The other day as I was reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans I was struck by what he says in chapter 12, verse 18 which is, ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ Wow! Such a simple sentence but I feel that it contains so much more meaning than what first meets the eye. It has left me wondering, what does living peaceably with all actually look like?
At first glance there are the obvious things that you would do to ‘live peaceably’ with all, such as treating people with love, patience, kindness, gentleness; those things which are the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). In addition that you would want to come to all people with a compassionate heart, with humility and meekness, bearing with them and forgiving them, just as Paul encourages in his letter to the Colossians (Col 3:12-14). These behaviors are all right and good for us to exercise when relating to other people, but they are all the external out-workings of living peaceably with others. However, as I pondered on all of this I began to ask whether living peaceably with others actually starts from the inside out. Can we truly treat people with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility and love if internally we do not feel those things towards them? Can we truly live peaceably with others when on the inside angry, jealous or ill-natured thoughts towards them are taking over. I tend to think that it is not possible to do so.
Over the last year I’ve been struggling with the hurt and pain of being deserted by friends who I considered closest to me and at a time I needed them the most. It has been a heartbreaking experience and it has affected our friendships significantly. The thing is, they have no idea that they have hurt me and so the breakdown of our friendships has come from my end only. In not being able to deal with my pain I have withdrawn from them, and at times I have been consumed with angry, unforgiving and wrathful thoughts towards them. Consequently I have not lived peaceably with them, loving them, being patient with them, being compassionate, kind, bearing with them and serving them as they have needed. This has led to a huge internal conflict for me because I know what God asks from me as a believer in Christ, but I have struggled to follow through with it from the inside out.
Recently, in all of this, God has been showing me that He has allowed this feeling of desertion so that I would not rely on my friends for comfort but that I would cling to Him for all that I need. This was just the perspective that I needed. From this I have been able to realize that living peaceably with others actually starts deep within, by virtue of the thoughts of my heart. It is about seeing others as God sees them, recognising that Jesus died for them just as he died for me and that the love God has for me He also bears for them. It is understanding that people are often dealing with their own struggles and therefore don’t have the capacity to give. It is about being willing to be humble, compassionate and forgiving. It is wanting God’s best for others in all things. By seeking (with God’s help) to change the thoughts of our hearts we can truly begin to live peaceably with all, from the inside out.