If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
— Romans 12:18
Do you know anyone who rubs you the wrong way so badly that when you walk away from that person you feel like you’re about to explode? Does it seem like that person always says something so rude, unkind, impolite, or derogatory that it nearly makes your blood boil when you are with him or her? Well, consider this: Have you ever had the thought that you may be rubbing that person the wrong way as well?
As I relate the following story to you, I am obligated by God to begin by telling you that, over the course of many years, the enemy I am about to describe became a friend. In fact, he is so dear to me today that I cherish every time I get to see and spend time with him. So I testify to you from the onset that the majority of horrible relational situations can be turned around if you will obey what Romans 12:18 tells you to do. That is what I want to talk to you about today.
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Many years ago, I had to regularly deal with a pastor who was one of the rudest and most belittling people I had ever met in my life. But the man lived in the same city as I did, so I couldn’t avoid seeing him from time to time. Whenever he and I found ourselves in the same room, I was nearly always shocked at what came out of his mouth. He freely gossiped and spoke malicious things about other pastors and churches. Everyone was his target — including me!
Because he was a pastor in our same city, I tried very hard to get along with him. But he was one of those people who simply rubbed me the wrong way, and I just didn’t like him. And I definitely didn’t like being near him! I repeatedly asked the Lord to help me forgive the callous words he had spoken about me to other pastors and leaders. Because he and I were pastors of the two largest churches in that particular nation, I knew I had to get along with this man. Nevertheless, trying to draw close to him was like trying to hug a cactus. I got jabbed and stabbed every time I came close!
I tried to convince myself that my inner conflict with this pastor was the result of a wrong mix of personalities. But if that were the case, this man had a wrong personality mix with every pastor in our city! The truth was that he was simply an offensive person. He knew he was offensive; he enjoyed it; and he had no intention of changing. And the way he affected me was exactly the way every other pastor I knew felt as well.
After many years of struggling in my relationship with this man, I finally came to realize that although this man was mightily gifted as a public communicator, he had no people skills on a personal level. He really was ill-mannered. The problem truly was him. Because this pastor respected no one but himself and was not submitted to any spiritual authority, no one could find a way to speak into his life to help him.
So what was I to do in this situation? As I said, he and I were each pastors of the two largest churches in our city, so we were continually attending meetings in which both of us were expected to participate. Like it or not, I was going to regularly be in this man’s company. It was impossible for me to avoid the man, so I began to ask the Lord to help me know how to get along with him so I didn’t leave upset every time the two of us had to be at the same place.
The Holy Spirit led me to Romans 12:18. It says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” This verse gave me direction. It provided helpful answers that enabled me to deal successfully with this difficult situation. And I believe these answers will also help you know how to deal with that person who constantly rubs you the wrong way!
Notice that the apostle Paul began this verse by saying, “If it be possible.…” The fact that he began with the word “if ” — the Greek word ei, which is like an open question mark with no definitive answer — means there may be times when we run into a case where it is not possible to have peace with all men. As we are all well aware, it can be very difficult to be at peace with some people — not necessarily because we are so difficult, but because they are hard to get along with. But remember, they may think the same of us! But regardless of the difficulty of the task or the ugly behavior of those we encounter along the way in life, the command of God remains: To the best of our ability, we must give our best efforts to be at peace with all men.
The word “possible” comes from the Greek word dunaton. In this verse, it expresses the idea of something that is potentially difficult but nonetheless doable. But because this phrase begins with the word “if,” it casts a shadow on whether or not it is truly doable. Maybe peace is attainable; maybe it isn’t. But if it is doable, you are to give it your best shot. For this reason, this phrase could be translated: “If it is doable…”; “If it is feasible…”; or as the King James Version translates it, “If it is possible….”
Paul continued to say, “…As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” The words “as much as lieth in you” come from a mixture of Greek words that means “as far as it depends on you.” This phrase points toward you and me, placing the responsibility of maintaining peace and a good attitude on us, not on the person we find to be so offensive. This clearly means that God is expecting us to do everything we can from our perspective and to give it our best to “live peaceably with all men.”
The words “live peaceably” are from the word eireneuo, a form of the word eirene, which means to live in peace or to possess peace. In Romans 12:18, it carries this idea: “Once you’ve finally obtained peace, you must determine that you are going to do your best to make sure it is maintained and kept.” In other words, instead of being a contributor to the problem, you are to do all you can to be a facilitator of peace!
