Does the title of this post surprise you? Let’s look at our passage and go from there:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on YOU live at peace with all men” – Romans 12:18
The “if” makes this a conditional sentence meaning that it is not always possible to live at peace in your relationships. Why? Because in any relationship there are two people involved that have a part; therefore, by definition, true biblical peace is not always possible. “You” in this verse means that you have your part that God wants you to focus on while the other person has his or her part. There are three relational scenarios played out by Christians that this verse addresses and only one is biblical. Let’s take a look:
(1) The ‘co-dependent’ takes on both parts and has (sometimes demands) a false peace.
As a recovering co-dependent myself I know that this verse is uncomfortable to us “fix it now” people. A codependent does not know emotionally where they end and the other person begins. Trust me I know not just through biblical knowledge alone but I know existentially through experience! Now, when I was a codependent I not only had my own relationships, but I took on the added burden of someone else’s relationship and “fought for and on the behalf of” the person that I was codependent with. For me, I was codependent with a few people and this was exhausting. Like all codependents my heart was in the right place because I thought that I was helping, but at the end of the day I was causing more damage than I thought because I was getting in God’s way by playing God myself.
Seriously, I would literally “feel” the wound of the other person through misplaced pity and sense of responsibility and “fight others for them” as if it was me that was injured. I “took on” the “injury” of the other, inserted myself in their place, and caused more relational damage as I tried to fix the relational damage for them. The problem was that I, with limited knowledge, was playing God whom has unlimited knowledge. In addition, my “knowledge” was often times filled with lies and ½ truths as my desire to help was taken advantage of, on the other hand God’s knowledge is all truth and nobody takes advantage of God! Many of my rescue operations failed even the ones that I thought were a success because I am not God and I never let a person feel the consequences of his or her actions. I remember the thought coming to my mind from the Lord one day, “Pete, please stop jumping in and stepping on my nail torn toes! I cannot heal what they cannot feel.” It was as if I was reminded that I was putting healing balm on a cancer. Cancer needs removed not covered!
This was an important revelation for me. Think about it for a moment, what makes a person realize the need for Jesus Christ? It is when he or she first realizes that “I am a sinner.” Only sinners need saviors! If a person never feels the relational consequences of their sin because someone jumps in to the rescue them then they will never feel the real need for a savior. How can a person desire to be justified before God through Jesus Christ when they feel justified before me a fellow sinner? Having no consequences for sin leaves a person to feel justified in their sin and ask: “what sin?” Tough love is tough stuff!
My first opportunity to not be codependent was a difficult test, but I passed and the Lord gave me more and more difficult tests in this area to which I can happily report that I am completely healed from codependency. God has provided me many opportunities to help others in this area that is epidemic in our culture as the family continues to be torn apart and the children become parental pawns. One of the books outside of the Bible that helped me a lot is “Changes That Heal” by Dr. John Townsend. It is in the Kindle store for $4.74 and would be a crime for you not to purchase this book! Click on the link above and it will direct you to Amazon.
The church is a magnet for the codependent, and a codependent Pastor is a Pastor that will fall and fall hard. They are “people pleasers” and not “God pleasers”. This is an absolutely dangerous reversal of what Jesus Himself said was the proper order of the entire Bible: (1) Love God; (2) Love people.
If you reverse the order then you are in the dangerous position of arrogantly telling God “I got this one because I know how to love better that you Lord”. Tell the codependent Christian worker that and they will be shocked! I am so grateful that I allowed God into this painful area for healing before I went into ministry. I couldn’t imagine feeling overly “responsible” for failed marriages under my care when one or both spouses did not care to reconcile and heal. This is a suicide starter kit. I am glad that God gave me the wisdom to invest in the right people. I will work hard in partnership with the couple that wants to first partner with God and I will not work with the couple who themselves do not care about God or their marriage. A codependent Christian worker on the other hand would overly care for them and be exhausted and feel frustrated and like a failure when the divorce goes through as if it was his fault asking “if only I…”
Ok, off to scenario number two
(2) There is the ‘independent’ who is prideful and never does their part, through ownership of sin by asking forgiveness.
This often occurs when a person is seriously injured by someone and reacts to that hurt in an unbiblical manner. No matter how “small” it appears when compared to the sin that caused the response, there is almost always something that you will need to ask for forgiveness for. This is important as it does a couple of things.
