Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
Loving others genuinely according to Paul’s command in Romans 12:9 requires a new heart that only God can give us by the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit through the preaching of His Word (Ezek. 36:26-27; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Therefore, the exhortations we find in Scripture to love people inside the church and in the larger society are not commands that our Creator expects us to fulfill in our own power. Instead, as they are His own words given by His own Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17), these commands and standards carry with them divine power that enables us to do what God tells us to do.
Because Scripture is the Word of God, it always presents the true and fully realistic view of God’s creation. We see a great example of this in today’s passage when Paul tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18). In this verse we find a recognition that getting along with some people in this world is often difficult—if not impossible. The Apostle understands that our relationships with others are two-way streets. There is only so much that we can do. We cannot change the hearts of other individuals. We cannot force them to like us or give us the benefit of the doubt. Some people will still hate us even if we bend over backwards to show them kindness and mercy. Despite our best efforts, there will be people who will oppose us even when we go the extra mile for them.
That reality, Paul says, should not keep us from striving for peace with others in this world; rather, we must be peacemakers and live harmoniously with others as long as we do not compromise God’s truth to do so. Still, there is only so much we can do. “So far as it depends on [us]”—the Lord calls us only to do what is ours to do, namely, to apologize when we oend people unnecessarily, to seek the well-being even of our enemies, and to make sure that we do not put up a stumbling block to living at peace with others. If we do such things, we should be confident that we have done what our Creator requires. We cannot force others to be at peace with us, and the Lord does not expect us to do His work of softening the hearts of others toward us. Our task is to give no one a legitimate reason to be at war with us. If people are at war with us only because we are standing for the gospel, we have fulfilled this admonition. If they fight with us because we are obnoxious, cantankerous, mean-spirited, or for any similar reason, we have not obeyed Paul’s admonition.
Christ calls us to do whatever we can to live at peace with all people. This does not mean denying the truth but cultivating a gentle spirit that seeks the good of all, that is humble enough to confess one’s faults and failures, and that puts the needs of others before our own. Only as we walk in the Spirit will we do this. May we seek to be peacemakers and to do whatever we can to commend the name of Christ by living at peace with others insofar as it depends upon us.