Be At Peace With All Men
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18)
The conditions in our society may be as bad as we have ever witnessed personally. It can feel like people on every side of social and political issues are being overly sensational, and if anyone does take the time to make a thoughtful argument they are dismissed, or shouted down, or ignored, or assaulted. However, if we are honest about history we will have to admit that today's conditions are NOT the worst that America has ever seen. The conditions in America are not even the worst in the world right now.
Negativity is one of the ways that discontent and discord spread in communities and relationships. We allow ourselves to dwell on what is bad to the point that we forget the good things and the good people in our lives. We focus on our differences so much that we may forget what we are supposed to have in common. Even if we feel like we are very close to tragedy and injustice, can we truly say that we do not have anything to be thankful for? If we can’t think of anything to be thankful for then - 1) we don't know the LORD and what He has done for us, and 2) this is why we don't have peace.
Peace doesn't actually come from fighting and achieving victory over our enemies. Peace comes from gratitude and submission. The one who is thankful to God experiences the peace of God (Philippians 4:6, 7). We often think of peace as the opposite of war, but peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. The idea of peace also includes unity or wholeness, as in two groups becoming part of the same whole. We are separated from God by sin. In Christ, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1, 2). However, this involves more than just an end to our fighting against God. We become one with God. We become part of the same whole that is at various times described as a family, a nation, or a body. Whenever there is any kind of conflict, someone has abandoned these principles.
How is peace with God realized? Yes, we must stop fighting against God, that is part of it, but merely giving up sin does not make us one with God. The fact that Jesus has conquered sin and death does not automatically equate to peace between us and God. We have peace as a result of our faith in God through Jesus Christ. Once we have stopped fighting against God we must also submit to Him and begin working together with Him. We do the things that please Him and honor Him. We do the things that advance His kingdom. Our peace with God requires a change of mind and a change of heart toward God and toward that which has kept us from being one with Him. We were not seeking to serve Him. We were serving ourselves. We have always been the problem.
How would this view of peace affect the way that we go about seeking peace with others today? Do we really want this kind of peace? Are we willing to do what it would take to have peace with those around us? Can we really submit to someone who may have some very different ideas? Of course, this does not mean that we should ignore bad arguments, or false arguments, or sinful behavior. Christians are told to contend for the faith. Jesus is described as doing battle with the devil and achieving victory. Yet, we would argue that this kind of conflict is only necessary because sin is rebellion against God’s truth and the life that is in Him. Sin is a corruption of God’s purpose for His creation, and if His goodness is true then it must be defended if it is to mean anything. As Christians confront false statements and sinful behavior, we are to be peacemakers who are resolved to be a part of God's solution. It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to be at peace with all men. Our ultimate goal as Christians is to see as many people as possible united in Jesus Christ.
Yes, things are bad right now, but we cannot let our fear of what could happen cause us to work against God’s plan for peace. We cannot let our fear of what could happen cause us to lose sight of all that we have to be thankful for. If this happens, we will not have peace ourselves. Have you experienced this recently? Knowing what others are saying about current issues can be helpful in thinking about how to answer their arguments, but it is not always necessary or helpful to our own state of mind.
When we find ourselves getting sucked in to the vortex of conflict and despair, remember Paul’s advice: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:6-9)