our previous session we saw Paul’s prescription for how the church should get
along with itself. Now we shall see his advice for the Christian in the world
but not of the world. First we shall see his general advice; then the method
of dealing with evil. Finally, we take up the question of revenge.
Romans 12:14-21 NIV Bless
those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. (15)
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (16) Live in harmony with one another. Do not be
proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. (17) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful
to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. (18)
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room
for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will
repay,"says the Lord. (20) On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." (21) Do
not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
along with the world
I point out one thing first? Paul spins his words out in terms of what you
should do much more than what you should not do. It reflects the fact that we
easily accept a prohibition; active service is more tasking.
with those who rejoice
must remember that the usual method of writing in these days places the most
important point first. We can see that in this statement. How? It is easy to
weep with those who weep; who among us has not put an arm around a friend at a
funeral? Such an action warms the heart.
rejoicing with those who rejoice is harder than that. How so? Consider that
we are rejoicing at someone else’s success. If they are in any way a
competitor to us, there is the temptation to envy. Take your mind back to the
days when “good sportsmanship” was still in vogue; the measure of a sportsman
(one who was a “good sport about it”) was the sincerity with which he
congratulated the victor. That same spirit should be in the Christian in
dealing with someone else’s success.
of like mind; live in harmony
here is an antidote to pride. We are not to restrict ourselves to our own
social class, but to move as Christians among all people, taking no thought for
status or station. This does not mean denying who we are; it means
acknowledging who Christ is. Consider:
Christ there is no distinction between rich and poor. These are but parts
we are assigned to play on the stage of this life. Therefore regard
poverty and wealth as facts, not judgments.
are not to rely on our own wisdom; rather, we are to seek counsel in all
things. This is an antidote to pride. How much more so, then, if we seek
counsel among those whom our society tells us are inferior?
the peaceful life the typical Christian lets his light shine. Most of us are
not going to be evangelists or preachers. But our example can be clear, at
least. If your life is filled with anger and constant disputes, who will see
the love of Christ in you?
James takes this a bit further:
James 3:13 NIV Who is wise
and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in
the humility that comes from wisdom.
you see it? Wisdom, which comes from God, directs you to do things in humility
– and humility in your actions brings peace in your part of the world.
adds two caveats:
it is possible.” Sometimes it’s just not possible to live at peace with
those around you. You may need to be prepared for trouble while working
to avoid it.
far as it is within you.” Each of us is at a slightly different stage of
the journey; each of us started at a different point. Sometimes you don’t
have the maturity to handle the situation. If it’s beyond you, seek
help. But remember that God knows you’re not perfect yet. (Judge not).
this sounds well and good – but the immediate reaction to “love thy neighbor”
is “you don’t know my neighbor.” The fact is that evil exists; since it does,
it is reasonable to expect that the Christian will encounter it. It’s easy to
live at peace with the peaceable; what about the evil?
is not much preached in the pulpit these days – it’s really not seeker-friendly
– but the plain fact is that the true Christian will suffer for Christ. It is
an inevitable result of the existence of evil – and the Evil One. It is wise
to pray to avoid this, but it will come in some measure.
must recognize its blessing, therefore. Out of our suffering for Christ comes
our growth as Christians. It is not the only way we grow, but it is an
essential way. The fact is that as we suffer for Christ we should recognize
that we are being honored – Satan thinks enough of us to apply his usual
techniques. So the question is not whether or not we should suffer; the
question is, what do we do about it?
careful to do what’s right
please, that instruction to “be careful.” This takes thought and planning.
Good enough just isn’t. Our suffering is an opportunity to be an example to
others – an example we may never get to be otherwise.
makes it an opportunity for evangelism as well. When you are suffering others
will want to know what’s going on inside your brain – and they will ask. Be
ready with an answer.
one thing we must really be careful of is that we give no opportunity for
slander. It is better that we are overly cautious about doing the right things
so that those around us do not see the world’s way but Christ’s way, and
therefore have nothing but good to say about the church.
is a simple principle in this: the imitation of Christ. Paul puts it this
1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
should see evil as a chance to follow Christ more closely. Therefore we must
understand his method of dealing with it. Specifically:
Matthew 5:44-48 NIV But I
tell you: Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you, (45) that
you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil
and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (46) If you love those who love you, what reward
will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what are
you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (48) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father
only sinners at whom Christ was ever angry were those who led the people away
from the truth of God. For the rest, he set the standard shown above. Go, and
course, if you give evil the chance to work on your mind, and that evil comes
from one person or group, your mind soon turns to vengeance. We must now deal
at it this way: God says vengeance is his. Therefore, if you take vengeance,
you are stealing from him. So why is it that we do it?
fail to believe in his providence. Since his usual method does not
involve lightning strikes from a clear blue sky, we think he does
nothing. It is not so.
forget his omniscience and omnipotence. Yes he does know what’s happened
to you and he can do something about it. We need to “leave room” for
often don’t have the faith to believe that he will recompense them.
it requires courage to do this. Fear God; dread naught. Even the thought
that somehow your enemy will get away with it.
are not designed to sit still. If we are to overcome the sin of anger we must
have something to replace it. Our Lord prescribes it: we are to bless them.
variants of modern Christian life minimize the devotional life. Bible study is
no longer encouraged; times of prayer and meditation are no longer mentioned
from the pulpit. But it is the devotional life which permits this reaction.
If you have no time alone with Christ you cannot hear what he whispers; if you
cannot hear his whispers you cannot shout them from the housetops. It is in
the devotional life that you get the strength to do this.
is strength indeed – to be able to say that when my enemy did evil to me, I was
able to repay him with goodness.
evil with good
is the secret: do not overcome evil with evil; overcome evil with good. The
supreme example of this is Christ at the Cross. The evil was great; an
innocent man was being executed. Out of that came our salvation.
you do such a thing, it is a personal victory, coals on your enemy’s head.
More than that, it is a triumph of your Christian growth, for in so doing you
become more like Christ. Indeed, you will look back upon such things and see
them as the blessing they are:
Matthew 5:11-12 NIV
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all
kinds of evil against you because of me. (12)
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same
way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.