Jump Start # 3009
Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
I’ve been reading, “The Heart of the Yale Lectures,” by Baxter. A statement caught my attention. “Sixty generations after Jesus the people of the world are still unable to live together in peace.” What a sad, profound and true statement that is. This past year our country saw many riots. Hatred, division and the inability to discuss differences mark our times. To disagree with someone means you will be labeled, mocked, called names and isolated. The world is still unable to live together in peace.
Why is it that way?
First, it’s not for a lack of example and instruction. Jesus illustrated getting along nearly every step of the way. Among the chosen apostles were opposites. A zealot. A tax collector. Beyond that, Jesus purposely traveled to Samaria. He went to the home of a tax collector. He touched and healed lepers. He allowed an immoral woman to wash his feet with her tears. Jesus healed Gentiles. He sent His chosen into all the world with the mission to preach to every person. The early church was a mixture of Jew and Gentile. It brought both master and slave together. The saving message of Jesus Christ is the bond that breaks the divisions that existed.
But the world ignores Jesus. The world thinks it is smarter than Jesus. And, yet, all these generations later, we cannot live in peace. Several nations would love to remove Israel from the map and the history of the world. In major cities today, it is dangerous. Criminals do not wait for the cover of darkness. Not anymore. They are brazen and bold. Car jackings, shootings, smash and grab happen so often, they rarely make the news. The standard is before us, but the world ignores it. And, by ignoring Jesus, life sinks deeper into ruin. Fear. Worry. Prejudice. Hatred. Those are common today. Without Jesus, life isn’t getting better, it’s getting far worse. The moral decay of our times is a stench that reaches up to Heaven.
Second, our verse puts a responsibility upon the disciples of Christ. If possible and as far as it depends on you—that puts the ball in our hands. We can’t change others, but we can certainly calm situations down and be peaceful.
Now, just how does one go about being peaceful?
First, don’t push the buttons of others and don’t pick scabs off of wounds. Some people are just waiting for a fight and all you have to do is knock on the door of their heart by saying the wrong thing and you’ll be in the middle of World War III. Don’t do that. Remember kindness. Remember your tone. Remember the Golden Rule. Some do not want to discuss openly, they want to argue meanly. Stay away from those one sided discussions. Your tone. Your attitude. The way you talk to others. The way you talk about others. Your opinions. All of that matters and you must be careful. Now, it seems that everyone else can say what they want, but you can’t. Everyone else can be rude, obnoxious, opinionated, out of line and allowed to push buttons but you can’t. That’s right. Everyone else is causing dog fights. You are living under the principle of as much as possible, be at peace with all men.
Are there exceptions? Certainly. But not to be loud, out of place, rude or ugly. Those should never be named among the people of God. But some village idiot trash talking God, His word or His people may get a response. Not loud. Not ugly. But a well thought out statement that doesn’t attack the person, but defends the Lord may be appropriate. It also may be nothing more than casting pearls among the swine and a waste of time.
Second, many people reveal their ignorance and prejudice when they are upset, angry and trying to defend themselves. Social media is a huge illustration of this. Read the comments that some post. Amazing. Rude. Offensive. And, a large percentage of them, wrong. If you read enough of them, your blood pressure rises, you get upset and you feel compelled to respond. Then that person responds. And, his response isn’t nice. Just don’t read the comments. That will avoid much of this.
Third, when dealing with brethren, be the first to apologize and be quick to extend grace. It’s hard to have an argument when the other person won’t argue. Be at peace. You may be wrong. Be willing to listen, learn and change. The other person may be wrong. His feet may be dug in and he will not change. You know. God knows. Let it go.
It’s harder to be at peace with the world. The world goes by their own rules. The world is inconsistent. The world lies. The world bends the rules. But as much as possible, be at peace with the world. There is an old Nigerian proverb that says, “When two elephants fight, the grass suffers.” Our hearts suffers. Our families suffer. Our congregations may suffer. You might win the elephant fight, but what was the cost of winning? In winning, what did you lose?
Fourth, remember the Paul that wrote these words also told Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” There is a balance. Paul told the Philippians that he was set for the defense of the Gospel. He told Titus that elders would have to silence the mouths of false brethren. The Romans were told to mark those who cause dissensions. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.
Throughout your life you will have people telling you how you ought to do things. You need to do this, they will say. You smile. You think about it. Then you go about doing what you think the Lord wants you to do. When I first started preaching, I had a preacher insist that I move every four years. You have to do this, he told me. It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense today. I didn’t argue. He was older than I was. I listened. I didn’t agree. I didn’t move every four years.
As far as it depends upon you…if it is up to you…do all that you can do…to be at peace with all men. Work at it. Work hard at it.