One of the Scripture passages I find myself quoting in my head most often is Romans 12:18. This verse of Scripture resonates with me for multiple reasons. A few of those reasons are healthy, the others play into my personal story. Those that are healthy reasons would include, 1) Christ-followers need to show their love for one another and the church needs to be unified so that the world realizes that Jesus really does transform us when we start a relationship with Him, 2) the pastor’s job becomes overwhelming and pastors of churches are unable to do the thing they are called primarily to do when there is conflict between fellow Christians, and 3) People believe that Jesus is who He said He was, the Son of God, when those who call themselves Christians relate to one another in love publicly. (John 17:21)
From a personal perspective, Romans 12:18 plays into my story as I have a deep need for unity, oneness, acceptance, and relentless friendships. My childhood journey was from one school to the next, one church to another. Dad was a fantastic pastor and we changed churches and locations often. Consistent, long-term friendships seldom occurred.
When there’s conflict, my heart perceives the next thing that will happen is that there will be a breaking off of relationship. A person like myself who was consistently longing for concrete friendships, has a heart that goes into dark places and panic mode when there is deep tension between people, believing that losing a friend may be the end of something desperately needed. I know it’s the enemy yet I still struggle to defeat him when it comes to this issue.
Romans 12:18 reads, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Our goal as believers must be to “live at peace with everyone.”
How do we do this in our one-on-one friendships, in our families, or as a small group? God didn’t leave us without direction. Matthew 18 gives us a three-step process to carry out when we have a beef with someone.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18: 15 – 17
Step 1 – Have a face-to-face conversation with the person you’re having trouble with.
Step 2 – If they don’t listen, take one or two mature believers with you to mediate a reconciliatory conversation.
Step 3 – If reconciliation still hasn’t occurred, take the situation to the church leaders so they can conclude how to handle it on behalf of the church whole.
There’s one part of Romans 12:18 that can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked. The first words in the passage read, “If possible…” The unforgettable fact is, and we need to remember this, reconciliation may not be possible. For reconciliation to happen both parties must be willing to humble themselves, admit their wrongness in the situation, and oftentimes, one person or the other isn’t willing to do that.
But, before you let a relationship go, you need to know you did all you could do before giving up on reconciliation. The next 7 words are the key to this passage. They read, “as far as it depends on you…”. That is, if it depended on you alone, would you have done everything in your power to reconcile with the person you’ve got an issue with? If not, then you haven’t completed the task God calls you to. Once you’ve done all you can do you need rest easy. God is pleased with you.
So… Maybe I titled this blog post incorrectly. Maybe it should read How to Live at Peace With Everyone… When Possible.