First Do No Harm (Passive Peacemaking)

04 Nov

Quoting from the modern source of all knowledge (tongue firmly in cheek), the collaborative encyclopedia “wikipedia” writes,

Primum non nocere is a Latin phrase that means “First, do no harm.” The phrase is sometimes recorded as primum nil nocere. Nonmaleficence, which derives from the maxim, is one of the principal precepts that all medical students are taught in medical school and is a fundamental principle for emergency medical services around the world. Another way to state it is that “given an existing problem, it may be better to do nothing than to do something that risks causing more harm than good.

The art of being a peacemaker is the art of putting mercy into action. It is one thing to decide to dispense compassion instead of justice to one who has wronged us, but it is another to take actions steps towards brokering peace with those to whom we are at odds.

Many who have written about peacemaking talk about passive peacemaking and active peacemaking. Passive peacemaking begins with “first do no harm.” In other words, if we are going to be involved in building bridges of peace with those whom have something against us, we must stop contributing to the problem that caused disharmony in the first place. Only after we have stopped contributing to the problem can we then begin to be involved in active peacemaking.

So, I offer a suggested top five biblical teachings for passive peacemaking, and I welcome the biblical principles that you might add to the list:

1. Consider others as more important than ourselves. Consider Philippians 2.3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” By thinking only of ourselves, we create situations of conflict. If we become persons who are wired to think about the other person first, we can prevent situations that disrupt harmony more often than not.

2. Refuse to slander (Slander is “a false and defamatory oral statement about a person”). 1 Peter 2.1 says, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” The street word for slander is gossip. A person who gossips will stir up dissension (see Proverbs 16.28). Furthermore, a gossip adds logs to the fire of a quarrel (see Proverbs 26.20). We see this better in others than we see it in ourselves. If we are committed to bringing peace, then we will avoid any gossip and slander, both in the form of spreading it and in the form of enjoying hearing it from others.

3. Be a person of integrity by putting away every kind of falsehood and deception. Ephesians 4.25 says, “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” A lie is a breach of confidence and trust and it always breeds conflict. So, if we are committed to being peacemakers, we will avoid any form of deceit that might breed disharmony.

4. Root out jealousy and envy. James 3.16 says, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” Peacemakers must be painfully aware of our own motivations and desires. We cause many conflicts simply because we are jealous of another’s success, popularity, or stuff. Peacemakers must confess and repent of envy.

5. Listen more than we speak. James 1.19 says, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It is an old statement but full of truth: “God gave us two ears and one mouth because He wants us to listen twice as much as we talk.” If we would just hold our tongue, we could prevent many conflicts from every getting started.

Tomorrow, we turn our attention to active peacemaking.

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Posted by on November 4, 2009 in Uncategorized


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