First, it activates the grace of God as you, by example, demonstrate how to own your sins by seeking forgiveness for your part. I say for your part because you must resist #1 above by trying to have “peace at all costs” which costs you your very self in the process and sets you up for the stacking effect of injury. What I call “stacking” occurs when one unresolved sin stacks onto another, then another, and so on. This is how walls are created brick by brick and walls close you in and always leads to bitterness. You cannot own or blow off the sin that is not yours to own. I will deal with the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation in a later post because there is much confusion in Christian circles regarding this important issue. Why the confusion? No investment. No time spent in the Bible leads to no Bible spent in time. (Hey I’m Irish so I am a sucker for making limericks)
Second, it removes you from the equation so that you do not block the light of the cross, unless of course a codependent jumps into the mix blocking the light of Christ. Let me use an illustration.
Here is what the person sees: Person –> You –>Cross
Imagine the person seeing your face as they focus on your reaction and not their initial action that caused it. Ever had that happen? Now let me meddle a bit and reverse the question: have you ever done that to someone?
If you ask for forgiveness for your reaction then your face is removed from blocking the light of the cross. Now you ask for forgiveness for how you reacted and be specific!!!!!! I do not let my own kids get away with a lame “ah, em, I’m sorry” and our heavenly Father will not let you as an adult get away with it either. For example, please forgive me for saying _______________. Make no excuses.
Now here is what the person sees: Person ———->Cross
Now off to scenario number 3.
(3) There is the ‘God-dependent’ whom does their part by taking ownership and asking forgiveness and waits patiently in FAITH for God to do His part no matter how long it takes.
Here is an important step: controlling expectations! I would recommend that you have low or no expectations levied on the other person. It is important that the only expectations that you have are for yourself before the Lord. For instance, I have personally asked for forgiveness for my reaction, sometimes over-reaction, only to have it met with complete silence. I had a false expectation that clearly this would be reciprocated and we can move forward. It was not, so I felt angry and upset about it then I left. I realized my mistake and asked the Lord to forgive me. Be ok with it because you must answer to God for your part. When you stand before the Lord upon your death He will be judging you on your part “as far as it depended on YOU did you live at peace with all men”. I could not imagine staring at His wounds and saying “But Jesus he or she hurt me by __________.” Something tells me that my wounds will look extremely small by comparison as I look upon Him who was pierced, beaten, and crucified unjustly and without cause.
Folks, no matter what, as a Christian, you have to do your part no matter how hurt you are or what percent you believe that you own. If it is 5% your fault, pray and the number will increase I promise. You have to answer to God and nobody else.
In all three scenarios, there is a dangerous temptation to take revenge, which is why verse 17 is before verse 18
“Do not repay evil with evil…” Romans 12:17
But verse 18 is followed by verse 19 promising that God will step in eventually and He will take care of it His way:
“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath…” Romans 12:19
In conclusion, try to avoid scenarios one and two above due to impatience by you waiting for the Lord and remember the Lord has a lot of broken relationships Himself. Ah, surprised? Let me ask you a question: Did Jesus Christ offer forgiveness to the whole world?
Is the whole world reconciled to Jesus Christ?
So if Jesus Christ cannot force people to be reconciled in relationship with Him then how can you believe that you can force people to be in a reconciled relationship with you? As a matter of fact, a relationship with Jesus Christ will cause incredible dissension and relational turmoil for you as it did for him. Actually, relational turmoil is a promise! (Click here and see Matthew 10:32-38)
Take these steps, pray, and accept reality:
Step #1: While you wait on the Lord, do not force the issue due to lack of patience but be approachable and graceful when you see the person.
Step #2: Make sure that you owned you part with clarity and humility.
Step #3: Avoid the temptation to slander or try and force the person again about how they need to “be reconciled and own their stuff”. They know!
Step #4: Remember that you have the responsibility for your relationships not everyone elses:
“Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him” Proverbs 26:17
Note: If you are a third party “passer by” close to the situation do not assume that you know who should do what because you heard one side of the situation. “The first to plead his case seems right until another comes along to question him” Proverbs 18:17
Step #5: Be in community with other godly men or women that can support you and hold you accountable for your part.
May God richly bless you as you continue to discover God’s will through the power of the Word of God!
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Merry Christmas Until He Returns,
Peter P. Lackey, Jr.