Sin resides in the hearts of all men. Even as believers, we are not perfect. Sin creates chaos and destruction, and even among God’s people it can create discord, disunity and strife. We know that we will face conflict. Ronald Reagan conveyed, “Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.” Even in the midst of difficulty, believers have the ability to respond biblically to conflict and, “as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). In order to live at peace, we must first deal with our own sin.
When you sin against someone, it is your responsibility to go and make it right with them. You are required to seek forgiveness for what you have done wrong. Neglecting to do so does not promote peace and leaves room for people to become bitter towards you. Whenever there is conflict we must check our own hearts to see how we’ve sinned. Note I did not say if we have sinned, because it is probable in conflict that both have sinned. Perhaps we did not initiate the conflict, but our response in the midst may have been sinful. Whatever the circumstance, we must always begin with our own hearts.
Sometimes we are not or do not see ourselves as the cause of a relationship problem. Occasionally the reason we face conflict is because someone has sinned against us. How can we be at peace with someone who has hurt us? Whenever your brother sins against you, you are called to take the log out of your own eye before going to him (Matt. 7:5). This is to see that you indeed have cleansed your heart in the matter and go in a spirit of love and with a desire for restoration. Often times our views of others’ sins are skewed and turned into something huge, while we see our own sin as minute or perhaps not even sin. But God will hold all of us accountable, and our response to someone’s sin will be just as crucial as the sin that is committed against us.
Despite our desire for peace, in some circumstances we are unable to make complete peace. As Romans 12:18 says, we are to pursue peace as far as it depends on us. We must never give up on reaching peace and reconciliation with others, but since we cannot change others’ hearts, there are times when full reconciliation is not possible. In such circumstances we must not retaliate but instead entrust ourselves to the God who judges justly.
The reason we are not at peace with others is first an indicator of our relationship with God. If our relationship with God is not in order we cannot expect to have peace with others. The book of James says that conflict comes because of the wrong desires within us. We have to recognize those wrong desires and put forth the effort to seek God and His righteousness to live peaceably with others. While we won’t be perfect, our resolve to live at peace with others as far as it depends on us will shine forth brightly to a world desperate for peace.