Welcome to the fourth and final week of our Cultivate Peace series. We hope that you’ve been encouraged by these opportunities to dig into God’s word about the pursuit of peace. If you missed any of this series, you can find all the posts here. While each writer offered a different perspective, one truth remained the same:
REAL peace is found in Jesus.
As we finish out this series, Christmas is just around the corner. Maybe this is a season of reflection and rest for you. Maybe it feels a bit more like chaos and commotion. Maybe this Christmas doesn’t look at all how you thought it would. Regardless of where you sit today or in the days ahead, know this…you are wholly and completely loved by a God who is not swayed by circumstance. Yesterday, today, and forever more He is your Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. We pray that as you draw near to Him, as you cultivate His word and His presence into your heart and life, you would not only grow to be more like Him, but you would know His peace.
We wish you love, peace, and kindness this Christmas,
The Cultivate Team
—Cultivate Peace in Community—
Most people avoid conflict. Can you blame them? Friendships are on the line, feelings are at stake, and the price to pay for relational difficulties can be a high one, indeed. Most people enjoy the peace that comes with harmony and a lack of competition. Most people want that beautiful, beige existence that comes with neutrality.
I am not most people.
From a young age, I was deemed feisty. Sassy. Competitive. As soon as I could talk, I began to challenge everyone in all aspects of life. It didn’t matter whether or not I understood the topic, I’d argue my way around it. My whole life has been navigated via minor disputes, and I love it. I took a Meyers-Briggs personality test and discovered the very thrill I receive from a healthy debate is rare. Only 3% of the population has my debater-personality type, but most people don’t appreciate my pleasure in quarreling.
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone.”
Romans 12:18 NIV
Uh, excuse me? I just came clean with the fact that I take pleasure in disagreements. I want to point out the holes in other’s philosophies, and highlight the errors in their speech. I accumulate and hoard facts and knowledge just to use it against people. How on earth can someone like me attempt to live at peace with everyone?
When I was first mulling over this verse, I was coming to terms with what seems to be an end of a friendship. It seemed like I was such a fraud, a failure. I clearly wasn’t at peace with everyone. But you know what? This verse actually brought encouragement, because it doesn’t all depend on me. I don’t have to “fix” a situation or another person. God can work on their heart. I need only worry about who/what I am in charge of—myself.
There is no caveat in Romans 12:18. It doesn’t matter if our personality type is a debater or if that girl was so unabashedly rude, we are to behave peacefully (and lovingly). God doesn’t just know us, He created us. He understands that there will be strife among us, and not all of it will be enjoyable. And yet, He still expects us, if it is possible, as far as it depends on us, to live at peace with everyone.
Living at peace might mean:
Trying to understand the perspective of others, even if we disagree.
Accepting when we’re wrong.
Accepting that, sometimes, people may have the wrong opinion of us.
Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and refraining from delivering biting words that will cut deep.
Forgiving our offender, even if we don’t think they deserve it, just like God forgave us. That is grace.
We will make mistakes. Our friends, husbands, sisters, colleagues, Starbucks baristas (yes, even these sacred keepers of the caffeine) will make mistakes. We cannot live in a constant state of grievance due to the mistakes of others.
We show peace even if it is not being shown to us.
Living at peace means accepting people where they are on their journey and meeting them there, not getting annoyed that they haven’t caught up. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and yet, He loves every one of us. God loves you.
Romans 12:18 also tells us to live at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you.
What can we do to cultivate peace with our community?
Can we reach out?
Can we sincerely apologize for our own actions and words?
Have we prayed about it? Have we done everything we can?
There will be times when we will work through all those questions and yet, it isn’t better. At that point, we must release our grip and ask God to take over. We show grace. We are kind. Sometimes being at peace, means distancing yourself.
A couple of weeks ago I witnessed my four-year-old go through the painful experience of a “friend” mistreating him. It makes me cry just thinking about it. He wanted to play, but the other boy refused because he wanted to play with someone else. He even told my son to “go away.” My sweet, innocent little guy was so confused. What I said to him rings true for me—sometimes a “friend” might hurt your heart, no matter how nice you are being. It’s up to you to step away, to find a new activity or play with someone else.
As an adult, that can look like being the bigger person. Being the bigger person is never noticeable to the one who isn’t being the bigger person, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because it’s what’s right. Hurting someone that hurt us never fixes the situation.
Personally, I’m still working on this. Every day I struggle with who I am being at odds with what God wants. I need to extend more grace, and look at everyone the way God does. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for all of you, because God wants peace. God instructs us to be the peacemakers, whether or not we enjoy friendly conflict. 😉
LET’S DIG DEEPER:
- How do you deal with conflict? Do you take time to address it, or ignore and avoid it all together? How does that effect your life and relationships?
- Re-read Romans 12:18 and take a minute to pray. Ask God if there are any relationships in your life where you need to pursue peace. As far as it depends on you (NOT what would they need to do), what would it look like for you be at peace with that individual or group?
- Can you take the first step toward cultivating peace? If that is not possible, will you entrust this situation to God and allow Him to take over?
- Peace in community is not cut and dry. Continue to reflect on the truth of God’s word and allow Him to show you the next steps. Pray over your heart, and the hearts of those with whom you have conflict. Share your thoughts with people you trust to give you wise counsel and godly encouragement. If you don’t have trusted community in your life to support you, we are here for you.
Being connected in community is so important to our spiritual growth. If you’re ready to join a group, you can find one here.
Dunya Ahrns is part millennial, full Russian, and only half-listening. She loves literature, writing, unsweetened tea, and thinks Frasier was one of the best television shows ever created. Dunya has enjoyed Cultivate since 2013 and has led a women’s small group for a few years. She currently serves on the Creative/Communications Team at Sandals Church where she happily gets to point out the (grammatical) mistakes of others in the name of Jesus. Dunya has played tennis since the age of two, and her ideal day is spent at a museum to feed her pompous side, followed by Baker’s to feed the hungry one.