17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath
Romans 12:1-2 starts by reminding us that the Christian mind should be a transformed mind. One that instead of being conformed to the world around us is molded and renewed by our relationship of love with God. Then we see how this transformed mind affects the way we think about ourselves: soberly, not too low and not high and mighty. Followed by how the transformed mind will think about and treat other people. We live in a world that seems to always be at war with someone, we are people that have become captivated by conflict. There is an intrigue to fighting, early on we learn to view fighting as interesting and entertaining. Many of today’s popular movies portray fights and wars, where we cheer over conflict because we love to see people duke it out. We have become so intrigued with the story of struggle that we are no longer content with fictional fights. Many waste their day watching as day time talk shows parade people in front of them who are on the edge of conflict. Why do they do this, because they know that their audience secretly yearns for a violent confrontation. But this desire for war and conflict is nothing new, the world may have gotten older, but humanity has not grown up. Technology may have advanced but it has not transformed our sin nature. Conflict and control was common place in the Roman world that Paul lived in and when you consider this call to peace you realize just how radical a call this is. A recent movie called “Gladiator” depicts not only the Roman desire and drive for conflict but also ours. The movie centered on conflict, depicts a gladiator in Roman times who is forced to fight in an arena for the amusement of others. After he has finished fighting against unrealistic odds he gives us the line that echoes through the hollow core of our empty hearts “Are you not entertained?” Today many have become callused to conflict, and just like the citizens of Rome we too have bought into the belief that it’s just entertainment. But a transformed mind turns from the madness to the Master; it cheers for His Will not the worlds. Ever since sin entered the world there has been the potential for war. It was Cain’s conflict that caused the death of his brother, and when we fail to do right in God’s eyes we unleash a plethora of evil possibilities. Yet contrasting this conflict is Christ the peacemaker who said if someone slaps you on the cheek give them another chance to do it again. He was a man who was powerful yet constantly promoted peace. Even when they came to arrest Him in the garden and the disciples exclaimed, “Lord, should we fight? We brought the swords!” and Peter drew a sword and started slicing off the guard’s ear it was Jesus who picked it up and put it back on, Luke 22:49. Instead of hurting Jesus healed and then turning to Peter He said Matthew 26:52 “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword” His disciples came armed, they were prepared for a fight why, because they thought that that was the way to win. They were willing to kill to protect the Prince of peace, but what they failed to realize was that their way would only lead to death. Many in their marriages are showing up armed ready to reduce the one they say they love, instead of winning we are wounding. You may win the battle but you will lose the war. Romans 12:17-19 echoes Christ’s teaching, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” When it comes to peace Paul points out a powerful truth “as Far as it depends on you.” This text is not just making a statement it’s forcing us to asking a question, when are we going to start accepting responsibility for the condition of our circumstances? God is saying I know you don’t think it’s your fault, I know you think it’s not fair but I’m calling you to take responsibility, so what are you going to do? As kids we learned the phrase early “I didn’t do it” unfortunately many of us have never grown out of that. Someone burns themselves with hot coffee but rather than taking responsibility they blame and sue the restaurant. Today we are plagued with the rejection of responsibility but the process of living at peace demands that you take responsibility. The bad news is that there will always be fights wars and conflicts but you don’t have to resign yourself or be reactive you can be proactive. But being proactive and participating in the process of peace means that we have to hear God and act on his questions. Are you denying responsibility for your life? God knows what you have been through, He knows that you had it rough growing up and that your road has been rocky, but you can’t deny responsibility. How are you going to get honest with God and give him your burdens when you won’t even get real about what those burdens are? You need to accept responsibility for your life and your choices. Are there any areas where you are not owning your choices and owning up to your life? God is first asking us, “Have you accepted responsibility?” But second he is also asking, “Do you believe that peace depends on You?” We are masters at moaning about the problem but do we participate in the process of peace? We will never be desperate for peace until we see how it depends on us. This is not what is everyone else going to do but what am I called to do? You are crucial to resolving conflict, and you need to ask yourself are you doing what you can to live at peace with those around you? There may be an extent to which you can do nothing to live peacefully but you need to exhaust every opportunity to defuse the situation. The sad truth is that in general the followers of Jesus don’t have a reliable reputation for being the most peaceful people in the world. This is incredibly ironic considering that the One we are following was the greatest peacemaker. Following Jesus peaceful example means forgiving, it is probably one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian life. Forgiving is not forgetting it is choosing to remember no more, forgiveness takes its focus off of the fault and puts it on the Father. Isn’t it funny how we all feel so strongly that others should forgive us, but we often forgo forgiving them? If we are doing our best to live at peace with all people, we must learn to treat people properly. Throughout the ages self-professed Christians had committed horrific acts of violence and carried on wars in the name of the peacemaker. Today we may not be participating in the crusades but our cynicism, complaining and bitterness is being broadcasted load and clear. Living at peace means putting aside anything that keeps people from coming into the presence of Christ. There may be times when someone will not live at peace with you but the command says “as long as it depends on you” How often do your fights depend on you, more often than many are willing to admit. Lastly we are reminded to let God fight our battles, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath”. When you are wronged God can do a much better job of taking care of the conviction and consequences than you. What if we put as much effort into promoting peace as we did pondering and planning the paybacks? We are quick to repay and resent but what if we were quick to reconciliation. People will wrong you but how you respond will reveal whether you are going to be mature or just mad. If you really want to help God out then let Him do His job and stick to what He said you should do. Are you living in the prison of trying to make people pay or are you promoting peace? Are you going to repent or resent? Are you going to justifying your angry attitude and actions or adopt Jesus heart of healing? What will define your life murder or mercy?