Romans 12:18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
To love our enemies is to pursue peace with them. But living in peace with our enemies isn’t always possible, especially when it comes to those outside of the life of Christ. This is why Paul realistically starts this command with if possible.
To start, let’s look at three reasons why you may NOT be able to live in peace with someone else.
1. as it depends on you – Sometimes you have done everything in your power to reconcile, repair and restore a relationship but those efforts are just simply rejected over and over again.
2. with – Sometimes it is not possible to be with someone without hurting them. These are extreme cases. But there are times when it is most loving to stay away from someone if they are unable to be around you without self-destructing. You may desire reconciliation, but they may need time and space. Or your presence may tempt them or trigger them.
3. If possible – It may also be impossible to live in peace with someone who is hostile toward Christ and his gospel. The solution is never to compromise the truth.
The reality is that most of our conflicts do not fit into one of these three scenarios. For the vast majority of our conflicts the rule remains – do everything in your power to bring peace to the relationship. And in a Jewish mindset (like Paul’s) peace is not just the absence of conflict, it is shalom, flourishing, reconciliation, restoration.
How do we do this? How do we strive for peace? Let me share a few practical considerations:
Take responsibility for the part of the conflict which is your fault. Ask, “what did I do to cause this?” Answer humbly and honestly. Then apologize sincerely before an apology is asked for. “I’m sorry you feel that way” is NOT an apology. “I’m sorry that I said ___ or that I did ___” is a far better apology.
You must be willing to lose even more than you originally did for the cause of peace. “Turn the other cheek” means we get hit again and again. It means you continue to offer the other person a choice in how they will respond to you. “You hit my cheek, ok let’s try it again, here’s my other cheek. Will you hit it or kiss it?” Striving for peace may mean things get worse before they get better, but the end will be worth it.
Preemptively create environments of peace by constantly fighting for justice, respect, and understanding. Again, seek shalom. Seek the flourishing of others in your church and community. Remove need. Speak up against injustice. Give a voice to the voiceless. Protect the weak. Free the oppressed. Remove fears and anxieties as much as you can. This isn’t just done on a large scale but also on a small scale in your home, your school, your workplace, your neighborhood.
Coach Herman Boone works to create an environment of peace in his football team.
Above all fight to win hearts not arguments. Never claim your own rights. Stop being a know-it-all. A soft answer turns away wrath. Care more about the relationship than your point. Stop having an agenda. Except the agenda of love.
John 14:27. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.
“To live is Christ” means that our peace is not of this world. We have the peace OF God because we have peace WITH God. We can do the things I wrote of above because we have this supernatural peace. In Christ, we have the promise of eternal life, eternal love, and eternal joy. If that is true we have nothing left to fight for here on earth except the hearts of others. And we have nothing to lose here on earth except all that would try to keep our hearts in bondage to our own selfishness and self-righteousness.
Do you have this peace? Will you strive for this peace with all men?