If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
So Romans 12:18 urges us. Be at peace with all men. Mark 9:50, likewise, commands us to be at peace with one another. So does I Thessalonians 5:13.
Be at peace. No strife. No strain. No churning of the stomach when you round the aisle at the grocery store and there stands a certain someone. Peace. With all.
Gulp. That's a tall order.
Jesus's commands usually are. Just sayin.
That admonition in Romans is stuck in the middle of some great counsel on how we are to live with others. Loving what is good. Preferring one another, with honor. Serving the Lord with joy and diligence, rejoicing even in adversity, praying, giving, loving on strangers. Giving blessing rather than cursing, even when wronged. Having a spirit of humility and not paying back evil but rather defeating evil with good. Great stuff. Really great stuff.
And smack dab in the middle of it, almost as though the writer is overcome with raw emotion - a reality in his own life, maybe? - he says if possible, as much as it depends on you.
Because reconciliation and restoration require the cooperation of both parties and sometimes only one is willing. That is reality.
Now, this verse isn't giving us an excuse, an escape clause. And I certainly don't want to encourage us to give us pursuing peace just because it gets hard or doesn't seem to work the first several times we try. Not at all Scripture is crystal clear that we are to take the responsibility for reconciliation, to fervently work to restore relationships, to bear the burden of mistreatment in the name of the Good News of Christ. Jesus places such priority on relationships that He tells us in Matthew 5 to delay giving Him our offering until we have made things right with a brother who feels wronged. And in Matthew 18, He gives us instructions on how to handle situations of offense and mistreatment.
So please know that I urge caution at the misapplication of this Romans verse. Restoring relationships is of great importance to Christ (and therefore to us). We must not deceive ourselves to think we can get by with feeble attempts at reconciliation. We must be willing to overlook offenses, absorb mistreatment, and doggedly persist in our attempts to rebuild our broken relationships.
But my heart is so grateful for the comfort of Scriptural reality in Romans 12:18.
I am only responsible for ME.
As much as it depends on me and my obedience to Christ.
And sometimes that means I will have to live with the effects of a relationship in disrepair.
Sometimes the unwillingness of the other person to talk or listen or even acknowledge my presence makes restoration impossible. And I have to live with that.
And in those times, God does not hold me responsible.
But He does hold me. In His everlasting arms. He is my refuge and the restorer of my soul.
And not only does He care, He understands my pain.
Oh, just one more thought.
Don't give up on that relationship. Maybe it doesn't consume your every waking moment but don't quit. God is always at work in the lives of His children. Restoration just might still happen...nothing is impossible with God. Resurrection is His specialty.