Rom 12:18 is easier at some times than at others. I suppose that is true of many things that God expects of us. When we feel like we are being treated well consistently by everyone we interact with, living “peaceably” with all men likely comes by default. The challenge for the child of God is when the world is, well…… worldly.
Rom 12:18- “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
Heb 12:14- “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
James 3:17-18- “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
There, in addition to these, are roughly 100 other passages that touch on this idea. It is undoubtedly of tremendous importance to God that we make every effort to find a way to be at peace with people who do not share our beliefs.
This is not the same as being at peace with what they do or what they believe. It is particularly challenging in the current “culture” in which many have accepted the foolishness that kindness and love are synonymous with agreement.
While Rom 12:18 encourages our pursuit of peace, it also acknowledges that it will at times elude us through no fault of our own. “If it is possible”. We may be tempted to just shrug it off and say, “Well I tried,” though after only giving minimal effort to peace. “If possible” means much more than that. James 3:17-18 elaborates on what this means to God.
- Be gentle. This rarely comes naturally- it requires of us that we give some thought to our response before responding, and temper our emotions before we speak or act.
- Be willing to yield. This plainly is not directing us to yield truth to error, but to yield opinion and/or preference when doing so might bring peace. Why do we need to be reminded of this? Because it is often the opposite of our instinct. What we prefer can be a powerful and invisible force in what we will fight about. Think carefully about conflict before you actively engage and separate your preference from God’s will. They may feel like the same thing, but that doesn’t mean they are.
- Be full of mercy. Treat others like you like them regardless of how you really feel. Imagine that they are hurt and need your compassion or help even when their behavior tempts you to see them as enemies. God is merciful to those who extend mercy to others, and we are perhaps most blessed in that God is good to us regardless of whether our behavior merits such. This is a habit we all need to develop, and it requires genuine effort.
- Good fruit- a common metaphor in scripture for the ultimate result of Godly behavior. Nearly all people are much more persuaded by our actions than our words. Live the life you claim to be living. The results of your character will be evident and serve as a powerful tool for peace. This leads to the next item in James’ list of what is possible in the pursuit of peace:
- Without partiality and hypocrisy. The appearance of corruption in the way we judge right and wrong if our standard flexes depending on who we have in mind. Or- we apply higher standards to the behavior of others than we do to self. Either behavior devastates our ability to make peace.
Paul says “as much as depends on you” regarding our efforts to live peacefully. There is much that depends on us, and every element of James’ elaboration here makes peace more likely- both between us and others, and between us and our God.