That we live with numerous bacteria in our gut without any adverse effects is a remarkable feat by the body's immune system, particularly considering the wealth of sensing and effector systems that are available to trigger inflammatory or innate immune responses to microbial intrusion. So, a fine line seems to exist between the homeostatic balance maintained in the presence of commensal gut flora and the necessarily destructive response to bacterial pathogens that invade the gut mucosa. This review discusses the mechanisms for establishing and controlling the 'dialogue' between unresponsiveness and initiation of active immune defences in the gut. Si vis pacem, para bellum. (If you wish for peace, prepare for war.).