If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 AMP
I can still picture her face; I can still picture her glare. And I can still hear the words of my department head commenting, “Wow! What did you do to her?!” For as that colleague had walked by me, the icy cold hatred was palpable–so evident those around me could sense the chill in the air even though it was not directed at them.
Now for a people pleaser like myself, this was not the easiest experience to endure. It was even more difficult not understanding exactly what led to this break in fellowship (although you will read below what I believe was the turning point). I had poured so much into this colleague throughout the school year. She was not well liked and was contrary by nature, but I had done my best to encourage her. I had baked her goodies she could eat even though she had certain allergies. I actually even sat in on meeting between her and the principal as an observer when she felt she did not want to go in to the meeting alone. Looking back now, being a first-year teacher, that was extremely risky.
But then the tides turned; the seasons changed. This colleague one day made a comment which undermined our principal. So I “stood up for” so to speak the principal. My comments were not against her, but they were an affirmation of the principal in accordance with God’s command to respect those in authority over us. I wasn’t mean about it; I just spoke the truth I felt needed to be said.
But she didn’t take my words in the way I intended, for from that moment forward, our relationship went sour. I tried to be friendly. I tried to reconnect. As far as it depended on me, I tried to live at peace with her.
But it never happened. She left that school bitter–bitter toward me and toward the school in general. Even months later when I saw her in the grocery store and greeted her, she glared and walked away.
As much as depended on me, I tried.
But I couldn’t let her attitude toward me hold me back from what God wanted me to do. I couldn’t let her lack of love keep me from doing what was right. I had to keep moving forward knowing I had done what I could. The rest was up to her.
I believe sometimes people pleasers especially fall into the false idea that to live peaceably we must always give in, always get along, and always do whatever it takes to make everyone like us. But I don’t think that’s the intent of the verse above. Read with me the above verse in context.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Romans 12:16-20 ESV
Do you see the location of the living peaceably portion? It’s sandwiched in between not repaying evil for evil and not avenging ourselves. If living peacably means keeping peace at all costs, then why is it included with reminders not to be vengeful?
Because God doesn’t call us to control the thoughts and actions of others. He calls us to control ourselves. No matter how much we may love like Jesus, we cannot control the feelings, words, and actions of others. We can only control our own. With that coworker years ago, I couldn’t control her attitude. I couldn’t control her actions and decisions. I could only choose what I did and what I thought and what I said. So as much as I was able to, I chose life. I prayed for her. I spoke kindly to her. I avoided talking negatively about her. As much as depended on me, I tried to live peaceably with her.
But peace requires more than one willing participant.
And unfortunately, not everyone is willing.
Take a moment to reflect on our greatest example: Jesus. He spoke only what the Father told Him to speak. He did only what the Father told Him to do. Jesus valued every person He met. He loved everyone He met. Yet even His perfect words and perfect actions were not always met with perfect harmony and peace. As much as depended on Jesus, He lived peaceably. Yet not even Jesus would alter the free will of those He came to save. Jesus continually had the very people He came to redeem speak evil to and about Him as well as plot to kill Him.
Jesus was crucified for walking in perfect love.
So if the very Son of God had haters, we should not be surprised if we do as well.
Yet knowing others won’t always like us, doesn’t give us the excuse to stop trying. Jesus didn’t stop loving just because people didn’t accept His love. He just loved all the more.
And so should we.
However (read slowly as how–ev–er for emphasis), it is imperative to remember our willingness to walk in love does not mean everyone we meet will do the same. Furthermore, our willingness to “do what is honorable” does not mean we do whatever everyone else wants. Walking in God’s love doesn’t mean we do and say whatever it takes to make others feel happy. Walking in God’s love does mean we treat everyone as a person of worth–as a person who has value. But recognizing people as having value does not mean letting them walk all over us, nor does it mean letting them get away with doing whatever they want. Loving others means speaking the truth, treating them with respect, and doing our part to represent Jesus in how we interact with them.
Loving others should never cost us who we are.
Did you catch that? When God calls us to live peaceably as much as depends on us, He is not commanding us to let go of who we are for the sake of peace. On the contrary, He is telling us to always be who we are. We are to be who God has called us to be–and we are to do so with dignity and grace. We are to do what is honorable even if those around us are not. We are not to repay evil for evil. We are not to avenge the wrongs done to us. But we are also not to remain quiet for the sake of peace either. As much as depends on us, we are to live peaceably. Yet we must also understand that not everyone wants peace.
Today I want to encourage you never to compromise who God created you to be under the false assumption He wants you to make peace at all costs. God calls us to live peaceably, but He also reminds us in this world we will have trouble. So today, as much as depends on you, live peacably: treat others with respect, pray for those around you, honor God with your lips. Do what is right in the sight of God. Yet also know not everyone will receive you with open arms. And that’s okay. Because God didn’t call you to make sure everyone loves you. He called you to make sure you love everyone, regardless whether or not they love you in return.
Therefore, love like Jesus today. Live like Jesus today, too. As much as depends on you, live peacably with everyone. And if those around you don’t want your peace, then that’s on them. You keep moving forward. You keep pressing on in the things of God. You keep being you. And let God take care of them.