The believer’s mission in society is all about promoting peace where it does not currently exist.
Romans 12:16-18 – Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Paul was writing to the Roman believers to instill in them a strong foundation in not only the doctrinal facets of their faith but the practical aspects, as well. In summarizing the believers’ responsibilities toward others, Paul latches on to one of the most profound teachings of Messiah:
Matthew 5:44 – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
Paul conveys this as, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” (Romans 12:14). Why would the Roman believers need to hear this unless they were indeed being persecuted for their faith? Paul goes even further to quote this consistent biblical ethic as it was stated by Solomon in the proverbs.
Romans 12:20 – But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
Boiled down into a modern vernacular, what Paul, Solomon, and Yeshua all appear to be saying is that doing nice things to those who are not nice to you results in them feeling the heat of shame at having been mean to you, vividly described as having hot coals poured on their head. To bless them when they are persecuting you means to say and do nice things to them even though they are oppressing you.
But we can only be nice in the face of opposition when we are not reacting with like emotion for like. We have to bring a new resource to the conflict, a resource of forgiveness and desire for love and open communication. Paul says to not repay evil with evil, but instead, to “overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21). This is the only way peace can be promoted within a society of divided interests.
We live in an age where this type of divisive environment breeds at an accelerated pace due to the instantaneous communication channels available to us as the internet continues to link the world together. To make matters worse, many oppressors feel empowered to spread conflict by remaining anonymous behind user names. For those of us who are tasked with being peacemakers, there is no small challenge in trying to remain unaffected by comments and commentary that cannot be unseen or unheard. Yet, as believers, if we are directly confronted by these anonymous pot-stirrers, we are tasked with praying for them and blessing them, which is to speak kindly toward and about them regardless of their harmful attitudes.
Online communication aside, we must not allow those hateful attitudes to spill over into our real world interactions with others. While we have an obligation to remain informed on the important cultural issues of the day, we must withhold the reactive impulse to debate acquaintances and family on the same level of animosity that may be thrust at us. Whenever we are confronting the evils of our day, we must do so with a spirit of gentleness, kindness, and goodness. Otherwise we are simply adding fuel to the raging fires of contemporary debate.
Paul encourages believers, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” For us to do so, we must be thoughtful and consistent in our responses. Our mission is to share the love of God but to do so without compromising the truth of his Word. This may sound simple, but it is incredibly nuanced and at times extremely difficult, as many hard facts about God’s truth can appear intolerant to others. But this is what we are called to do. This is how we, as living sacrifices, are challenged with navigating the cultural debates of our day.
2 Timothy 2:24-25 – The Lord’s servant must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance leading them to the knowledge of the truth.
We should never want to be responsible for shutting the gates of Zion to those who most need to gain entrance. If we are faithful to this consistent instruction throughout God’s Word, we provide opportunities for reconciliation where there were previously none. We can learn to be promoters of peace and calm amidst the chaos of popular opinion, but it takes careful thought and reasoned intention. We can become the peacemakers that both Yeshua and Paul encouraged their followers to be.
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