If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
In Romans 12, Paul offered some great advice on how to handle opposition in a hostile environment: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (17-18). Paul was saying we should seek to be peacemakers, but he also acknowledged that it is not always possible to be at peace with everyone. In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Have you ever seen that verse on a Christmas card? Probably not. But the fact is, truth divides. If you are going to stand for the truth, be prepared for it to divide you from other individuals. Sometimes you cannot be at peace with all people.
Then how are we to live in a world that is opposed to our faith? Notice two characteristics of peacemakers. First of all, peacemakers do not take their own revenge. Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Do you know what vengeance is? Vengeance is my desire to hurt you for hurting me. Paul said, “Let God settle the score for you. He can do it much more effectively than you can.” As Christians, we may fight for justice when we are wronged, but we are not to take revenge.
Second, peacemakers seek the good of their enemies. Verses 20-21 say, “‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Want to surprise your enemies? Do something good for them. Why? Some people say, “Because it will make your enemies feel lousy.” That is not the point. When you do something good for somebody who has wronged you, it brings them under conviction–conviction that will lead them to eternal life. That is what it means to love your enemies, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5:44. It means you want God’s best for their life, including their salvation.
Peter Miller was a Baptist minister in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War. He had a personal enemy named Michael Witman who belittled him, abused him, and did everything he could to make the pastor miserable. One day Miller heard that Witman had been arrested for treason and sentenced to death. So Miller walked sixty miles through the snow to Valley Forge to make an appeal to General Washington for Witman’s life. When Washington said that the pardon for his friend could not be granted, Miller replied, “My friend! I have not a worse enemy living than that man.” Washington was so astounded that Miller would go to such lengths for a bitter rival that he granted the pardon, and Miller ended up gaining a friend in Witman. That is what it means to seek the good of your enemies.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Survival Tip #6: Bend, Don’t Break” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2019.
Hiram Erb Steinmetz, “Peter Miller And Michael Witman: A Revolutionary Episode,” Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 6, nos. 3 and 4 (1901-2): http://www.lancasterhistory.org/images/stories/JournalArticles/vol6nos3&4pp46_49_118632.pdf.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.