Pastor Doug asks the question, “How do I overcome the evil surrounding me?” The answer is summed up for us nicely in the last verse of Romans 12: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” The specifics of what that looks like are found in Romans verses 14-20. Paul begins with a basic principle he wants us to understand and apply: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” In the Greek text, the verb “to bless” is an imperative; with respect to our enemies, blessing them is not a suggestion, it is a command. As Christ’s followers, we don’t have the option of opting out of this one. Man’s natural, knee-jerk response towards those who hurt us is to retaliate. But this is not God’s way, this is the world’s way. Remember, we are not to be conformed to the world’s value system.
The world says, “Curse those who disagree with you; get even with those who harass you.” God says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” This is radical thinking; in fact, the more we read, the more radical Paul’s teaching becomes. Verse 15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Paul is saying that our concern for our enemy’s welfare should be so great that when they rejoice, we should rejoice with them. And when they hurt, we should weep alongside them.
Paul continues, “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” In other words, don’t be prideful, thinking that you are always right, and others are always wrong. We are not always kind and loving in our responses to others. We tend to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while viewing others with suspicion. The truth is, we have all been guilty of mistreating others. Recognizing our proneness to vengeance and self-justification helps us to respond with grace and kindness toward those who mistreat us.
There are times when we need to confront someone who is doing evil. But it should be done in a loving manner and for a loving purpose. The Bible says, “Be angry but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). There is such a thing as righteous anger, and it can be expressed in productive ways. But Paul makes one thing clear in verse 17: “We are never to pay back evil for evil to anyone.” That is not our prerogative. If anyone is going to exact vengeance on a personal level, it will be God. Paul warns in verse 19: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” God has eternity at his disposal to mete out justice. Our role is to be peacemakers, not vigilantes. We are to do all we can to mend broken or strained relationships.
As God’s sons and daughters, we are to be agents of blessing in the world, not cursing. It is not our place to exact vengeance on our enemies; that prerogative is God’s alone. As verse 21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” As Christians, it is not enough to refrain from retaliation. It is not enough when hurt to refrain from hurting back. When ridiculed or attacked, it is not enough to resist attacking back. We are to overcome evil with good. Are we loving people that way? Are we consistently bearing the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
I am not talking about when people are nice to you. I am talking about when people mistreat you. As Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same” (Luke 6:32-33). As followers of Christ, we are called to a higher ethic. We are not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. Yes, it is counter-cultural and trans-rational, but it is God’s way. It is how fully-devoted followers of Christ respond.
Application / Challenge
Determine that you will be a “Romans 12 Christian” by…
- rejecting the world’s warped values and embrace God’s values as revealed in the Bible,
- experiencing firsthand, that God’s will is good and acceptable and perfect,
- having a balanced biblical self-esteem,
- generously using your God-given gifts, talents and resources to serve God and others,
- daring to be real and vulnerable with their church family, so that God can bring about true life change,
- loving and serving others, including your enemies, and,…
- …reading Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle – [Amazon link], rejecting the “affluenza” so common today! (TCC doesn’t manage links to external site resources so if link is broken we apologize but, please feel free to let us know.)