i know you’re right, but you still can’t pray that he is trampled by a herd of rabid wildebeest

May 24, 2011

You cannot control other people.  Repeat after me… “I cannot control other people.” Good.  At the going rate for professional therapy, you all owe me $175.

This may or may not seem elementary, but I’ll tell you why I’m writing about it today… We don’t really believe this.

I want to help you with something that I wrestle with myself.  When we are confronted with a conflict of some kind, the kind of conflict that requires a face-to-face let’s-talk-this-out meeting, our job is to do everything possible to steer the ship toward peace with everyone.  It’s not about proving your case, or demanding justice, or sticking it to the other guy because you are just so right this time… It’s supposed to be about relational repair.  Peace.

That’s what the Bible says, right?  Romans 12:18 says straight up:  “Live at peace with everyone.”

At least, some of us think that’s what the Biblical standard is.  Peace with everyone.  At all times.  No matter what.  Turn the other cheek.  Seventy times seven.  Logs and specks.  You, know… be a doormat for the Lord. This is the path of least resistance.  For us to be at peace with everyone, we can’t take a firm position or stand up for ourselves or confront someone if they’ve wronged us, then, right?  Because for us to be at peace with everyone, we need everyone to be at peace with us… right?

Repeat after me, “I cannot control other people.” Perfect.  That’ll be $350.

Of course Romans 12:18 has more to say than “Live at peace with everyone.”  And while I’m certainly not discounting Jesus’ commands to radical forgiveness, cheek-turning, and humility, let’s be clear on what we are and what we are NOT called to do in cases of relational tension.

Roman’s 12:18 in it’s ENTIRETY reads like this:  “IF it is possible, and AS FAR AS IT DEPENDS ON YOU, live at peace with everyone.

In other words, it might not always be possible.  Paul understands.  God understands.  Why is this the case?  “You cannot control other people.” Plain and simple.  God doesn’t hold you accountable for the other person’s behavior OR for their REACTION to your attempts at relational reconcilliation.  That’s why this verse is more of a comfort to me than a command.  The phrase that liberates me from religious striving for the impossible standard is this: “…as far as it depends on you…”

Some of you need to take that good news to heart.  Some of you are locked right now in a relational conflict that you cannot control.  Some of you are experiencing deep pain, or are feeling that your inner sense of justice has been violated again and again, because there is someone in your life who refuses to treat you with respect.  Some of you are shouldering  a heavy weight of guilt because you feel like you can’t fix it. And you’re not at peace.  And you’re supposed to be at peace with people.

Once again, and I won’t even bill you for it… “I cannot control other people.”

Jesus wants you to lay that guilt down.  And I don’t mean to put words in His mouth… that’s dangerous ground.  But I can be confident in this case, because we are not called to shoulder the responsibility for other people’s sinful behavior.  If you are weighed down by a broken relationship, I have good news.

First Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  You are not called to take responsibility for other people’s relational baggage.  Lay it down.

Second, Paul says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you…”  You re not called to take responsibility for other people’s relational baggage.  Lay it down.

Our part is hard enough.  In fact, our part is impossible.  Seventy times seven is an idiom meaning “forever, without end.” How often should we go on forgiving people according to Matthew 18:22?  Forever. And if you’re in a broken relationship with another person who is continuing to wound you or treat you with disrespect or disregard, neverending forgiveness might sound impossible all on it’s own, to say nothing of restoring that relationship to peace.  But that is where Jesus strength is made perfect in you – when you are weak.  And that is where, abiding in Christ, we are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory.  Neverending forgiveness may seem impossible.  But it’s not intended to be something that you give and give and give to the OTHER person…  It is something that you RELEASE from yourself again and again.

Release the need to control the situation.  Release the need to see justice come down on the offending other party.  Release the feeling that your reputation – or more significant, your identity –  is dictated by this other person.  Forgiveness is a command of God because He wants to protect your heart. From bitterness and self-centeredness and self-pity and from sin.

So, with God’s help, let go of the need to hold the other guy accountable.  Your mom may never change.  That coworker or classmate may continue to treat you badly.  Your spouse may not be the person you dreamed they would become if only you loved them enough.  Forgive them – and let God be their judge.  Over and over.  Forever.  As far as it depends on you.

But that is as far as you can go.  As far as it depends on you.  Because you cannot control other people.

This does NOT mean you forget.  This does NOT mean you continue to put yourself in a position to be wounded.  This does NOT mean you don’t stand up for yourself when necessary.  This does NOT mean you have to be a doormat for the Lord.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

If peace is not possible, it is NOT your fault.  If you have forgiven and extended kindness and it is rejected or met with contempt, it is NOT your fault.  As far as it depends on you.

Lay it down.

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“i know you’re right, but you still can’t pray that he gets trampled by a herd of rabid wildebeast” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

8 responses to i know you’re right, but you still can’t pray that he is trampled by a herd of rabid wildebeest

  1. Oh. My. Goodness. You have no idea how clearly this spoke to me. Have you been peeking into my diary? Lol. Thanks for this post! Awesome!

  2. Ding, ding, ding!!! This one hit home for me too. Great post Josh!

  3. thanks josh, needed to hear this today!

    • Mike – there was one specific day I can remember leading the Emmaus choir when I needed to hear this verse. I still remember that moment. As far as it depends on you, brother. That’s all any of us can do. 🙂 God bless you and your great family and your church (which I miss). Please high five some of the old guard for me, OK? Thanks for checking in here.

  4. Josh, Thank you so much! This has really hit me where I stand lately.
    – Mark