One of the primary and fundamental tenets of the Christian life is to live in peace. We have the promise of peace being left with us through Jesus Christ and we seek peace as we walk with Him.
God the Father is referred to in various places as the God of peace and so it stands to reason that as He is the God of peace then His prime message to mankind would be a message of peace. For example,
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep… (Hebrews 13:20)
And as the message of the new covenant is meant to lead us in transformation to become like Jesus Christ, who bears the very stamp of the nature of God the Father, then we too need to be transformed into the way of peace which is the way of God.
The challenge for us Christians though is that the way of God and the way of peace are NOT the ways of this world. The ruler of this world is the devil and his desire is for disruption, war, hate, fighting and corruption…not peace. So let us examine what this scripture means for us today.
The Ways of the World
As mentioned, the ways of the world are not based upon peace.
At the worst extremes we see violence, hatred, prejudice, war, fighting and all vicious forms of evil. Look at what is happening in the world today and what is in the news. Suicide bombings, Christians being beheaded for their faith, attacks on churches in parts of Africa. And in the general population hatred and fear among people, good spoken of as evil and evil spoken of as good.
But even stepping away from the violence in the world today, the very foundations of modern society are not based upon peace but on competition.
In the western world in business, competition is forced upon businesses by various government bodies. They say that with competition consumers will get better prices and regulators severely penalize collusion between organizations who may try to fix pricing or divide up territories to try and get better prices.
The reason these things occur and are the way they are is because man cannot be trusted to do the right thing by his fellow man. Is a monopoly in business really evil? No it isn't…IF the monopoly does what is right by people. It is unfortunate though that man has a long history of NOT doing what is right when they have been in positions of power, especially in monopolistic businesses.
But consider competition for a moment. Is competition of God? Is it the will of God that one man compete against another to see who is the biggest, best, strongest, fastest or whatever?
No. God seeks unity and peace between people. Competition pits one person (or business) against another for the purpose of proving one is better than the other or, as regulators say in businesses, to keep the rest honest. This is not the way of God. Competition is the way of pride and pride is of the devil.
When we seek to live peaceably we are not in competition with anyone. We are not trying to prove we are better than anyone else. Peace is humble and humility is the way of God and God's people.
To live peaceably with all is to live in humility. A humble person or a peaceful person does not wage war or oppose or fight with others. A peaceful person is in control of their emotions and is self controlled so that they can think through situations and respond accordingly.
As has often been said, it takes two to fight or argue, but when one takes a peaceful stand the fight goes away for there is no one for the protagonist to fight against.
Now I know some of you may be thinking that there are many people who will want to fight or argue with you. There are many angry, stressed and violent people in the world who will seek to oppose what you stand for as a Christian and will seek to overpower you and take advantage.
Let me ask this. How does standing against them and applying violence against them help the situation? How does a violent or angry rebuttal of another person serve the purpose of Christ? How does retaliation in kind against a violent person help them see the light of Jesus Christ in you?
It doesn't. Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek and not to stand in the way of one who is violent. Note specifically His words where He said,
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:27-31)
And this was not a principle that existed only since the time of Christ. This principle existed long before Jesus came to the world for we see these similar words in Lamentations.
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. 26 It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; 29 let him put his mouth in the dust- there may yet be hope; 30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults. 31 For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; 33 for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:25-33)
Yes even though we may suffer grief at the hands of evil men in this time, the Lord will not cast us off but will step in and mete out proper and appropriate justice. He will have compassion and show love to those who wait for Him and live according to His will.
Our place is to stand beside and in the presence of God. When we retaliate against those who do evil we are no longer on the side of God but have taken the law into our own hands. He is the judge and He will determine the appropriate form of justice against any and all who do evil, and His judgements are just and true.
Again Jesus in the New Testament exhorts us concerning how to deal with men of violence or evil people saying,
38 “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)
Jesus has announced here a higher standard than the law. In the law it was permitted to take “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. But in Christ we are told, 'Do not resist one who is evil”. This does not mean we have to accept what they do or say but do not resist them, that is, do not retaliate in kind. Certainly show up their evil for what it is and stand against their evil words, but do not resort to violence or judgement against them. Leave that to the Lord for He has said,
30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:30-31)
So when we come back to this verse in Romans 12 we see there is the qualification at the beginning of the verse.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:18)
The key here is that to live peaceably with all can ONLY be possible if YOU first choose to do so. Do not put yourself into places where you cannot live in peace with all. Do not seek out to oppose and fight against evil people. Evil will come to you without you going out and seeking it because the whole world is ruled by evil and it is inescapable.
When it comes, then try to conciliate. Seek the high moral ground and try to find the good in any situation. Seek what is good and honorable in the sight of all men so that those who may see the situation cannot fault you for your behaviour, attitude and stand.
The point is, it depends upon you to live at peace with all. Peace does not just happen, it has to be specifically worked on and sought out. As Peter wrote in one of his letters,
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12)
Note the words I have highlighted in this verse. If we are to live peaceably with all then we must turn away from evil an seek peace. More than just seeking peace, we must pursue it. We need to chase after it, diligently seek peace, work at finding and holding onto it when we find it because there are many, many things in this world that will take it away.
That is why the Lord says through Paul, “So long as it depends upon you…”
It is our responsibility to find, seek and live in peace with all men. Too many things in this world can and will take it away if we let them. So pursue it, find it, hold onto it and live in it by leaving retaliation and judgement to God.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com provided by Stratsan (real name not provided))
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