Thursday, November 7, 2013

So Far As It Depends On You . . .

I was talking with someone the other day about being a peacemaker. You know, seeking to keep the peace with people. Being in a good, healthy relationship with other people. Making sure any conflicts are taken care of and restored quickly. Pursuing others with the goal of restoration. Certainly there are some people who like conflict, but I believe most people want to be in peace. Or they want to avoid the conflict. They do not want problems. But honestly, sometimes this is not possible. 

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it does not shy away from our experience. Our experience is that sin has so pervaded people that sometimes the ideal is not possible. Peacemaking is an ideal, but sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes, seeking peace only makes things worse. In Romans 12, we are given this encouraging word from the Apostle Paul:

"If possible, so far as it depends of you, live peaceably with all." (vs. 18)

So far as it depends on you. That means, you may seek peace with someone and it may not come. It may not be possible. To have a peaceful relationship, it takes two. Both parties have to be willing to be at peace with each other. 

Now, some people respond to this with relief, as if they are off the hook. But I wonder how many could read this and stop short of seeking peace. Paul is telling us to worry about ourselves in the peacemaking pursuit, but that we can't change others. We are responsible for ourselves, but not the other party involved. In the immediate context, Paul also gives several ideas of ways "so far as it depends on you" should be worked out. Let me offer just a few of them.

1. Do not be proud, humble yourself in that relationship
2. Never repay evil for evil.
3. Do the honorable thing.
4. Leave revenge for God.
5. Overcome evil with good.
6. Kill your enemy with kindness.

We could probably keep going on. Seek ways to make restitution with those that you have conflicts with in your life. Pursue them. Don't be so proud that you think you never have to apologize, even when you think you are not wrong. If they are doing evil to you, refuse to retaliate. Maybe don't even respond until you can respond rightly. Let God be the avenger. And then do good to them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. If they are hungry, give them food. Paul says that doing those things will "heap burning coals on his head." 

Do all those things and more with great patience and hopefully, peace can be found. But then again, it might not. So far as it depends on you . . . pursue the peace. But it may never come. 

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