“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 NIV
Recently I had the rare treat of grabbing dinner with some of my closest girlfriends. We began discussing our upcoming holiday plans. Within minutes the topic of in-laws, family tension, and general dread over getting together with relatives in the upcoming weeks was brought up.
Even in the best circumstances, familial relations can be difficult to navigate. Dynamics can change yearly with new additions, such as a recent marriage or a baby's birth. Or perhaps your family feels the strain from the absence of a beloved patriarch or matriarch. While not always avoidable, relationship tension can be managed or at least subdued.
I’ll admit, I can easily get my feathers ruffled, especially regarding family. I perceive every slight, often take things the wrong way, and typically assume the worse in family members. Complaining to my husband about a last-minute change in holiday plans, my daughter, who I didn’t know was in the other room, piped up, “ Mom, just do like you tell me; let it go!” Welp, I wish I could relive those last five minutes. Had she just heard my whining and griping about something I knew deep down wasn’t a big deal? Nonetheless, she was right; I just needed to let it go.
While this instance shouldn’t have stirred me up, there are times when it may be appropriate to politely, without anger, speak up. When plans don’t work with our family’s schedule, we don’t have completely adjust our calendar, we can gently inquire if there is another date that would work for everyone.
When our family members bring up topics that create strife and discord, we can politely suggest avoiding those subjects and transitioning the conversation. When our in-laws ask a question about a food choice, child’s clothing, or the decision to stay in a hotel over their house, we can assume they are just inquiring, not knit-picking our decisions.
Paul knew that it was impossible for humans to avoid conflict, nor should we. Healthy conflict is good for a relationship; airing our grievances and talking through issues that causes irritation or hurt feelings helps to strengthen bonds. However, we must be diligent in guarding our words, protecting our hearts, and carefully thinking before we speak.
Paul gives us two stipulations in Romans 12:18. “ if possible,” and “as it depends on you,” living at peace with everyone means we have a choice. Sometimes that means we say nothing, ignore slights, and actively let things go for the sake of peace. It’s not just around the holiday table, but all year long, to our relatives, the family of believers, and unbelievers.
As you trim the tree, wrap the gifts, and celebrate the Christmas season, let’s do our part to share peace on earth.
Heavenly Father, we humbly come before you, asking that you forgive us when we fall short. You offer us unlimited grace, abundant mercy, and unwavering love; thank you. Thank you for your son, Jesus, His death and resurrection making way for us to be redeemed. We are filled with hope as we eagerly await the return of your Son; when all will be made new, we will be glorified, and the effects of sin will be gone!
Lord, thank you for the family, both by blood and through Christ, you have placed in our lives. Guide our conversations, convict us when we’ve wronged others, and help us to guard our speech. Let us do nothing out of selfish ambition but think of others more than ourselves, looking to the perfect example in Christ Jesus. We ask that the Holy Spirit work in our lives as we assume the best in people and let the words of our mouths and actions align with someone who professes to be a follower of Christ.
Should our feelings be hurt, our preferences overlooked, and our opinions ignored, let us forgive quickly, turning the other cheek. Let us choose the path to peace, no matter the cost to our personal pride. Help us to apologize when we’ve wronged others swiftly. May we remember that our Father in Heaven sees all, and You are just, and you will avenge and judge rightly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Laura Bailey is a Bible teacher who challenges and encourages women to dive deep in the Scriptures, shift from an earthly to an eternal mindset, and filter life through the lens of God’s Word. She is a wife and momma to three young girls. She blogs at www.LauraRBailey.com, connect with her on Facebook and Instagram @LauraBaileyWrites
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