).
Christ teaching illustrates submission to lawful authority despite possible grounds for objection. To understand, we discuss examples from the bible to illustrate choosing battles to avoid to focus effort better. In one example, Jesus chose to pay the temple tax despite recognizing grounds for objection based on unfair implementation of the tax law. In another, Paul recommended circumcision of Timothy despite an existing church ruling that the circumcision was not necessary. In a third, David postponed punishment of two subordinates for offenses they committed during his reign but proclaimed a severe sentence against them as he passed their cases to his successor Solomon. He chose to avoid potential problems of punishing them at the time of their offense to focus instead on his overall mission.
We conclude the bible study series on submission to lawful authority, whereby we seek understanding of Christ interactions regarding the temple tax. We recall that he chose to pay the tax despite recognizing possible grounds for objection. In the first two sessions, we discussed the basis for submission to authority (Christ Teaches Submission to Lawful Authority) and the requirement for conforming to due process in the event of an objection (Submission to Lawful Authority—Due Process for Objections). The current session focuses on understanding that an objection could be better not raised even if justified. We discuss examples from the bible to illustrate choosing battles to avoid in order to focus effort better.
The decision on whether to avoid or fight a battle could be made by categorizing potential battles based on how they might affect the overall mission. Avoid a battle if the objective of the overall mission can be accomplished without fighting the battle and the message of the mission would not be diluted by avoiding the battle. In contrast, fight a battle if the battle is necessary to accomplish the objective of the overall mission.
Christ interactions regarding the temple-tax law provide an example based on his choosing to pay the tax despite recognizing potential grounds for an objection regarding the implementation of the law [Matthew 17:27]: “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” He chose to pay the tax “so that we may not cause offense.” By paying the tax, he avoided potential problems that could arise with raising an objection against the tax law. There could be future opportunities to address the fairness of the tax collection.
The bible provides several other examples of choosing to avoid a battle in order to conserve effort. In one example, Paul recommended that Timothy be circumcised to join the team for the 2nd Missionary Journey, despite an existing ruling of the Jerusalem church that such circumcision was not necessary. He chose to circumcise Timothy to avoid potential controversy regarding his circumcision.
In another example, David postponed punishment of Shimei and Joab for offenses they committed during his reign. However, he later proclaimed a severe sentence against each of them during his handover to Solomon. He did not punish them at the time of their offense to avoid potential problems that could have arisen from punishing them. He chose to avoid the battles to focus effort on his overall mission.
This bible study examines an interaction between Paul and Timothy at the beginning of the Second Missionary Journey. To add Timothy to his team, Paul got him circumcised despite an existing ruling of the church that circumcision is not necessary for salvation and is not required of Gentile (or non-Jew) believers. He got Timothy circumcised to forestall potential challenges about circumcision during the mission and instead focus energy on preaching the gospel. By so doing he illustrates the principle of choosing to avoid certain battles in order to focus on the war. The bible study also illustrates the value of a healthy
parent-child relationship between churches, based on the Antioch church consulting with the parent church in Jerusalem to resolve an issue regarding circumcision of Gentile believers.
In this bible study, we learn about interactions within Jacob’s family during the birth of the children. The interactions illustrate an inherent problem in polygamist households. Because the husband cannot love two or more wives equally, the wives compete for their husbands love. The resulting rivalry among co-wives could dominate family life. For example, of the twelve sons of Jacob, nine were named in reference to rivalry between Leah and Rachel, two were named in reference to relationship with God, and one was named in reference to love. The passage reminds us of Paul’s counsel to Timothy to not appoint polygamists as overseers or deacons [1Timothy 3:2 & 12].