Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
Jurisdictions. Control. Transgression. Receiving. These are the 4 words that came to mind as I pondered the question, “Is it even possible to ‘live at peace with all men’?!”
Relationships can be downright tough! And they can be super confusing! When you and I meet up with tough relationship stuff, sadly we usually take the easy way out: we blame the other person and cut off the relationship. (And cutting them off doesn’t necessarily mean we hate them and never speak to them – it’s more subtle. We cut them off by building emotional walls and having an “I’d rather not have you involved in my life” attitude.)
However, relationships are one of the biggest tools God uses to expose you to yourself. In love, God exposes you so He can change you. Let’s explore a few words and hopefully get an AWESOME perspective of what God can do in you through the relationships in your life.
A key phrase in this verse is: “as much as lieth within you.” The point being that you can’t control another human and their responses to you; you can only take care of you. This brings up our vocabulary word for the day: jurisdiction. Webster’s dictionary defines jurisdiction as “the power or right to exercise authority.”
There are areas of jurisdiction that God has given to Himself. And there are areas of jurisdiction given to you and to other people – there is work we are responsible for and duties we are meant to fulfill. One of the areas where we are meant to exercise jurisdictional authority is ourselves! We are to take responsibility for our own attitudes, actions, and responses.
Now, check this out: God has not given us jurisdiction over the attitudes, actions and responses of other people. This is where we get derailed in a lot of the relationships in our life: we try to exercise control over something that is not in our jurisdiction.
What does it look like to step into someone else’s jurisdiction? It looks like control. Ever tried to get someone to change? Ever try to fix someone’s problem (or even worse, try to fix them)? Ever get frustrated or angry because someone is behaving wrongly? Ever get scared of what the outcome of someone’s decision might be and try to take charge of the situation? Ever cut off a relationship saying “I won’t have a relationship with you until you change”? Ever manipulate to get someone to do or say what you want? This is what control looks like in our lives.
God has a name for this control that we take over people and circumstances: He calls it transgression. According to the Webster’s dictionary, transgress means “to go beyond a boundary or limit; to go beyond limits set or prescribed by.” A good mental picture for transgression is a “no trespass” sign. When we step into the jurisdiction God has given to Himself or to other people, we are going into the “no trespass” zone. This is sin.
I remember when God started revealing this to me, I was shocked at how much I transgress and think I am doing the right thing! I justify it with phrases like this: “I’m just trying to help this person!” Or “I’m just trying to make sure the right thing happens!” Or “If I don’t do something, nothing will change!”
I have found so much freedom in learning to repent of my transgression and agree with God. “God, that is not my jurisdiction. I trust You to work or to do a work in that person so they do what they are supposed to.” It is never my job to control people or situations! Isn’t this wonderful!
This doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to someone’s faults – in fact, it’s the opposite! When you clearly see wrong in a person’s life, go through the jurisdictional checklist: Is anything about this in my jurisdiction? What about this is another person’s jurisdiction? And, most of all, what is God’s jurisdiction in this? When you can see the answer to these clearly, you will know where to act wisely and pray effectively!
We’ve covered a lot of words! But in order to paint a more complete picture of how to follow Romans 12:12, I want to highlight one final word. And that is: receiving. Bear with me while I explain.
It has been said, “The two most beautiful words in all the English are these: come in.” Think about it – have you ever walked into a room and seen someone’s face light up because they are glad YOU are there? Have you ever started talking to someone and seen in their eyes and body language that they value you and what you are saying. When they did this, they were in a sense telling you “Come in. You are safe and what you are saying is valued. I enjoy being with you.” They were receiving you.
The most precious kind of receiving is when you know someone has seen your faults and they still say to you “Come in. I receive you. I’ve seen who you really are and I still enjoy you.” This kind of receiving actually gives you power to grow and change. And this is what Christ does for us every single day. He sees all your faults and problems and says, “Come in. It is safe here. I see your issues and I still enjoy you.” His gentleness and patience gives us time and room to grow.
God calls us to receive each other. You may not be able to fix someone’s flaws, but you can still receive them right where they are at! If you ask Him, God can actually give you His heart for the people around you!
(To listen to more about receiving, listen to this teaching by Jack Taylor: https://soundcloud.com/brministries/principle-of-receiving-jack-taylor )