Explain, in your own words, the four steps we have talked about, that in a practical way will help you love someone you cannot stand.
- Bless, do not curse
- Walk a mile in their shoes
- Never take revenge
- Plan something beautiful in the sight of all
Let us now examine the fifth step in learning to love someone we cannot stand.
Win the Peace
When involved in a conflict, people are usually more interested in winning the war instead of winning the peace. They want to prove that they are right. They want to receive an apology. They want to show that they are the true victims. Then, when the issue is resolved, they are quite satisfied to simply be rid of the person that caused them problems and have nothing to do with them ever again. In contrast to this attitude Paul the Apostle says:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
- Romans 12:18
In this passage Paul gives the commandment upon which this fifth step is based and then provides two qualifiers to help us accept the final outcome.
Step #5 - Do not simply try to win the war, win the peace
Just because conflicts may be resolved does not mean you have reached your objective in loving your enemy. The objective in overcoming evil with good is not that our enemy is defeated, exposed or humbled in some way. Our ultimate goal is to defeat the evil, not the enemy.
The final victory is when we are able to have a loving relationship with our enemy (and there is no evil between us). If the evil is destroyed, overcome, neutralized, then there is a chance to have a relationship with the person who has been our enemy. This is basic teaching from Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9).
Conditions in Seeking Peace
Paul's admonition to strive for peace with your enemy has two conditions that he himself mentions.
A. If it is possible
Making peace the goal, trying to be at peace with your enemy, making the effort to create or renew a relationship, this is your responsibility as a Christian. However, you are not always dealing with people who are Christians, or Christians who act like Christians. Sometimes it is not possible because no matter how hard you try, the other person refuses to cooperate, listen or understand. For example, an unbeliever who refuses any attempt at peace and leaves the relationship (I Corinthians 7:15). Then there is the case where a believer refuses to have a relationship with you no matter what you say or do.
Sometimes it is impossible to have peace or to have a relationship because it would mean having to compromise what is right. For example, in the early years after I became a Christian, to have peace and a good relationship with my family would mean having to miss church services in order to participate in family functions which were consciously scheduled on Sundays. We strive for peace but it is not peace at all costs.
In loving your enemy you have to accept that winning the peace is not only dependent on you. There are, at times, circumstances out of your control that prevent this from happening.
... The second condition in seeking peace is...
B. As far as it depends on you
Your job in healing a relationship is to do good and seek peace whether the other person wants to or not. You cannot, however, force peace and a loving relationship on a person who does not want this. In the end you have to live with God and yourself. If you consciously seek peace with your enemy but your efforts are rebuffed, then you will be able to live with yourself and with the Lord in peace even if you cannot with your enemy.
- Give an example in your own life where your goal was to win the war and not win the peace.
- Why is it not always possible to win the peace with everyone? Provide personal examples if possible.
- What kinds of things do you think may be blocking the peace you seek with the person you are at odds with?
- Select a person to lead a prayer for God to remove the roadblocks to peace in your situation.