Whenever Christians start encouraging one another to be at peace with each other no matter the cost, someone usually expresses this common sentiment:
“What am I supposed to do? Just lay down and let people walk all over me?”
They typically make this statement as the ultimate trump card, as if to say that they would never let someone walk all over them. But is that right? Should that be our attitude?
What if our default attitude wasn’t the preservation of our rights but a genuine concern to do whatever it took to be at peace with others. Speaking to the Church in Rome, Paul wrote this:
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
— Romans 12:18
I remember my first year teaching at a Christian school back in Illinois. An issue of justice came up for discussion in my class. Rebecca, one of my students, mentioned that her parents were in a challenging situation, and they were looking for justice. They felt they had been taken advantage of, and they were looking for legal recourse. I didn’t disagree with their position at all, but I did consider just how quickly we can all abandon grace for the sake of our rights.
It seemed to me then, and in many moments since, that we are supremely concerned with living at peace with everyone, as long as none of our rights are compromised. If that infringement happens, however, we don’t care about peace. We care about justice.
I want to be clear that I am not advocating for a universal rule that Christians need to agree with everyone. I believe there are many things that we need to fight against and virtues to stand up for. But what I am advocating for is that, as Christians, we need to consider this verse and that maybe, just maybe, there are times we should let others take advantage of us to keep the peace. As believers, if we are more concerned about peace than our interests, an unbelieving world will be more prone to listen to the message we really want to get across.