by Calven Celliers
In my blog post last week, we considered how Romans 12 is one of those really challenging passages of Scripture because it goes against our very human nature, particularly when it comes to “keeping the peace” with people who are stubborn and defensive and who harden their hearts and resist our efforts to be reconciled.
The apostle Paul introduces us to a principle that applies to every situation where we are dealing with such people – never pay back evil with more evil, rise above this tit for tat philosophy. In other words when someone does something bad to us, we are not to do something bad back to them. Instead, he says, “21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” (Romans 12: 21NLT)
“When he was subjected to intense and repeated personal attacks Paul realised that a true peacemaker is guided, motivated and empowered by their identity in Christ. This identity is based on faith in the most amazing promise we could ever hear: God has forgiven all our sins and made peace with us through the death and resurrection of His Son. And He has given us freedom and power to turn from sin (and conflict), to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and to be His ambassadors of reconciliation. It is the realization of who we are in Christ that inspires us to do the unnatural work of dying to self, confessing sin, addressing others’ wrongs graciously, laying down rights, and forgiving deep hurts – even with people who persist in opposing or mistreating us.” (The Peace Maker – Ken Sande)
God has given us divine weapons to use in this quest. These weapons include Scripture, prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Too many people, these resources and qualities seem feeble and useless when dealing with ‘real problems’, but these are the very weapons Jesus Christ Himself used to defeat Satan.
In Romans 12 Paul describes five basic principles that contribute to a victorious offensive and how we can use them with people who we are at loggerheads with.
 Control your tongue – When you are involved in conflict, you may be tempted to indulge in gossip, slander and reckless words, especially when the other person is saying the same kind of things about you. But if you react with harsh words, you only make matters worse. The challenge for us is to respond in grace by saying only what is true, necessary and helpful.
 Seek godly advisors – I’ve come to see that if in you’re in a prolonged conflict with a lack of any noticeable progress, one of the best ways to try resolve the issue is to surround yourself with wise and spiritually mature people who will encourage you to stay on a biblical course. Don’t fight these battles in isolation.
 Keep doing what is right – We as Christians are to continue doing the right thing even when others don’t cooperate. When Paul says that we must do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable, he is telling us to behave and conduct ourselves in such a way that anyone who is watching us will acknowledge that what we did was right.
 Recognize your limits – It’s important when you’re dealing with difficult people to recognize your own limits. Even when you try and always be the better person and do what is right, some people will adamantly refuse to live at peace with you. Whilst you can do everything you can to be reconciled to others, remember this, you cannot force others to do what is right.
“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.” (Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend – Boundaries)
 Use the ultimate weapon – The ultimate weapon is best described as deliberate, focused love. Instead of reacting spitefully to those who mistreat you, Jesus wants you to discern their deepest needs and do all you can to meet those needs.
I warned you this is a challenging portion of Scripture! But let us never lose sight of the truth that “with man this impossible, but with God all things are possible.”