Romans 12.18 – “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
When I went to seminary, I had one desire that grew in my heart: to make the world a better place. My desire grew for a vision of shalom from my early seminary readings on the Kingdom. As a consequence, Romans 12.18 became a key verse for me. Unfortunately, life would throw me into a tumult that would make me fail in reaching for that desire, but as time and life passed, my God-given desire for shalom became renewed.
One of the things I have learned that is important about shalom is this: being able to move on from relationships. Paul’s advice for shalom implicitly recognizes a complex reality: accomplishing and maintaining shalom is a shared responsibility. One can go to the greatest lengths to try to make peace and good relations with someone but not find it to be successful. Sometimes people don’t want shalom; sometimes the communication isn’t always clear; sometimes there are difficult circumstances that make shalom hard. Whatever it is, because shalom requires the responsibility of all of the persons to participate in it, there are often a lot of roadblocks to realizing it.
Sometimes when these roadblocks occur, it is pretty clear there isn’t a want for a specific relationship. To anyone, the application of Paul’s message should be clear here. However, other times these roadblocks are evidenced by mixed signals, unpredictably shifting expectations, and dysfunctional communication, which is often times due to an ambivalence on the part of one or multiple parties. This may leave one party constantly confused as to whether to engage or not.
What I have learned through hard experience as one who seeks shalom: close the door to those who won’t take responsibility for what they want. When we get such ambivalent messages, it can lead those who are inclined to peace and love to get caught into a whirlwind. But I have learned this through hard experience: close the door. Close the door and don’t open the door again unless they knock and clearly say what they want, making them have to own their responsibility for having a healthy relationship. Move on from them, focus on pursuing other relationships, and hopefully for them one day they will pick up that they have a responsibility to participate in the healthy relationships that constitute shalom. Some will throw a fit, and if so, lock that door because shalom isn’t possible. Some will move on, so you let them, as this is a form of shalom, even if it is apart. Some will learn and knock on the door and make their intentions clear, which means shalom together might then be plausible.