Seek Peace and Pursue It: The Quest for Racial Harmony

Jemar Tisby

The Bible declares, “seek peace and pursue it” (Ps. 34:14; 1 Pt. 3:11). This phrase has implications for all areas of life, especially multi-ethnic ministry.

Live in Peace
We know that we as believers have been reconciled to God through our Savior (Rm. 5:1). But this reconciliation extends not just vertically between God and humankind but horizontally between neighbors as well. We are commanded to “live in peace” with one another (2 Cor. 13:11). And to “love one another ” (Jn. 13:34).

The previous part of the phrase “seek peace and pursue it” says, “turn away from evil and do good.” In the context of racial and ethnic relationships this means Christians should actively discard any notions of racism and ethnocentrism. We should start practicing love instead.

We can demonstrate love in many ways, but one of the most visible and powerful demonstrations of love is through diverse and united congregations.

But since many of our Christian congregations remain racially homogenous, it begs the question, “Is there peace in the church between people of different races and ethnicities?” The phrase “seek peace and pursue it” may help answer those questions.

Seek Peace
The biblical writers choose the verb “seek” in relation to peace. Of course, “seek” means to look. If we want peace between people of different races, ethnicities, and cultures then we must scan the horizons of our circumstances to find peacemaking moments. We cannot sit on our congregations and expect opportunities for peace to come to us. We have to be observant like a soldier on watch. We have to be vigilant like a guard on duty. We have to scrutinize our culture like a scout spying out the land.

So what does it look like to “seek peace” in terms of racial and ethnic harmony? We need to be on the lookout for opportunities to learn about others. We should strive for cross-cultural experiences in our friendships, recreation, and worship. We should inform ourselves about other people by reading history, attending cultural events, and studying God’s Word for what it says about the nations. Seeking peace means we should cultivate a gospel-openness to the daily occasions to interact with people who are different from us.

Pursue It
We are to “pursue” peace across racial and ethnic lines as well. It’s not enough to identify opportunities for peace. We have to run after them. We have to be on the trail of peace and follow it. Christians must chase peace and refuse to let it get away. We must follow the tracks of peace until it is ours.

Pursuing peace in terms of racial and ethnic harmony means we have to be intentional. We cannot simply say, “Our church welcomes everyone,” and make no moves to accommodate people who may be different. Paul says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). Paul is willing to lay down his rights and his preferences for the sake of proclaiming the gospel.

This mindset makes room for changes in musical genres, style of dress, language, location, and all sorts of other forms we use in our congregations. We never add to or take away from the gospel for the sake of diversity. Rather it is the unchangeable gospel message that compels us to change for the sake of making disciples.

The Constant Quest for Peace
One of the reasons peace between races and ethnicities is so hard to achieve is because it is a never-ending quest. We will never “arrive” at peace on this side of heaven. Because of sin in our hearts and in the world we will always have to seek and pursue peace with our neighbors in some fashion. Our quest for peace with each other is never over.

Yet the peace we have with God through Christ compels and empowers our peacemaking efforts. Christians don’t need to despair in their pursuit of harmony with each other because we know that God will continually manifest His Kingdom among His people. Therefore, we can expect progress and miraculous works of unity by His Holy Spirit. And one day, when Christ returns, the peace we currently pursue with each other will be perfected in the new heavens and the new earth. All glory be to the Prince of Peace who commands, calls ,and equips us to seek peace and pursue it.

1 Comment

  1. george canady

    I am so grateful for you guys here. This attempt that you are talking about is much harder than I expected. I have been under some of the best Reformed teaching these last 6 years except on this issue. I have heart eyes to see with you but not the years of education or sanctification to be a good representative of this. My heart breaks to know some of the unloving things that I have said in anger to my brothers and sisters over this thing. It is so hard for me to understand a doctrinally strong sound system like the Reformed one, to be so slow at this. I might even say frustrating because of the names that remain silent on this historic sin. I almost feel like a big name should be bold on this Church segregation issue, like John MacArthur, when he said he intended to “force the issue” in reference to the charismatic movement. Thank you for letting me say this as I follow you and your ministry with prayer.

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