"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Monday, April 16, 2007

Live Peaceably with All

In my last post, I quoted Paul from Romans 12:
Romans 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(ESV)

I want to spend a little time "unpacking" this verse. Three things I want to note briefly here. First is the context, second is the extent, and third is the command. Paul also acknowledges that there is a problem that will be discussed somewhere in here.

First, keep in mind that Romans is the great epistle on the gospel. Chapter 12 is the first time Paul has moved from predominantly theological/doctrinal reflection and argument into predominantly "how should we then live" discussion. In context, I think Paul is saying you were once enemies with God, and He has made the great sacrifice to live peaceably with you. What then is too large a sacrifice for you to live peaceably with others?

In the first part of this verse, Paul admits that it is not always within our grasp to live peaceably with others. As the old cliche goes, some people only want to bury the hatchet in you. Regardless of what you do, they will not be reconciled to you. They will always think you mean them harm. They will always read/hear your words differently than you intended. They will never give you the benefit of the doubt.

But even here the we are to love that person and not be antagonistic. I'm a good calvinist, in the school of Spurgeon, Edwards, etc. Some of the TR's out there and theonomists might disagree with me on that assessment, but I think it's correct. Therefore I know that we read words like "every" and "all" we have to be careful. To read "all" as every single individual in some contexts would make one a universalist. So, point two, extent, what does Paul mean by "all" in Romans 12:18? I think this is a particular universal. It is particular to me and universal in its application to me. "All" for me is everyone I know and with whom I have contact. "All" for you is everyone you know and with whom you have contact.

Yes, as noted above, there will be some with whom this is not possible. BUT . . . that is not an excuse for you (or me) to return the antagonism. An outsider looking in on the situation should be able to see clearly who is supplying the fuel to keep the conflict raging.

"All" here clearly is a reference to fellow believers. But it also goes beyond that to those of the world who reject Jesus. The context of Romans 12:14-21 is that of responding to persecution. Think about why Paul endured the persecution he did without bitterness or malice - because once he was the persecutor and had been shown mercy while the persecutor. This passage has its corrollary in the parable of the good Samaritan. Who is your neighbor? With whom should you live peaceably? Too often we (or at least I) look for why I should be allowed to exclude someone from my favor (not, mind you that my favor is such a valuable thing that its missed terribly when not given). But the Gospel is that we who are the least deserving of God's favor have been given it anyway through the sacrifice of the Son. God makes the rain to fall and the sun to shine on both the just and the unjust (both rain and sun are necessary and blessings). We are called to honor that modeling that.

Finally, the command then is to live peaceably. Some people (too often I) like to stir the pot. I can give absolutely horrible examples of when I have done this in my own life. But we are not to be antognists. We are to love and reach out. We are to seek reconciliation, because we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Try selling someone, "God loves you and wants a relationship with you, but we really don't want your kind in our church." Or "God loves you but I find you offensive." God finds us all offensive in our sin; He loves us anyway. He became one of us and lived among our filth.

To live peaceably with others we must humble ourselves. If we see ourselves as better than others, we will destroy any peace that exists between us. To live peaceably we must be broken because of our own sin. When we have wept over our sins we are able appropriately weep over the sins of others and call them to repentance. To live peaceably we must be sure of our standing with God in Christ Jesus. We can endure persecution and slander only when have properly grasped that it is only for a time and that our standing with God will never change.

I have not lived this recently. I speak these things not from the mountain, but the valley. God grant me the grace to climb.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Even So... said...

Me too..amen...

9:26 AM EDT  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

"Try telling someone...'God loves you but I find you offensive.'"

HaHaHaHa! I'll tell you how that goes.

4:58 PM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

The point, of course, is that while we (well, JD and I anyway) ;) would never actually say that, how many times are we telling people that by our attitudes and actions?

5:12 PM EDT  

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