“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
I am a middle child; in fact, I cannot be more “middle” – I am the third child of five with an older brother and older sister and a younger brother and a younger sister. I like peace and can tend toward people pleasing to keep the peace.
I embrace and shun the command in the verse above. I am freed up that the words of the Apostle Paul under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration make is clear that I can only do so much to live at peace with others. I may not feel from the person a sense of peace but can rest in doing my part.
In the same breath, I am weighed down by the effort it takes to “live at peace with everyone” especially when there’s ongoing conflict or prickly interactions (this is my word for when you bump up against someone while interacting and feel the prickle). AND yet this side of heaven we continually face our brokenness and the brokenness of others.
I am learning two principles among others which make living at peace possible. The first is RELEASE. The word means: Allow or enable to escape from confinement; set free. When I hold onto an offense, the person is held prisoner in my mind. I feed him or her and keep the prisoner alive by reviewing the offense, pondering why the person acted the way they did, what I wish I would have said and other such thoughts.
I am not saying to avoid reflection. It is wise to ask God to help you see the person and the incident from His perspective. It may mean seeking out counsel to help process it. I find it freeing to name the offense by “telling on the person” to God – I was undermined, excluded, shamed, violated, criticized, treated unfairly, ignored when I expressed a need, etc. However, it is unhealthy to rehearse the offense over and over again in your mind for the sake of punishing the prisoner by bringing it up to the person through your thoughts.
RELEASE means we say to the prisoner, “I let you go free in spite of the hurt you caused me.” Acknowledging this doesn’t mean the person gets away with wrongdoing. You are abdicating the role of judge and giving that responsibility to your Heavenly Father. If the hurt comes back to mind, affirm, “I have released him or her. I have forgiven (name the person or people) because Jesus gives me the strength to forgive as He has forgiven me.” (Colossians 3:13) You may have to declare your release numerous times before you are completely free depending on how deeply you were wounded.
The second principle is to let go of feeling like the person OWES YOU SOMETHING. Through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross God extends forgiveness to believers completely without asking for anything in return. (Colossians 2:14) What do you feel like the person owes you? I know I’d like to have heard an apology on numerous occasions. Do you feel like he or she owes you an explanation, a validation of your feelings, appreciation for who you are, a re-do of the situation, a heart to make it right, evidence that the person is suffering for what he or she did, respectful interaction, and other such “payments”? If you are not able to put into words what you think the person owes you, talk to God about it.
Then stare the prisoner in the face as he or she walks out of the cell and say, YOU OWE ME NOTHING. Remember our Heavenly Father is able to make up all deficits and to heal our hearts so that we are more whole because of the experience of His love and strength as we surrender to His work in us through the pain. He is always compassionate and able to work all difficulties we experience with other people for our good and His glory.
Oh sister, I pray for the wounds you experienced and may be experiencing. I am with you in the confusion and hurt. What is God showing you?