The dominant theme of Romans 12 is sacrificial love—how believers express it and how we prove it by the way we live. The apostle Paul submits that a true Christian strives to love others sacrificially and authentically, including one’s enemies, but especially members of Christ’s body, the church. He closes the passage with a quick pep talk, listing several practical exhortations on demonstrating love to all people in every circumstance (see Romans 12:9–21). In this context, Paul states, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18, ESV).
We know from the Beatitudes that “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Kingdom people are called to be peacemakers who “plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18, NLT).
We demonstrate genuine Christian love by doing everything within our power to live at peace with everyone. This is a tall order, particularly if we’ve been mistreated, but this is precisely what Paul has in mind, for he says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17) and “Do not take revenge” (verse 19). As the old saying goes, “It takes two to argue.” If we don’t fight back or repay “wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else” (1 Thessalonians 5:15), then the fighting stops with us. In a parallel encouragement, Peter teaches, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
Reminiscent of Jesus’ command to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44), Paul urges, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14). The best way to deal with an enemy is to treat him with goodness and kindness in the hopes of winning him over for Christ (see Proverbs 25:21–22). We must leave the work of vengeance and punishing sin to God (Deuteronomy 32:35, 41; Ecclesiastes 12:14). Believers are called to “peaceful and quiet” living so as not to hinder or harm the work of the gospel (1 Timothy 2:1–4).
Division among believers damages the body of Christ and the ministry of the gospel (Galatians 5:15). When the disciples argued about who will be regarded as the greatest among them (see Mark 9:34, Luke 9:46, and Luke 22:24), Jesus told them to “be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50). Paul urges the believers in Corinth to “strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
In Romans 14:19, Paul encourages, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (see also 1 Thessalonians 5:13). The writer of Hebrews affirms, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone” (Hebrews 12:14). The psalmist echoes, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
How can we live peaceably with all people? The first step is experiencing peace with God through a relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1; John 16:33). God’s presence and peace in our lives are foundational (Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20–21; Romans 14:17). Only with the peace of Christ ruling in our hearts are we able to live at peace with other people (Colossians 3:15). And since peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22; Romans 8:6), we must depend on the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts to become successful peacemakers in this world.
An excellent motivator for living at peace with other believers is our fellowship in Christ as one interconnected body, which “makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other” (1 Corinthians 12:25, NLT; see 1 Corinthians 12:12–30). “So it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (Romans 12:5, NLT). We keep the peace by letting go of our pride (Romans 12:16), by choosing to forgive one another (Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:21–22; Luke 6:37; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13), and by dying to our selfish wants in sacrificial love for others (Philippians 2:1–4).
It is our job to strive to live peaceably with all people, whether friend or foe, brother or enemy, Christian or non-believer. Unfortunately, there are times when, no matter what we do, we won’t be able to live peaceably with everyone. For this reason, Paul includes two conditions: “if possible” and “so far as it depends on you.” Complete reconciliation and peaceful coexistence require cooperation from two parties. If the other person is unwilling to reconcile or live in harmony, peacemaking becomes impossible. And, if making peace involves some moral or biblical compromise on our part, then peace in its fullest sense is not appropriate or expected of us.