If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18
Did Paul really mean we should live at peace with everyone? Yes! As much as possible and as far as it depends on us. Paul is not saying to just roll over and allow other people to walk all over you, or take advantage of you. Ultimately, the way we handle conflict says a lot about how we feel about God and the people he created.
As far as it depends on you …
There are not a lot of things we can control in life. Other people are definitely not one of those things. Paul was talking to believers living under Roman oppression and encouraging them to live their lives like Jesus did, at peace with each other – even when it’s hard. He knew how hard it was to live at peace. He had people following him around constantly arguing and contradicting him.
Live at peace with everyone.
But what about when someone hurts our feelings? The verses before and after Romans 12:18 state:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord (Romans 12:17-19).
When we are tempted to hurt someone because they hurt us, or when we work to make things “fair,” it is the opposite of establishing peace. Let’s be honest, when we are in the midst of an argument, very often our desire is to be right. We want to fight and talk until the other admits that we were right all along. It is possible to disagree with others on some issues and still be friends. It is not my place to change someone else’s opinion. And, most of the time, I’m not going to be able to do it anyway. But we can encourage peace with our words, actions and even just the tone of our voice. We must be willing to admit our wrongs, apologize, make things right, and forgive. Our own ego, pride, and prejudices should never get in the way of loving others like Jesus does.
Our job is to love people and give them a chance to see Jesus at work in our life. Only God can change another person’s life, and they are rarely argued into the Kingdom. Once I realize where my responsibility lies in the promise of loving and living peacefully with others, it empowers me to love them the way Jesus wants me to.