If you have been walking this earth for any length of time you have probably been learning that people sometimes to dumb things. The one thing people never need to be taught is how to fail, hurt, let down, disappoint, and betray one another. There is no need for self help books on how make dumb decisions, or hurt the people we love, or on how to better misunderstand people.
Disagreements, disappointments, and disillusionment are part of life. They are common place. What is not common is love, kindness, grace, and peace. I think this fact is one of the reasons that Paul wrote these verses in Romans 12.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:18-21, NIV).
The distinguishing mark of the Christian is, I submit, not that he or she doesn’t sin or sins less (at least compared to some), but rather how the Christian responds when they sin and how they respond when others hurt them. Christians are to be peacemakers. Peace does not just happen. It does not just magically appear. It must be made. Anything that is made takes work, it takes effort, it takes intentionality. Look at how Paul puts it:
If it is possible. If there is a way to make peace, we are to take it. If it is at all possible, we need to be pursuing peace with one another.
As far as it depends on you. Paul knows that making peace is not a one way street. Sometimes the other person or party is not willing to go there or do the work. But as far as it depends on you, you are to do it. We need to do everything that is possible to make peace with people, whether the other person or party is doing everything they can do or not. This isn’t quid pro quo.
Live at peace with everyone. The original Greek for “everyone” is everyone! Paul is not just talking about pursuing peace with Christian brothers and sisters. No one is exempt from this. If there is a breakdown in relationship (be it our fault or their fault) the thing God wants us to do as His sons and daughters is to do everything that is humanly possible to live at peace with one another.
We aren’t to rub people’s faces in it. We aren’t to seek revenge. We aren’t to respond in kind when we are hurt. We are to leave that to God. That’s what it means to “leave room for God’s wrath.” He knows best how to judge. We need to leave that to him. Not only is He the only one with the right and authority to do so, but He is the only one who can convict and judge and discipline with a perfect loving respect to the offender. When we judge someone–not judge an action but judge a person–we will inevitably hurt them. Whenever we try that, not only will we fail at helping the other person, we end up committing a serious sin ourselves by taking God’s place as judge. Ours is not to be God’s hammer, our job is to love others as He loves us.
And if you think about How Jesus lived this out for us, you will see how inconsistent it is when we justify our not needing to repent, or when we rationalize our giving up on peace. Jesus found the one way possible to make peace between us and His Father. He had to leave His Father’s side, become a man, and live a perfect life and be willing to be hated, misunderstood, lied about, betrayed by His friends, and murdered by His enemies. It all depended on Him, so He did it. And just in case you missed it, I was His enemy… and so are you. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8, NIV). That was how far He went to pursue peace with you and me. And I don’t know about you, but I know no one has ever hurt me as much as I hurt my Jesus every single day. Yet He does not give up on me. What right do I have to give up on others?
Friends, pursue peace. Life comes with enough consequences for our actions. God sees to that. Let Him determine what blessings or discipline a person has. If He decides to be gracious who are we to argue with Him? Let us do whatever we can, give what ever grace we can, give all the patience we can, suffer as long as we can, and be as kind as we can so that we can say that as far as it depended on us we lived at peace with everyone.