“ If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
There is a strain of Christian thought today that states that we should seek friendship with all, at any cost, including bending the Word of God to mean what others wish it to. There is a strain of Christian thought today that states there is never a reason for war, or other forms of violence. Those who support these viewpoints often point to Christ’s admonition to turn the other cheek, or even the Scripture above from Paul.
However, Paul makes two points in the above Scripture, and the surrounding text. He is speaking to the church in Rome, exhorting them. This chapter is filled with instruction on how the body of Christ is to work together, the movement of the Holy Spirit within its members, and treating one another with genuine love and grace. He tells them to live in harmony with one another. Then, he instructs them to live peaceably with all. In other words, Paul makes the point that there is a strict standard of behavior within the community of Christ. There is no if possible when he commands harmony and grace within the body. But, there is a different standard when dealing with those outside the body of Christ.
Outside the body of Christ, it is still incumbent on the Christian to behave righteously toward others. It is still required of us that we demonstrate love toward our fellow man. But, in addition to those instructions, this verse tells us that it may not be possible to live in peace with those who do not follow Christ. It tells us that at times, no matter our actions, no matter our behavior, others who are not conformed to Christ will choose not to live in peace with us. The command to cling to what is good and abhor what is evil also comes in this section.
There are times when clinging to good and abhorring evil will place in direct conflict with the world around us. That instruction, to cling to God, stands above the admonition to seek friendship, and the abhorrence of evil means we cannot compromise the Word of God to seek friendship. This is not one of those things that depends on us. There are also times when those who seek to harm the children of God will attack the innocent and defenseless physically. This too does not depends on us. The Word also tells us, in Ecclesiastes, that there is a time for all things under Heaven, even war.
We are called to defend the faith. Most of the time we use words, or we live our lives as a living sacrifice to set the example of Christian behavior in the world. Sometimes though, we will be called to lay down our lives for our friends.
Father, today we struggle because there are those in the world who seek to harm Your children. They seek to lead them astray with false teaching, or they seek to eradicate them from the earth. We seek Your wisdom and discernment today, for ourselves and for the leaders of the world, in knowing when the defense of Your children must come with words, when it must come with patient examples of Your love, and when it must come with a sword. Keep our hearts pure, provide Your protection, and guide our feet and hands down the paths You have prepared for us to demonstrate Your mighty glory in the world. In Jesus Name, Amen.