It has been said that the fall of Adam and Eve introduced several wars into creation. First, the fall set man at war with God; thus, every thought of the fallen heart is only evil continually, and people seek to overthrow the Lord’s rightful place as ruler over their lives (Gen. 8:21; Rom. 3:1–20). Second, man is at war with himself. By virtue of our being made in God’s image, we all have consciences that tell us what is right and what is wrong, and deep down all people know that no matter how hard they try, they cannot do what is fully good and proper (Rom. 2:12–16). Third, and most pertinent to today’s study, man is at war with other men. From the moment right after the fall when Adam blamed Eve for his transgression (Gen. 3:11–12) up until the present day, human society has been characterized by strife, disagreement, and hatred between people.
Thus, generally speaking, most of us desire to be at peace with those around us, to not have them hate us or at least to have them leave us alone. We do not like strife and want to avoid it. That makes today’s passage a comforting and encouraging text. If we would have peace with others, we should seek to please the Lord.
When we think about it, the connection between pleasing the Lord and being at peace with our enemies makes a good deal of common sense. If pleasing God means living according to His law, and His law forbids such things as theft, adultery, slander, and murder (Ex. 20:1–17), then others will have a hard time holding a grudge against us if we endeavor to live by His commandments, for no one wants to be a victim of any of the actions condemned in those statutes. Still, we know that there will be people who hate us no matter how righteously we live. In fact, Jesus pronounces a blessing upon those who are hated for righteousness’ sake (Matt. 5:10–12), which at least implies that some Christians will endure such hatred. Nevertheless, there is no promise that this hatred will in every case endure. After all, God is sovereign and can work peace in the hearts and minds of any of His creatures. Matthew Henry comments, “God can turn foes into friends when he pleases. He that has all hearts in his hand has access to men’s spirits and power over them, working insensibly, but irresistibly upon them, can make a man’s enemies to be at peace with him, can change their minds, or force them into a feigned submission. He can slay all enemies, and bring those together that were at the greatest distance from each other.”