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“So Far as it Depends on You…”

Romans 12:9—18

9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:9-18 ESV

Today I want to focus on that last exhortation: 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. I was going to just read that text put the entire passage is so pregnant with practical, powerful, attributes of true Christianity:

Hate what is evil, hold tightly to what is good
Love each other…outdoing each other in showing honor
Be zealous and fervent in serving the Lord
Practice hope, patience, and continual prayer, even in tribulation
Give to works of ministry and be hospitable
Even bless those who have it in for you!
Genuinely feel what others are going throughà happiness and sadness
Show humility, even by hanging out with the misfit toys
Don’t be a vindictive person, but always do the right thing by others
Live at peace with everyone, if you have anything to do with it.
Paul spends the first 11 chapters outlining a detailed Christology—his understanding of the human condition of sin and God’s redemptive work of salvation through Jesus Christ. In light of ALL that Paul has said up to this point in this amazing letter to the Roman Christian Church (and to us), he now puts some application to his theologyàLet your love be genuine…real…don’t play act at this newfound faith!

It seems like everywhere we turn, there is division and conflict:

Trump Administration VS. Democrats and some Republicans in Washington
Executive Ordersà 49% approve while 41% disapprove, some VIOLENTLY
Law EnforcementàA lack of trust by some communities and their leaders
A growing number of people are increasingly more intolerant of religion in general, and evangelical Christianity specifically. (23% are “nones”)
UMCàA great DIVIDE now exists between many churches, conferences, and leadership who hold a different view of Scripture than other churches and have blatantly violated our denomination’s bylaws known as The Book of Discipline.
Families are torn apart because of substance abuse/addiction, infidelity, money problems, you name it…
Parents and children are not speaking to one another because of arguments (some quite absurd) years earlier
Some of us are even at discord with ourselves because we can’t shake the sins of our past, or we have deep resentments, unforgiveness, or great fear over financial problems, health issues…

The Hebrew word for PEACE is Shalom, which is used 237 times in OT; and it means “well-being,” “completeness,” “peace.”

The Greek word for PEACE is Irene, which is uses 92 times in the NT; and it carries the meaning of “joining together into a whole,” or “wholeness as a gift of God.”

Shalom or Irene has always been God’s will for his creation. In Genesis 1 we read of the creation story, where in 6 days God completed all his work of creation and rested on the 7th day. He then gave us the 7th day—SABBATH—as a day of REST. Rest is his CLIMAX of Creation. We often associate PEACE with REST.

BUT…in Genesis 3 we read the story of the FALL. Woman and Man are tempted in the Garden of Eden—the paradise whereby they were at peace with God and with one another.

“Did God “REALLY” say that if you eat of the Tree of Knowledge Between Good and Evil that you would die?” The serpent offered God NOT as the SUBJECT of their lives, but the OBJECT of a theological debate for man and woman to ponder. “God didn’t really say that….He knows that you will be like him if you eat from that tree. God is holding out on you…God can’t be trusted.”

So, they decided to trust their own judgment rather than trust in God. The result? Sin entered the world and so did ENMITY…DIVISION…DISORDER…DEATH. From the beginning of creation, our purpose has been to REFLECT THE IMAGE OF GOD to the world around us. Instead, we preferred to reflect our OWN image…which is where sin becomes such a problem…too many images reflecting all around us!

But the GOOD NEWS is this: God has been in the redemptive process ever since. And in the fullness of time, God sent the visible representation of the invisible God—his only Son, Jesus Christ—the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. And while we were still sinners (rebellious enemies of God) Christ died for us. His atoning work on the cross made it as if we had never sinned—we call that JUSTIFICATION.

And, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1 àTherefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ became our PEACE.

If we have peace with God through Jesus Christ, guess what? We CAN have peace with others AND with ourselves! 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. As far as it depends on you…

That is NOT to say that we will agree with what others say and do all the time. There is a difference between living at peace with someone and living in approval of individual and community behavior, or systemic evil and injustices.

To live at peace with others is to see them as made in the image of God and to see the possibility of their redemption…their wholeness…their PEACE in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Striving for peace carries with it FAITH AND HOPE…a confident expectation that the promises of God are true.

There is a connection between living a peaceful life and a holy life. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews puts it : “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 ESV) We will talk more on the subject of holiness in coming weeks. But let me just say that pursuing peace with God, others, and ourselves can go a long way toward being useful in God’s kingdom!

Jesus said in His great Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) And his half-brother, James, also offers a great word as it relates to WISDOM and living peaceably. Listen: “17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Let’s get practical. Pursuing peace requires of us: HUMILITY, PATIENCE, and most of all, LOVE. Isn’t that who Jesus is? Over the last year, we’ve talked a lot about our LOVE FOR GOD being the primary motivator for all we do. It is the love OF God growing deeper and stronger in us that empowers us to love others IN SPITE of their political views, their personal attacks on your ideology, or the way they treat you and others you love.

In light of that truth, am I willing to TRUST God’s way of handling my relationships is better than MY way? Am I willing to humble myself before God and others so that I can still proclaim God’s truth, but do so with gentleness and love? And are YOU willing to TRUST God’s way of working in and through your life and the life of others around you?

What about the church? Do you insist on YOUR way because it’s YOUR way and you don’t want to change? Or, can you listen to other ideas and hold out the possibility that those ideas may be more in line with God’s vision for the church? I ask the same of myself!

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Jesus, who IS our Peace, would have us strive to live out this truth. Doing so can bring unity in local churches, reconciliation in homes, and restoration in our country. AMEN.