“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
When I take communion, a weekly observance of eating the bread and drinking the cup, I am reminded I am deeply and personally loved by God. And without the sacrifice of Jesus, I could not be in God’s presence or experience His peace. Afterward, I try to remind myself that He loves every person in that same way. This puts me on the same level with everyone else, even those with whom I might be struggling. Regardless of what I think about someone, Christ died for him or her.
The reason God didn’t tell us to like everybody is because He knows we won’t or maybe that we couldn’t. We won’t like everyone. Instead, God tells us to love everyone, and that includes our enemies as well as family or friends, with whom we are at odds.
I can think of no better time than the present to get good at the skill of pursuing peace. We live in a defensive and aggressive culture. We seem to have lost our ability to dialogue when we disagree on important issues. People seem more easily offended than ever before, and there is much we can disagree on these days. Some situations and circumstances lead us to make conclusions about an individual or group of people that are incorrect. Everything from how someone spends their money to how a person votes can cause us to jump to conclusions. We have lost the ability to talk to others without making it personal, without taking offense.
The call to pursue peace can indeed be intimidating and difficult, so hold onto your sense of humor. The ability to laugh is divine. Don’t laugh at people. Laugh at yourself and with people. Give God space to work in your life and in the life of those with whom you have conflict.
Give it time. Peace isn’t cooked in a microwave and can’t be ordered at a drive-through window. God hasn’t asked us to change anybody, but He has asked us to love everybody. And since I don’t have to change anyone, I’m better able to live out God’s prescription for peace that Paul wrote down for us:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:29-32)
God doesn’t ask us to do things that we’re incapable of doing. That would be cruel. When we don’t pursue peace, it’s not for lack of ability; it’s because we don’t want to do it. Simply said, we choose not to pursue peace. However, we can choose to pursue peace instead because God says we can. Let’s at least be as patient with others as God has been with us. And this brings us back to where we began in Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”