“Be Peaceable With All Men”
“If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be peaceable with all men.”
1, 2. (a) What warning did Jesus give to his followers? (b) Where can we find counsel on how to react to opposition?
JESUS warned his followers that they would meet up with opposition from the nations of the world, and on the evening preceding his death, he explained why. He said to his apostles: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”
2 The apostle Paul experienced the truthfulness of Jesus’ words. In his second letter to his young companion Timothy, Paul wrote: “You have closely followed my teaching, my course of life, my purpose, my faith, my long-suffering, my love, my endurance, my persecutions, my sufferings.” Then Paul added: “In fact, all those desiring to live with godly devotion in association with Christ Jesus will also be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:10-12) In chapter 12 of his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul gave wise counsel on how they should react to opposition. His words can give us guidance in this time of the end.
“Provide Fine Things”
3, 4. How can the counsel given at Romans 12:17 be applied (a) in a religiously divided home? (b) in our dealings with neighbors?
3 Read Romans 12:17. Paul explained that when faced with hostility, we should not retaliate in kind. Heeding his counsel is particularly important in homes that are religiously divided. The Christian mate resists the temptation to repay an unkind word or act with another unkindness. No good comes from ‘returning evil for evil.’ On the contrary, such an attitude can only aggravate the situation.
4 Paul recommends a better way: “Provide fine things in the sight of all men.” In the domestic setting, a wife who shows genuine kindness to her husband after he makes unpleasant comments about her beliefs may well defuse a potentially explosive situation. (Prov. 31:12) Carlos, now a member of a Bethel family, relates how his mother overcame the strong opposition of his father by remaining kind and taking proper care of the home. “She encouraged us children always to be respectful to him. She insisted that I play boules (a French bowling game) with him even though it was not my favorite game. But it did put him in a good mood.” He eventually began to study the Bible and got baptized. As to providing “fine things in the sight of all men,” Jehovah’s Witnesses have often overcome prejudice by providing practical assistance to their neighbors when a disaster strikes.
Melting Opposition With “Fiery Coals”
5, 6. (a) In what sense are “fiery coals” heaped upon the head of an enemy? (b) Relate a local experience that shows how applying the counsel found at Romans 12:20 can yield good results.
5 Read Romans 12:20. In choosing the words recorded in this verse, Paul doubtless had in mind what we read at Proverbs 25:21, 22: “If the one hating you is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For coals are what you are raking together upon his head, and Jehovah himself will reward you.” In view of his counsel found in Romans chapter 12, Paul could hardly have meant that the illustrative coals were to inflict punishment or shame upon an opposer. Rather, the proverb
6 Like “fiery coals,” acts of kindness can warm the hearts of opposers and perhaps melt down their hostility. Kind actions can win people over to a more favorable attitude toward Jehovah’s people and the Bible message they preach. The apostle Peter wrote: “Maintain your conduct fine among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your fine works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.”
“Be Peaceable With All Men”
7. What is the peace that Christ leaves with his disciples, and what should it move us to do?
7 Read Romans 12:18. During the last evening that Jesus spent with his apostles, he told them: “I leave you peace, I give you my peace.” (John 14:27) The peace that Christ leaves with his disciples is the inner calm they experience when they feel that they are loved and approved by Jehovah God and his beloved Son. This inner peace should move us to live peaceably with others. Genuine Christians are peace lovers and peacemakers.
8. How can we be peacemakers at home and in our congregation?
8 One way to be a peacemaker within the family circle is to settle disagreements as quickly as possible rather than allow situations to deteriorate. (Prov. 15:18; Eph. 4:26) This also holds true within the Christian congregation. The apostle Peter links the pursuit of peace with restraint of the tongue. (1 Pet. 3:10, 11) James too, after giving firm counsel on the proper use of the tongue and the need to avoid jealousy and contentiousness, wrote: “The wisdom from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey, full of mercy and good fruits, not making partial distinctions, not hypocritical. Moreover, the fruit of righteousness has its seed sown under peaceful conditions for those who are making peace.”
9. While trying to be “peaceable with all men,” what should we keep in mind?
9 In his statement found at Romans 12:18, Paul goes beyond the need to be peaceable within the family circle and in the congregation. He says that we should be “peaceable with all men.” That includes neighbors, fellow employees, schoolmates, and people we meet in our public ministry. The apostle qualifies his counsel, however, saying: “If possible, as far as it depends upon you.” That means doing all we reasonably can to be “peaceable with all” but not to the extent of compromising God’s righteous principles.
Vengeance Belongs to Jehovah
10, 11. In what sense do we “yield place to the wrath,” and why is this appropriate?
