Simple Instructions

“Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” Romans 12:18 NLT

The Bible gives simple instructions for living peaceably by resolving differences.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple instructions.”

Hours ago, I was trying to fix a problem, unsuccessfully at first. My computer and the wireless printer had trouble “communicating.” They seemed perfectly happy working together until a month or so ago. With no explanation, the printer stopped cooperating. I read the instructions, but instructions make sense only to the people who already understand them. Life is a lot like that; it’s simple when life works as it should. The Bible gives fairly simple instructions for one of life’s more common but complex problems – living peaceably by resolving differences that strain relationships. Though such relational challenges are inevitable according to Scripture, most do not have to remain unsolvable. Unity is paramount with God. Read Psalm 133 NKJV.

Who enjoys the strain and stress of unresolved differences with others? Few people, if any, I would surmise. Jesus warned, “How terrible for the world that there are things that make people lose their faith! Such [offences] will always happen – but how terrible for the one who causes them.” Matthew 18:7 TEV. Marriages are strained; families suffer; friendships grow tense. Situations will occur that impose a breach of trust between people. That should not happen. In a perfect world that would not happen, but our fallen world is far from perfect and we are fallen, imperfect people with strong, independent wills that breed disagreements and conflict.

Paul seemed to grasp the bigger picture of disagreements when writing his letter to the Christians at Rome. Read Romans 12:16-21 NLT. Paul’s advice is simple: “Practice humility.” “Don’t think you know it all.” Isn’t that where most differences begin? Somebody assumes they know everything they need to know about the situation and its apparently single solution. When that happens, ears deafen; hearts harden. Listen to each other with a loving heart and open mind. They may still be wrong but you will better understand why they think they are right. And maybe, just maybe, you might see where you also are wrong and find common ground that honors God and saves a friendship.

Paul addresses the natural escalation of reaction; what begins small can quickly become a big deal that increasingly separates people, unless someone does something selfless to reverse the process. Paul shares a simple instruction, “Don’t get even.” “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone . . never avenge yourself. Leave that to God . . don’t let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.” In fourth grade, my teacher taught us a valuable life-lesson, “When two dogs fight in a flower bed, the only things that get settled are the flowers.” As a nine year old, her word-picture of the futility of conflicts became indelible; as an adult, I have seen its simple truth where lives, not flower beds, suffered.

Rarely is a single individual the only one at fault. All likely share some fault, and each has a Biblical responsibility to initiate efforts at reconciliation. Paul instructs, “Do your part first.” Then God can do what you could not. “Live in harmony with each other . . do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible.” You won’t resolve every dispute but you can make every effort to “live in peace, as much as possible.” You do not control how others behave, but you can choose how you will. Read Matthew 6:23-24 /18:15-22 NKJV. Whether offender or offended, make a Godly initiative for reconciliation. See Matthew 5:9-16.

My prayer for you today is that you learn to accept God’s ways as always the best way.