“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
“Peace” is one of those words that can be easy to use but tough to define. For instance, some people keep the peace and other people disturb it. Some people will march for it, others will fight for it, many will pay for it and some never experience it at all. Peace can sometimes be an elusive thing and there are lots of people who never seem to have it very long -if they have it at all.
So what exactly is thing called “peace” anyway? Well, the word peace implies a general sense of contentment and well being. It can mean freedom from outside conflicts (like fighting or arguing with others) and inside conflicts (like anxiety and insecurity). A person who is not experiencing any inner or outer hostilities is usually said to be “at peace.”
Now people often believe that they can obtain peace through things like money, possessions or relationships. Unfortunately, these same people often find that money can disappear, possessions can break down and “dream relationships” can turn into nightmares that take away the peace they thought they had.
There’s a reason why these things can’t provide real, lasting peace. You see, the source of all true peace is God Himself. It’s only through living a God-centered life that we can we find lasting contentment in a constantly changing world. This peace that God provides is available to us through Jesus’ death on the cross for as Jesus Himself said, “I am leaving you with a gift– peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
So real, lasting peace is available through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. But how does this peace with God translate into peace with others? How do we have peace with others in world where many are willing to lie, steal or act selfishly? Well, Jesus again provides us with some insight…
“There is a saying, ‘Love your friends and hate your enemies.’ But I say: Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust too.
If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?” (Matthew 5:43-47).
What Jesus is speaking of here can be very difficult if you are trying to do it without the strength that God provides. This is due to the fact that living at peace with everyone may sometimes mean taking a personal loss even if you are in the right. In fact, the Scriptures tell us that it may even be necessary to lay aside something that you have a right to for the sake of peace. For example, listen to the Apostle Paul’s sharp words to those Christians in the Corinthian church who did not grasp this idea…
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints?… I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!
Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” (1 Corinthians 6:1,5-8 NKJ).
Paul is essentially saying that there are situations where it would be far more honoring to God to just accept a loss and move on. This means that living in peace with everyone sometimes means that you have to overlook faults, ignore slights (whether they are intentional or unintentional) or accept a personal loss. In a similar way, Paul also said to the church at Rome, “Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God, for he has said that he will repay those who deserve it” (Romans 12:19).
What Paul is talking about here is summed up very easily- avoid the temptation to get even and take the law into your own hands if you have been wronged by someone else. If you have been treated wrongly and there really is justice to be served, you can be sure that God will take care of it. If you are truly in the right, God will defend you if you are willing to step aside and let Him do it in His own time and way.
But there’s another good reason to think before retaliating against those who have done you wrong. Consider this: if you take vengeance on someone, you might succeed in changing their outward actions but you still haven’t done anything to change those thoughts and motivations that caused their actions in the first place.
It would be much better for us to leave any vengeance to the God who is capable of affecting both the outward actions and the inward heart that caused those actions. Now you might read this and say, “Hey, wait a minute. So-and-so did me wrong and you’re saying that I can’t do anything about it??” Well sure, there’s something you can do about it- here’s what you can do…
“…feed your enemy if he is hungry. If he is thirsty give him something to drink and you will be ‘heaping coals of fire on his head.’ In other words, he will feel ashamed of himself for what he has done to you” (Romans 12:20).
If you are having difficulty with someone who has hurt you, mistreated you or dealt with you unjustly, why not pray and ask God to help you respond towards that person in the way that you should? If you do, then you’ll be following the good advice given in Romans 12:21…
“Don’t let evil get the upper hand, but conquer evil by doing good.”