Summary: Brother against brother. Father against son. Son against father. It was a war that was anything but "civil". Wars are inevitable. What if we could learn to fight fair? What if we could wage civil wars?
Pt. 4 - War and Peace
The Civil War is an incredibly painful moment in the history of our country. The name is misleading. The war was not civil. It was bloody. It was brutal. Sons and fathers and brothers killed their own family members as battle lines were drawn. Sides were chose.
This war only revealed what we had already seen in the first war that took place in paradise. Paradise was destroyed by brother fighting brother. The truth we learned in these two wars was played out again a few days ago in the parking lot of a local Braums. A son and a father are unable to navigate relationship. A knife is drawn. Loved ones dead at the hands of a family member. Those closest to us can inflict the deepest and deadliest wounds. Jesus goes so far as to tell us it is impossible to go through life and avoid war/offenses. And yet He also talks to us about living in peace. It would seem to be a contradiction. You can't help it you will be involved in hand to hand, face to face conflict but when you are turn the other cheek. Resist the urge to hit back. When someone places unrealistic demands on you like requesting your shirt or that you carry their burden our response, according to Jesus, is to go above and beyond their demands. Jesus knew wars would come and yet He instructs and models a peaceful response. So Jesus is saying you will be at war but learn to be at peace.
Paul comes on the scene and it is instructions on peace that we will examine today. There are several things he says that are noteworthy.
TEXT: Romans 12:17-19
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.
We must fight for peace.
Peace must be fought for! When we think of about peace I think we equate peace with easy. That isn't true. Listen to what Paul says . . . if it is possible. That statement infers effort. Peace is hard work. Peace must be won. Unfortunately peace unlike war is not inevitable. It requires concerted time, energy and effort. Honestly, I think many of us have come to the conclusion and rightfully so that peace is much harder than war. Notice I didn't say more costly just harder.
I am concerned that because of that truth that there are many who spend more energy on fights than they do on peace! They are willing to invest everything to fight but will do nothing to contend for peace. We are contentious but we don't contend for peace. Ever met someone like that? Chaos and conflict constantly surrounds them. They are swinging at everyone and everything. If they would just use the same energy they use in fighting and strife towards peace, then there would be change.
The underlying truth here is that peace is up to us until a point. What if the other person won't stop the fight? A couple of quick reminders and pointers before we move on.
a. Trust proven character.
They call it a track record for a reason. Again it goes back to knowing the difference between bad heart and bad day. That is why Paul told Timothy to continue in the things he had learned because he could trust those who taught him. Is Paul only addressing those who stand up and teach? No . . . trust those who teach daily. This requires you to guard against borrowing perceptions and going to the proven source of consistency for facts.
b. Exhaust every effort.
I think our biggest issue here is that we let ourselves off the hook too easily. We try but we haven't tried everything. It still amazes me how many people say they have tried everything but then when you say have you done this . . . well no. Then you haven't tried everything. Peach doesn't just happen. It requires effort and work. You have to go out of your way to make it happen. Peace isn't easy. Fighting is easy. Speaking your mind, flying off at the mouth, disparaging people, telling people off . . . that is easy. Peace is birthed out of work!
c. Dust off.
Paul uses an incredibly important word in these instructions. It is a small word but is crucial. He says "if" it is possible. He must have come to the conclusion that at times it may not be possible. Ever been there? He knows that it is possible to do everything within our power but peace remains unattainable. No possibility for restoration. No chance of reversal. That is a frustrating place. You want to sign a peace treaty but the other person keeps throwing twitter bombs, facebook jabs, and verbal assaults. Fortunately, Jesus tells us what to do if peace isn't possible.