And notice that Paul said we are to do this with “all men.” In my case, these words “all men” meant I had to live peaceably with the ill-mannered pastor who continually upset me with his offensive behavior. But the words the Holy Spirit used in this verse are unquestionable. The words “all men” is a translation of the words panton anthropon. The word panton is an all-encompassing word that means everyone. The word anthropon comes from anthropos, the Greek word that describes all of mankind, including every male and female of every race, nationality, language, religion, and skin color — no one excluded. There is no phrase in Greek that could be more all encompassing than panton anthropon. It literally embraces the entire human race. It does not say we have to agree with all people or condone their behavior — but as much as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with them.
At the very moment Paul wrote this verse, he and other Christians were facing horrible pagan and religious opposition from those who had no tolerance for “narrow-minded” believers. Yet it was at this same time that the Holy Spirit commanded them through this verse to do everything they could to get along with everyone.
And this same divine command is directed toward us. It doesn’t say to live peaceably only with friends, family, peers, or those who agree with us. It says that if it’s possible, we are to live at peace “with all men.” An interpretive version of Romans 12:18 could be rendered: “If it’s doable at all, then as much as depends on you, be at peace with everyone, no one excluded.”
This verse was so helpful to me when I was learning how to get along with that ill-mannered pastor. I understood that Jesus did not expect me to be his best friend, but Jesus did expect me to give it my best effort to live peacefully in that situation. If being at peace with him meant perhaps not engaging in a lengthy conversation with him, then whatever I had to do, I was determined not to live upset with this man who had been such a source of pain and irritation to me. I had to let it go, let God deal with him, and walk away from my hankering to fix or correct him. As much as it depended on me, from my side, I was going to do whatever was necessary to be at peace with him.
I know that you have relationships that trouble you, as this is true of everyone. If you’re tired of getting upset or being irritated or unsuccessfully trying to correct those individuals, perhaps you should choose the route of simply seeking to be at peace. Negotiation with a difficult person is not always possible, so sometimes the best option is simply doing whatever is necessary to be at peace. This was the message the Holy Spirit spoke to me, and I believe it is the message the Holy Spirit may be speaking to you right now as well.
So if you’re exhausted from trying to fix an unfixable relationship, and yet your contact with that person is inescapable, ask the Holy Spirit to help you deal with your own heart so that you can be at peace even with that person. That difficult relationship is part of the “all men” with whom the Holy Spirit commanded you to be at peace. As stated before, it doesn’t mean that you have to agree with that person, condone what he or she does, or discard your beliefs to obtain peace. It simply means you choose not to enter into the fray with that person any longer. You’ll be more at peace as a result, and you will be unmoved by the difficult people in your life because you have set yourself to be at peace with all men, regardless of what anyone says or does.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I thank You for speaking to my heart today. I repent for my carnal response toward certain people in my life. I confess that I have allowed myself to become irritated with them, and at times I have even been judgmental of them. Today I release forgiveness toward them, and I choose from this point onward to see myself as a force for peace. I purpose in my heart to exercise the patience that is a quality of Your love within me. I ask You for wisdom to know what to say and do and what not to say and do when I am in the presence of these individuals. Thank You for leading and guiding me in each contact I make with them.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I let the peace of God act as umpire continually in my heart, deciding and settling with finality all questions or concerns that arise in my mind. I refuse to be ruled by my emotions, and I am not moved by what I see, feel, or hear. I have the mind of Christ, and I hold the thoughts, feelings, and purposes of His heart. The wisdom of God determines my responses and reactions to those I consider ill-mannered or badly behaved who are not within my realm of authority to correct. I boldly declare that I will not live my life upset or bothered by something I cannot fix. Whatever is necessary to be at peace and to remain at peace is what I will do, as I have been commanded in Romans 12:18.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever considered that you may affect someone who rubs you the wrong way the same way that he or she affects you? Are you sure that you are not somehow contributing to the atmosphere you experience when you are with that person?
- What do you need to do to eliminate the conflict between yourself and that individual? Since Romans 12:18 commands you to do everything from your side to be at peace, what steps do you need to take to obey that verse? Wouldn’t it be worth your time to think this through and perhaps write down a few thoughts about what you could change or do differently to have peace with that individual?
- Is it possible that the person who irritates you is ignorant of his insensitivity or has just never awakened to the impact he is having on others? Why don’t you take a prayerful position for him and leave him in the hands of Jesus?