By Martin Morrison
Paul so often is capable of getting under our skins. For example. If truth be told we too often relish a choice morsel of gossip. Especially of someone who opposed or slighted us in some way. We find a perverse kind of pleasure in their misfortune. And then Paul spoils it all by classifying gossip in the same category as slanderers and haters of God in Romans 1. Like a bucket of cold water, we realize we need to repent.
Here in Romans 12, Paul instructs us in vs 18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all”. Oh Paul, what a most inconvenient truth. Once again, if truth be told, we have a strange kind of victim mentality when it comes to people who have wronged us in some way. It’s not for me to approach them, it’s not for me to take the first step. He said it first! He must apologize! It’s a self-righteous victim mentality. But even worse, what about people we have wronged. Why is she so thin-skinned! Typical, she took it totally out of context! She must just get over it. I didn’t mean it THAT way!
Paul gets totally under our skin, by telling us that in either case, whether wronged or the cause of wrong, it is our duty to live at peace with others. Paul is merely repeating the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5 and Matthew 18, that in either event we are to take the first step in reconciliation. Whoever said that Christianity was a crutch!! A MOST inconvenient truth!
This time of lockdown has many blessings. The one blessing is of extra time. We may not necessarily see it as a blessing but it is. It gives us time to be reconciled with our neighbour. But first you need to close the door. You need to switch off all media. You need to talk to God and ask him to remind you of anyone you need to be reconciled with. Whether it is someone who has wronged you. Or whether it is someone you have wronged. Think back over the last year, the last 2 years, the last 10 years. Oh yes, now it comes back. If you are like me in any way, then a sudden coldness has descended upon you. Did I really do that! Did I really say that! Have I still not forgiven them? Paul says quite plainly, whoever caused the wrong, it is your responsibility to take the first step.
There are however, at least two dangers. The first is to think that others will automatically want to be reconciled with us. Paul is so wise when it comes to human nature. He fully understands that there are times when we have made every effort to be reconciled with another person, yet they are unwilling to reciprocate. How helpful it is when he says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you…”. There are times, when we have tried all we can but the other person refuses to be reconciled. Be at peace says Paul, you’ve done all you can. Relax.
The second danger, which is more from wisdom than a particular text, is that there are times when it is better to let sleeping dogs lie. Sometimes it is unwise to make mountains out of molehills. Very occasionally it is even unwise to make mountain ranges out of mountains. Sometimes it is more loving not to remind someone of some great pain, anguish or heartsore. Sometimes it is we who must carry the burden.
What wisdom we need, to know the difference between making every effort to live at peace and letting sleeping dogs lie! Better to close the door again and talk to God.