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A Study of Exhortation - Romans 12:18

This article continues an on-going, verse-by-verse series on the exhortations in Romans 12.

Peace, Wherever Possible

18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18).

Paul continues the thought that he began in the previous verse concerning living at peace in the midst of a fallen world. In the previous verse, he exhorted: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody" (Rom. 12:17). Paul sums this idea up here, when he says: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

Peace and Christianity go together. Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). When Christ was born, the angels said, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests"(Luke 2:14). Christ came to earth to bring peace between God and man, so good Christians should strive to "live at peace with everyone."

Paul does acknowledge that this cannot always be done in this fallen world. He says: "If it is possible..." Paul is conceding that a failure at peace is not necessarily the fault of the Christian. There are times when it is not possible to keep peace because to do so would be inconsistent with following God's commands. For example, we should not, for the sake of peace, sacrifice purity. James tells us that "wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving" (James 3:17). So, if keeping peace requires that we explicitly approve of someone else's sin, we should choose purity over peace. We should keep the peace as long as it is consistent with God's higher laws, without compromising purity and truth.

There are times when peace is not kept because the other party is just not willing to live at peace. Sometimes, our service for God, in itself, can inadvertantly cause dispute and unrest. Witnessing for Christ can ruffle feathers. Living for Christ can cause resentment. Love for God can bring strife. At such times, peace may fail. When it does, though, let the failure be on the part of those, who for some reason, are offended by Christ.

These are the exceptions. In general, you and peace should be constant companions, as Paul says, "as far as it depends on you." You are to "seek peace and pursue it" (I Peter 3:11). This means going out of your way to keep the peace. It means swallowing your pride and letting someone else have the last word. It means conceding your rights, at times, as Abraham did in avoiding conflict with Lot (see Gen. 13:8-9). It means planning ahead in order to avoid contention. It means controlling your temper, putting off arguments, waiting until you cool off before dealing with controversy, and not dwelling upon wrongs done to you.

Unfortunately, many Christians are argumentative, disputing everything. Christians, for some reason, find cause to bicker over every aspect of Christian doctrine, heatedly stating their earthly opinions about heavenly things. It seems that they would rather argue the fine points of theology than to edify each other and bring each other into a deeper knowledge of God. Christians, as well, are notorious these days for arguing politics, forcefully declaring how they feel the nation should be run. Why do we (citizens of heaven, cf. Phil. 3:20) get so heated up about the affairs of men? Sadly, Christians at large are not at peace with others, largely by our own fault. And failure at peace will usually be to the detriment of the believer, because strife leads to persecution.

So, in the midst of our spiritual battle, we are to do our best to live at peace. We are to peacably wage our spiritual warfare. Indeed, it is largely through peace that we can win the spiritual war.

So, Father, give us by Your Spirit the strength and discipline to live at peace with everyone. We thank You for the peace that You have made with us through Your Son. May we go to the same lengths to seek peace and pursue it. May we be worthy representatives of the Prince of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray these things, Amen.

(In the next issue, we will continue our study in Romans 12)

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