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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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The holidays can be such a magical time filled with lots of love, laughter, and fun with family you may not have seen in a while. However, it can also be extremely stressful, especially if the people you love have very different views on life than you do. For many, the holidays are a source of anxiety and strife amongst their family. So, how can you make sure that’s kept to a minimum? For topics like this, it’s best to look at what Paul teaches us in Romans 12:18 (NIV): “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Sure, it’s great to pull out Bible verses that sound nice, but what do they practically mean? In this case, what Paul is talking about fits perfectly in situations like when your aunt starts talking about her liberal political beliefs in front of your right-winged dad, or when one family member feels it’s best to let the family’s children know there’s no Santa Clause and then spills the beans, or when your cousin who walked away from their faith and became an atheist challenges the existence of God over dinner. In moments like these, things can escalate and get heated so quickly that it can ruin a holiday gathering that’s meant to bring everyone together.
Let’s break this down. Paul instructs the Romans to “live at peace with everyone.” So, does this mean you have to get along with everyone all the time? No. Conflict can sometimes be fruitful and healthy for families! However, unnecessary conflict on secondary issues shouldn’t be causing major rifts between families. The critical phrasing here is at the top of this verse. Paul states that “if it is possible” and “as far as it depends on you,” which thankfully means not all the responsibilities fall on you as an individual. Some people we have to cross paths with may have no interest in keeping the peace, and that’s on them. As far as you’re concerned, God calls us to do everything in our power to be at peace with not only our fellow believers, but with unbelievers, too.
So, now you understand everything isn’t dependent on you—great! But what is your responsibility? In any situation where conflict may arise, it’s important to keep yourself in check. Ask yourself: Did you admit to your wrongdoings in the situation? Is an apology required of you? Did you do everything in your power to make things right with the person in question? Are you clinging to your pride to prove a point?
Now, not every conflict requires an apology. Some people just have to agree to disagree on their viewpoints. In those situations, it’s best for you and the other person to set your disagreement aside to protect your relationship and maybe put some boundaries in place to keep the peace. God is clear with us in Hebrews 10:23 that we are to take our stand of conviction with grace, mercy, and integrity. If “peace” is only possible by you shrinking away from, covering up, or sugarcoating the truth of God’s Word, it may not be possible. 1 Peter 3:15–16 (NIV) tells us we’re to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have and to do it with “gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against [our] good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
It is possible to look for organic opportunities to share God’s truth in a loving way when those moments present themselves. For example, suppose a conversation arises around Christ and the Bible. In that case, you should be prayed up and prepared to address them with gentleness and respect, never ashamed of the gospel, “because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 NIV). But you must refrain from condemnation and hypocritical judgment.
So, as you enter into a season of many family reunions and differing opinions, keep Romans 12:18 in mind as you navigate tricky dynamics. Also, be prepared to be a peacemaker as the opportunity arises, to diffuse the peace of God into tense places (Matthew 5:9). But, above all, do what you and you alone can to keep the peace with your loved ones and shine the light of Jesus by going forward in love, grace, and integrity.
Kristen Hollis has served in the Communications Team of Calvary since 2020 as a Senior Copywriter and Editor. She contributes and edits content for Calvary’s digital and promotional initiatives. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communications from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Kristen and her husband Zachary enjoy all things musical theatre, vinyl hunting, and having the opportunity to serve Calvary on staff while utilizing their talents.