Open Doors

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:17-18, NIV)

These verses can be so hard to live out! When we are wronged, our fleshly response is to retaliate in some way. If not with our actions, then with our words, thoughts, or attitudes. We do not like to think of those responses as evil, but if our motive is not love, God says they are. When we give in to evil desires, we miss out on far more life. I made that mistake this week; I got caught up in defending a perceived wrong by pointing out the offender’s sin in front of others. But instead of feeling better afterwards, I felt worse! That made me realize I had chosen evil over far more life.

Fortunately God tells us how to find far more life in situations where we have been wronged or offended: do what we know is right. We know it is right to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We know it is right to treat others as we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). We know it is right to forgive (Colossians 3:13). In my situation this week, when I finally decided to do what was right, I first chose to forgive the person who offended me, which changed my heart toward them. Rather than trying to convince them of their wrong, I chose to accept that we had different perspectives and values. This changed my anger to sadness. Then I was able to admit my wrong thoughts and actions, first to myself, then to them. I could feel my heart getting lighter with each step of this process, each choice to pursue far more life.

God takes it a step further: the verse continues, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” I appreciate His clear instruction that we are only responsible for our part, and sometimes peace is not possible. I think of it like adjoining hotel rooms; both doors must be open for you to pass freely back and forth. If only one person opens their door, you remain separated. We can open our door to peace by doing what is right, blessing the offender with our words and actions, praying for them, and showing them love. Whether or not they choose to open their door and live in peace with us, we can have a clear conscience about our actions and thoughts. It is sad and uncomfortable to be separated from others, but our open door serves as an ongoing invitation for them to join us in pursuing peace whenever they are ready. God says that is enough. In my situation, I have accepted that the other person and I are not on the same page in life, so the door to many deep conversations is closed right now. I plan to pray all I wish I could say to them in love and trust God with it. I will speak carefully in future conversations unless they directly ask for my input. That is the best way for me to show them love and experience far more life. For now, that is the level of peace we can share.

Why is it important to God that we live in peace with others, especially others who are following Christ?

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3)

Peace brings unity, which is important to God. Merriam-Webster defines unity as oneness or a condition of harmony. God is perfectly united with Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they are one, they live in harmony. And He says this to us, who are created in His image and filled with His Spirit:

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my friends, to agree in what you say, so that there will be no divisions among you. Be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose.  (I Corinthians 1:10, GNT)

God wants His children to live in harmony with one another because that is the only way His purpose can be accomplished. If our purpose is to love God and bring Him glory, can we do that if we are divided and arguing? No. In fact, God makes it clear that our love — which grows as we grow in unity — reveals our purpose to everyone:

If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. (John 13:35, GNT)

This verse always amazes me. It is not our Bible knowledge that shows we are disciples of Jesus. Or the number of Bible studies or church meetings we attend. It is not the good works we do or the causes we support. What communicates our devotion to Jesus is the love we show others, especially other followers of Jesus. Sometimes that love is most evident when we return evil or sin with a blessing. When we do what is right rather than retaliating. When we pursue peace with someone who has offended or sinned against us. When we share our lives and pursue a common purpose. When we choose far more life!

Sisters,
Do you tend to repay evil with evil or with a blessing?
When have you found far more life by choosing to do what is right?
Do you have a relationship that is not at peace? Is your door open and inviting the other person to peace?
How are you living in unity with other followers of Jesus?
Pray and look for opportunities to show love — and choose far more life — today!
-Shari

Copyright 2020, Shari Damaso


Perfect Peace

You, Lord, give perfect peace to those who keep their purpose firm and put their trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, GNT)

Perfect peace. A quiet mind. A content heart. No worry or anxiety. No fear or dread. A firm purpose. A solid trust in God that allows you to rest. This is far more life.

While perfect peace sometimes feels elusive, once we enter a relationship with Jesus it is always available to us. It is a gift from God, a product of the Holy Spirit coming to live inside of us. Like all gifts, we must choose whether to set it aside or use it.

But perfect peace — as appealing as it sounds — can feel unfamiliar and strange to us, especially in difficult circumstances. We may feel more comfortable with familiar emotions: stress, anxiety, fear, defensiveness, withdrawal. Perfect peace requires us to know when to “let go and let God”.  It is rooted in trusting God.  It requires us to believe He is aware and involved, He knows what is best, and He is working for our good.

Let’s be honest: there are times we trust ourselves more than God. We trust our actions will make a bigger difference than praying and waiting for Him to act.  We trust our own wisdom rather than seeking out His wisdom.  We trust it is better to protect ourselves from hurt than expose our pain and pursue healing.  God doesn’t judge His daughters for this; He knows our wounds and blind spots better than anyone else — and still loves us. But He longs for us to have what is best: perfect peace and far more life.

I appreciate this Scripture passage’s vivid depiction of our trust struggle:

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”  (Matthew 14:25-31, NIV)

Look at Peter’s response again: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  It seems that Peter did not trust it was really Jesus out there, he wanted confirmation. But he knew if it was Jesus calling, he would be safe. Peter believed that Jesus could do the impossible. That Jesus cared about his well-being. That Jesus would not allow him to drown. Whatever fears or doubts Peter had, he trusted Jesus had power over the wind and water.

That trust gave Peter courage to get out of the boat; he walked on water!!  Imagine yourself in his place: would you even consider getting out of the boat? Would you feel excited or nervous — or maybe both — as you locked eyes with Jesus and walked toward Him…across a lake?  I’d like to think that when Peter looked at Jesus, he experienced perfect peace and all those negative thoughts and emotions faded away.

But Peter is human. Along the way he took his eyes off Jesus. He remembered his circumstances; he was no longer in the relative safety of the boat. He was exposed, standing on water that was being blown into waves by the wind. He no longer felt safe. His peace evaporated. He was overcome by doubt and fear. He may have asked himself, “What am I doing? What was I thinking?” He started to sink. Perhaps he was flailing and trying to keep himself upright. Fortunately, he still believed that Jesus could rescue him and called out for help.  And of course Jesus caught him.

Like Peter, when we are in difficult situations we can look at either our circumstances or our God. When we focus on our circumstances, we see how big the problem is, feel overwhelmed, and fixate on the obstacles. We believe we are in danger of drowning, especially if the problem intensifies and the pressure mounts.  But we have another option! We can focus on God, truths about his character, truths about his love for us, and truths about his limitless power and knowledge.  Focusing on our circumstances robs us of peace and leaves us battling negative emotions. Focusing on God offers us perfect peace, even when we’re standing on the lake in the middle of a storm. Despite the wind, waves, and rain that surrounds us, we can feel peaceful, calm, and secure.

Jesus knows how tempted we are to look away from Him.  He told His disciples some of the challenges they would face then shared this perspective:

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33, NASB)

Suffering is unavoidable. Circumstances that tempt us to strive in our own power are unavoidable. His words remind us to courageously put our trust in Him, keep our eyes firmly on our God-given purpose, and be blessed by His gift of perfect peace. That is far more life.

Sisters,
In what situation are you tempted to look at your circumstances rather than your Savior?
Are you willing to obey Jesus’ instruction: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”? 
If not, ask God to help you identify what is preventing you from trusting Him.
Then ask for courage to take the next step in trusting Him.
Remember to thank God for conquering the world, offering you perfect peace, and meeting you where you are on your trust journey.

-Shari

Copyright 2019-20, Shari Damaso