Monday, March 09, 2020

Pax Romana - Live Peaceably

The Pax Romana is a roughly 200-year-long period in Roman history which is identified with increased and sustained peace and stability.  Yet, in Paul’s Epistle to the Roman people, he emphasized a greater peace.  A peace with God and a peace From God.  

Little did I realize over Christmas break as I worked on this sermon series for the first time how critical our need was going to be for peace during this present time.  However, it brings me peace to know that God knew, and that He was already planning for our church and my family.

We all are in need of the peace of God today.  Everything around us is closing down.  Uncertainty abounds and in times of uncertainty, we look to God's Word for peace.

Romans 12:9-21 (NKJV)
9  Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11  not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12  rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13  distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17  Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18  If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20  Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." 21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I.          KNOW The Standard of Peace
 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
If it is possible...This implies 3 things.  First, we are to try to de-escalate people who are angry. It seems that this corona virus crisis has put everyone on edge.  Uncertainty does that, and apparently when we don't know what to do, we stock up on toilet paper.  And when the toilet paper is sold out, we get even more agitated.  

The second implication of the text is that we are to go out of our way as Christians to NOT be the one to instigate conflict.  David said in Psalms, "depart from Evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."  Jesus said "if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other one also."

Third of all, it implies that peace is not always possible with everyone.  No doubt life is not always going to go our way and as much as we may try, there are people who do not desire peace.  The writings of Solomon reminds us that there is a time to be born, time to die.  A time for war, a time for peace. 
 If it is possible, as much as depends on you…
Much of the time we act as if we had no part in the blame for the conflict.    On the playground or in divorce court we like to play the victim.  The reality is that the vast majority of time, some of the conflict is because of our own actions and behaviors. The apostle Paul who wrote the book of Romans was not stranger to trouble.

John Philips writes this in his commentary "On Cyprus Paul had to contend with Elymas the sorcerer (Acts 13:8); at Antioch in Pisidia he was driven from the city by persecution (Acts 13:50); in Iconium a general assault was made on him (Acts 14:2, 5); at Lystra the mob stoned him and left him for dead (Acts 14:19); at Antioch in Syria he was opposed by legalists in the church (Acts 15:2); at Philippi he was scourged and imprisoned (Acts 16:22-23); at Thessalonica he was forced out of the city (Acts 17:6-9); at Berea opposition forced him to leave (Acts 17:13-14); at Athens he was publicly mocked (Acts 17:32); at Corinth his presence led to insurrection (Acts 18:12); at Ephesus the whole city was in a tumult because of him (Acts 19:23-41); and at Jerusalem he was repeatedly the center of violent opposition (Acts 21-23). Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34). Although the most conciliatory of men where no vital spiritual issue was concerned, Paul certainly proved this statement true."

 Some have even asserted that Luke wrote the book of Acts as a record for Paul to take to Caesar in Rome to prove he did not start all the trouble he got into.  Let's just say, Paul got beat up a LOT.  The standard of peace is that if it is possible… say it with me… if it is possible, as much as depends on you… live peaceably with all men.(and women… )

Live peaceably with all men... sounds like an impossible task...
This does not mean…, “Be patient for as long as you can, but once your patience runs out, get ready to throw down.” This verse is actually saying, as far as it depends on you, that is, on your side of the relationship, live at peace with everyone. Do everything you can to get along with people, and if they should still harbor a grudge, that’s on them.
If Christians would not engage in slander or be unfair in business dealing, if they would not cause anyone to take them to court for late payment of debts or honesty in business, if they would do nothing to prolong a fight through gossip or social media. It would go a long way toward peace.
So, How do we strive for this life of peace in a divided, conflicted world?  In our next post we will explore some practical ways to be people of peace during stressful times.