Perhaps it is because I am now living in my 7th decade of life that I listen more intently to the older ones who went before me to know how to navigate the last season of my life.
This morning, I was reading II Timothy. This letter from Paul was written from a Roman prison cell shortly before his execution. It was the last letter he would write before his death. Paul’s letter was written in the final season of life when a person reflects on life in retrospect.
In chapter three, Paul writes, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” I paused in my reading to think of the implications of Paul’s words. The words “godly life” stood out to me. In our western church culture, it is too easy to think the goal of our faith is to make people happy and have everyone speak well of us. If that were the case, Paul would never have written his other letters to various churches in the New Testament, some written with firm instruction and a challenge their compromise of truth.
When Paul wrote to the Romans, he provided additional insight into the issue of persecution. He wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). When we carry the truth of Scripture and knowledge of God’s heart, there will be times when it is impossible to agree with some people because our agreement would compromise what we know to be true. “As far as it depends on you” means we try to take an unresolved issue as far as we can, but at some point, we need to stop and stand in the truth no matter what the cost.
Paul’s instruction to live peaceably with people is not given as a permission slip to compromise truth. Paul’s “so far as it depends on you” comment meant there is a limit, and that limit must be God’s Word and the nature of His character. When we hold to that limit line and do not allow personal compromise or the influence of culture to dismantle what we know to be right and true, persecution will take place. That is the price we must be willing to pay if we want to live a godly life.