If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.—Romans 12:18
The problem with this world is that it is full of people. If I were the only one here, yeah, conflict would undoubtedly decrease—I tend to agree wholeheartedly with myself on pretty much everything. But with people, comes mess, and we, after all, were made for community—so there’s no hiding from it. Strife and argument and lawsuits and wars are going to crop up over and over again, for we are a fallen people.
So this verse isn’t telling us to join the flag-waving peace people who congregate down on Broadway on Wednesday nights. It isn’t saying that our lives should be without conflicts. In fact, the man writing this verse was one who was in constant conflict with just about everyone, just about all the time. He had conflicts with the governing authorities, churches he planted, outside interest groups . . . his conflicts escalated to stonings and death sentences.
The point then, is not to be conflict-free or to live a timid, cowardly life, but rather to live at peace, “as far it depends on you.” I am not to live in a rabble-rousing way. I do not have to use my tongue to curse. And I should not be a person who quietly rejoices when clamor arises.
I remember the euphoria I felt when fights would break out in Junior High. All us kids would chant, FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!, like some freakish, Lord of the Flies cult. We’d crowd in tight, the better to see fist meet face of whatever combatants were scuffling over some minuscule offense.
The tragedy of this, though, is that sometimes it doesn’t fade when puberty ends. We tote along our hunger for chaos, and chant FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! at any social media squabble or family grudge or falling out. We stand by grinning, pouring fuel on any nearby flames we can find.
But as it depends on us, we are to be peacemakers. We are not to repay evil for evil, but bring good and douse the world around us with the waters of life. Paul’s words in Romans 12:18 hearken back to Christ’s sermon in Matthew in which He says, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Just as Christ brought peace to the world, just as he surrendered His place for the sake of peace, so too am I called to lay down my sword, and strive for peace in relationships. My world will never be void of conflict, but which of these conflicts have arisen through me or have been escalated by me? That ultimately is the question. As always, Christ is the answer, and as I follow Him, I’ll walk in paths of ever-increasing peace, patience, and kindness toward the angry world around me.