Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
I believe that most people want to live in peace. After all, why would anyone want to be filled with anger, jealousy and bitterness and allow those feelings to control their lives? Well, the reality is that some people seem to actually thrive on living under those conditions and it eventually defines who they are as a human being. We all know people who seem to take great pleasure in quarreling and tearing down other people. And it’s especially sad, when we encounter people like this who call themselves Christian. Jesus clearly teaches that his true followers will be those who love one another: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
I am proud that I have taught my children how to respond to those who use hurtful words in an attempt to tear you down. I will admit that I am certainly not a perfect man by any means. There was a time when I allowed my emotions and my anger to get the best of me. However, over time, God has taught me how to respond to people that only want to cause trouble. My family has once again been exposed to those who want nothing more than to get a reaction out of me in order to provoke me and start an argument. And once again, this has provided me an opportunity to show them how to best live out Christ’s command to “love one another.” I am thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to show my family how to best respond to anger and bitterness.
The Apostle Paul had some great instructions on how to conduct yourself when faced with quarreling people. Paul, writing to the church in Rome, tells believers how to best react to those who try to provoke you. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:17-19).
Many of you reading this today most likely knows someone who tries to provoke you in order to get a reaction out of you. They will go to any lengths to draw you into an argument or confrontation and they become extremely frustrated and even more angry when you refuse to respond to their immature attacks. I believe that God gives each of us the Holy Spirit to help us to know what to say and how to respond in these types of situations. When we choose to follow the urgings of the Holy Spirit instead of the evil one, we choose to follow Christ’s command to love even those who say hateful and hurtful things about us. We are choosing light over darkness, we are choosing life over death, and we are choosing to follow Christ and His commandments instead of the evil and destructive desires of Satan.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Sometimes peace is just not possible because some people do not want to live in peace. Paul offers some great advice on what to do if you try to live in peace and others do not want peace. He says, “as far as it depends on you.” We can only control ourselves and our own behavior – how others behave is entirely up to them. There will be instances when other people simply do not want peace. So Paul says that if we have done everything we can to live in peace with one another, and others do not want peace, then we must let them go and let God take control. That’s good advice that I try to live by. When I realize that peace is just not possible, I turn that over to God and I go on living out my life by allowing the peace of Christ to transform me and I leave judgment and condemnation up to God.
Paul ends the 12th chapter of Romans with this message: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). That’s good advice for all of us to take with us each and every day of our lives, especially in the world that we are living in today. May the peace of Christ be with you today and always!