The Apostle Paul’s warning to members of the church in Rome to “live in peace with all” is a message of truth that we desperately need in our culture and as great Baptists. Too often on social media, in churches, and more recently at Zoom committee meetings, we witness people in conflict utter inflammatory words in an aggressive tone. Every day on Twitter we see conflicts between pastors who preach love and peace in the gospel, and yet use words toward other pastors who are foreign to those fruits of the Spirit.
In the midst of this conflict, it is tempting to call for politeness as the lowest common denominator in our disagreements; however, the apostle Paul established expectations of Christ’s followers that rise far above our meager standards. In his letter to the Romans he wrote:
If possible, as much as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone. Friends, do not take revenge; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: Revenge belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Because that’s how you’re going to put fire coals on his head. Do not be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.
Romans 12: 18-21 (CSB)
From Paul’s words, we can draw some insights that could help us learn how to “live in peace with all.”
You have a responsibility as a peacemaker
Paul charged his listeners with a peaceful life. He did not mention the obligations of the other party or parties to the conflict. His focus is on the efforts of his listeners to be peacemakers. Paul wanted them to do everything they could to bring peace to the situation. They could not take responsibility for the actions of the other party; however, Paul held these Roman followers Christ responsible for their efforts to maintain peace with the people they encountered.
God will hold us accountable for our efforts to make peace with the people we meet in the church and our culture. We must make every effort to follow Christ’s example and remember His words about peacemakers (Matthew 5: 9).
Stay away from fights that are not yours
One dynamic I often see on social media is the tendency of people to indulge in debates and debates that do not involve them. Most of the time they comment on arguments or conversations between individuals who know each other but are strangers. Some people get involved in these discussions because they want more likes and followers on social media. They want to tweet a microphone drop or a sonic bite that will allow them more exposure on the platform. In the meantime, they are causing discord and escalating the conflict. A simple rule that would promote peace is to stay away from it if you don’t fight.
Do not react to every attack or every individual
Although tempted to defend himself or respond to any attack by refutation, Paul encouraged believers in Rome to “leave room for God’s wrath.” It is wise to respond to critics; however, we must pray when and how we give such answers. Most of the time we should simply ignore a humorous comment or attack and leave it to God to deal with the individual. I am reminded that Jesus did not attack his attackers when they crucified him; instead, he prayed for their forgiveness (Luke 23:34). We should follow His example of humility when dealing with critics or potential conflicts.
Love your enemies
Paul encouraged his readers to do good to their enemies. He warned them to retaliate with evil for good. From the apostle Paul we hear echoes of Jesus ’words in these lines. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commanded:
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them which persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven. For it makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unjust.
Matthew 5: 44-45, ESV
If we want to be the peacemakers Jesus and Paul call us to, we must return the evil of our enemies to the good. If our enemy is not a follower of Jesus, we should pray that our love conveys to them in a tangible way the love found in the gospel. If they are followers of Christ, we should pray that our enemies be reconciled to God and to us. We must pray for our enemies and serve them with the love of Jesus.
Can you imagine what it would look like if we took Paul’s words to heart?
I think we would see more unity among believers. Christians would give a stronger testimony to people who do not know Christ in our society. They would glorify God and advance the gospel of peace.
Let’s try to follow these steps and try to “live in peace with everyone.”
(For more information from Tim McKnight, click here.)