“Should you put this away, mommy?” came the voice of my son. He was standing in the middle of a room littered with blocks, Paw Patrol figures, pretend tools, and random kitchen items turned toys, holding a small bottle of eye drops in his little outstretched hand. Eye drops that I used before he woke up and forgot to put away. Eye drops that, among all of the many things strewn about the room, he zeroed in on as being the thing that should be restored to its proper place. He wasn’t wrong, but the irony of this little boy, standing in the midst of his own clutter, staring up at me with disheveled hair and ill-fitting jammies, handing me a bottle of eye drops to put away was at once sweet and humorous. It was also convicting.
While returning the drops to their proper shelf, I was struck by the fact that I am not so unlike my precious little one. I have moments like this too. Times where I stand, my soul ragged, tired, bitter, angry, or just flat-out grumpy, pointing my finger at another precious child of God, saying to myself, “Shouldn’t you deal with that already?” Because, after all, it is infinitely easier to “deal with” someone else’s sin than to confront my own. It is the default of my fallen nature to be utterly concerned with how another person has slighted me rather than to confront how I have offended God. Wouldn’t we all rather pick out the speck of dust in our brother’s eye than go to war with the plank in our own? (Matthew 7:3-4) It feels safer, less intrusive, and certainly like a whole lot less work for us.
But it’s not the way of Jesus. It’s not what we are called to. The world shouts and argues and condemns but we are told:
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:16-18 ESV)
Paul instructs us to live at peace with others so far as it depends on us. If you’re like me, that isn’t always easy. There are people who I do not naturally mesh with, who I make assumptions about regarding their thoughts toward me, who I feel insecure around, or who don’t seem interested in my friendship. In these cases, I tend to get defensive, judgy, and generally not the definition of peace-maker. Why? Because like my son, I would rather focus on the small imperfection that I do not own rather than the pile of stuff that I do.
When we (ahem, *I*) react like this though, we find that we are hypocrites, handing out criticism over a small bottle of eye drops while standing in the midst of our own ocean of junk, often assuming that others don’t notice it. Oh friends, this ends up robbing us of more energy, time, and joy than it ever would if we just went before Jesus, prayed for the people we find difficult, and went to work on our own sin with the Holy Spirit. While we certainly cannot control how others interact with us, we do have it within our power to behave in a way that moves the relationship toward peace so far as it depends on us. In some cases, that may simply look like ceasing to gossip about another person. In others, it may look like initiating a coffee date. Sometimes, we will just have to flat-out apologize for something.
This week, ask God to show you what it means to live at peace with the people in your life, particularly the difficult ones. It’s incredible what happens when we offer others a little extra measure of grace. When we excuse their mood toward us by assuming they are having a rough morning (and maybe even praying for them). When we give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, it’s hard. And yes, it’s worth it. God is at work in their life too and when we remember that, we can release them back to Him and free our own hearts to love them.
Real talk? This might not yield the outcome we desire. Maybe that person will never be our best friend. Perhaps they will even give us the cold shoulder. Regardless of the outcome, though, doing the work of love is always worth it. So let’s love, let’s offer grace, and let’s make the name of Jesus known by living at peace so far as it depends on us. Love to you, friends!
**IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This in no way is meant to address abusive and dangerous relationships. If you are in a relationship that is abusive in any way (be that a romantic one, a friendship, a family situation, or anything else) please seek help immediately.**