10 Read Romans 12:19. Even with “those not favorably disposed” toward our work and our message, including outright opposers, we will keep ourselves “restrained under evil” and act “with mildness.” (2 Tim. 2:23-25) Paul counsels Christians not to avenge themselves but to “yield place to the wrath.” To whose wrath is Paul referring? He could hardly mean that we should give free rein to our own wrath. Clearly, we yield place to God’s wrath. As Christians, we know that it does not belong to us to take vengeance. The psalmist wrote: “Let anger alone and leave rage; do not show yourself heated up only to do evil.” (Ps. 37:8) And Solomon counseled: “Do not say: ‘I will pay back evil!’ Hope in Jehovah, and he will save you.”
11 If opposers do us harm, the wise course is to leave it to Jehovah to punish them if and when he sees fit. Showing that he had Jehovah’s wrath in mind, Paul added: “It is written: ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, says Jehovah.’” (Compare Deuteronomy 32:35.) Were we to try to avenge ourselves, we would be acting presumptuously, taking it upon ourselves to do what Jehovah has reserved as his prerogative. Furthermore, we would be showing a lack of faith in Jehovah’s promise: “I will repay.”
12. When will Jehovah’s wrath be revealed, and how?
12 Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul stated: “God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth in an unrighteous way.” (Rom. 1:18) Jehovah’s wrath will be revealed from heaven by means of his Son at the time of “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) That will be “proof of the righteous judgment of God,” as Paul explained in another of his inspired letters: “This takes into account that it is righteous on God’s part to repay tribulation to those who make tribulation for you, but, to you who suffer tribulation, relief along with us at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with his powerful angels in a flaming fire, as he brings vengeance upon those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news about our Lord Jesus.”
Conquering Evil With Good
13, 14. (a) Why are we not surprised when we encounter opposition? (b) How can we bless those who persecute us?
13 Read Romans 12:14, 21. Fully confident that Jehovah will fulfill his purposes, we can safely concentrate all our efforts on the work he has given us to do
14 Rather than feeling animosity toward our persecutors, we try to enlighten them, realizing that some among them may be acting out of ignorance. (2 Cor. 4:4) We endeavor to heed Paul’s counsel: “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing.” (Rom. 12:14) One way to bless opposers is to pray for them. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Continue to love your enemies, to do good to those hating you, to bless those cursing you, to pray for those who are insulting you.” (Luke 6:27, 28) The apostle Paul knew from his own experience that a persecutor can become a faithful disciple of Christ and a zealous servant of Jehovah. (Gal. 1:13-16, 23) In another letter, Paul stated: “When being reviled, we bless; when being persecuted, we bear up; when being defamed, we entreat.”
15. What is the best way to conquer evil with good?
15 Accordingly, a true Christian heeds the closing verse of Romans chapter 12: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” The source of all evil is Satan the Devil. (John 8:44; 1 John 5:19) In the revelation given to the apostle John, Jesus revealed that his anointed brothers have “conquered [Satan] because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their witnessing.” (Rev. 12:11) This shows that the best way to conquer Satan and the evil influence he is exercising over the present system of things is to do good by our work of witnessing, preaching the good news of the Kingdom.
Rejoicing in the Hope
16, 17. What has Romans chapter 12 taught us about (a) how we should use our lives? (b) how we want to act within the congregation? (c) how we should treat those who oppose our faith?
16 Our brief consideration of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome has reminded us of many things. We learned that as dedicated servants of Jehovah, we should be willing to make sacrifices. Moved by God’s spirit, we make sacrifices willingly because our power of reason has convinced us that such is the will of God. We are aglow with the spirit and use our varied gifts with zeal. We serve with all due humility and modesty, doing our utmost to preserve our Christian unity. We follow the course of hospitality and show genuine fellow feeling.
17 Romans chapter 12 also gives us abundant counsel on how we should react to opposition. We should not retaliate in kind. We should try to overcome opposition with acts of kindness. To the extent possible, without violating Bible principles, we should endeavor to live peaceably with all men. This applies in the family circle, within the congregation, with neighbors, at work, at school, and in our public ministry. Even when faced with outright hostility, we do our best to conquer evil with good, remembering that vengeance belongs to Jehovah.
18. What three admonitions are given at Romans 12:12?
18 Read Romans 12:12. In addition to all this wise, practical counsel, Paul gives three admonitions. Since we could never do all these things without Jehovah’s help, the apostle advises us to “persevere in prayer.” This will enable us to follow his further counsel to “endure under tribulation.” Finally, we need to keep our minds fixed on the future that Jehovah holds in store for us and to “rejoice in the hope” of everlasting life, be it in heaven or on earth.
By Way of Review
• How should we react to opposition?
• In what areas should we try to be peacemakers, and how?
• Why should we not seek to avenge ourselves?
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Giving practical assistance to our neighbors may help overcome prejudice
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Do you strive to be a peacemaker within the congregation?