How To Be at Peace With EveryoneMay 11, 2018
In my letter to you this month, I want to talk about what you must do to obtain peace with difficult people. This subject has been on my heart for months, and I pray that what I share with you today is helpful.
ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS
- Do you know anyone who rubs you the wrong way so badly that when you walk away from that person, you feel as if 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?
- Have you ever had the thought that you may be rubbing that person the wrong way as well?
LET ME GIVE YOU A BRIEF TESTIMONY
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 precious 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 at the outset of this testimony that the majority of horrible relational situations can be turned around if you will obey what God tells you to do in Romans 12:18, which I will share with you today.
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 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. 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. I knew I had to get along with this man. But trying to draw close to him was like trying to hug a cactus. I got jabbed and stabbed every time I came near!
I tried to convince myself that my inner conflict with this pastor was simply 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, at that time, he was simply an offensive person. He knew he was offensive; he enjoyed it and had no intention of changing. And the way I felt for his treatment of 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 pastor 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. So what was I to do in this situation?
This man and I were 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 his company. It was impossible for me to avoid this man, so I began to ask the Lord to help me know how to get along with him so that I didn’t leave upset every time the two of us had to be at the same place.
THE ANSWER THE LORD GAVE ME
ABOUT HOW TO DEAL WITH A DIFFICULT PERSON
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. I believe these answers will also help you know how to deal with someone who may rub you the wrong way!
I want you to notice that the apostle Paul began 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 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! However, 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 that we think is so offensive. This means 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 to live in peace or to possess peace. In Romans 12:18, it carries the 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!
DOES GOD REALLY EXPECT US
TO BE AT PEACE WITH EVERYONE?
Notice that Paul said we are to do our best to achieve this state of peace with “all men.” The words “all men” are 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, and religion — 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.
This command is directed toward us. It doesn’t say to live peaceably only with friends, family, 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 my best efforts toward living peaceably 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, I was going to do whatever was necessary to be at peace with him.
I know that you have relationships that trouble you, because this is true of everyone. If you’re tired of being upset or irritated — or of unsuccessfully trying to correct those individuals, perhaps you should simply seek 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.
ARE YOU EXHAUSTED FROM
TRYING TO FIX AN UNFIXABLE RELATIONSHIP?
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.
If you’ll obey this scripture, 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. Does this help you?
This afternoon, I am sitting here writing you this letter and praying for God to touch our partners, to answer their needs and requests, and to enrich their lives. That prayer certainly includes you! You are so important to us. I pray for you in the morning when I wake up, and at night before I go to sleep. You are on our hearts all the time. If you have a specific need for prayer, please let us know, and Denise and I and our team will pray immediately when we hear from you. This is such a serious matter to us, and we promise that we’ll go to God on your behalf if you’ll let us know about your need. And before I finish, I want to say THANK YOU for the amazing gifts and offerings you send to our ministry. You are impacting the world with the Good News of Jesus Christ!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families