by Calven Celliers
Romans 12 is one of those really challenging passages of Scripture, that goes against our very human nature. It’s a passage of Scripture in which the apostle Paul speaks about being a living sacrifice. He says don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Added to that he says that we shouldn’t think we’re better than we really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves! On top of that he challenges us to take our responsibilities seriously; don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good; serve the Lord enthusiastically; when God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.
And then he writes,
“14 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 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. (Romans 12: 14 – 21NLT)
Peace making does not, however, always go as easily as we would like it to. While some people will readily make peace, others are stubborn and defensive and they harden their hearts and resist our efforts to be reconciled. Sometimes they will become even more antagonistic and find new ways to frustrate or mistreat us. Our natural reaction is to strike back at such people, or at least to stop doing anything good to them. And this makes perfect sense from a worldly standpoint. If you hurt me, I get to hurt you.
As followers of Christ, however, He has called us to a higher standard. And that’s why the apostle Paul introduces us to a principle that applies to every situation where we are dealing with people – never pay back evil with more evil, rise above this tit for tat philosophy. In other words when someone does something bad to us, we are not to do something bad back to them. Instead, he says, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” And herein we find the important second part of the principle. We are not to do bad things to others when they do bad things to us because if we do, we become just like them. We have allowed them to control what we do; we have allowed their bad behavior to conquer us and make us respond in a bad way. In other words, we have been “overcome by evil”.
But this wasn’t Paul’s bright idea to start with, he was simply emphasizing a teaching of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke where Christ taught us saying,
“27 But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you… 32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! (Luke 6: 27, 28 & 32NLT)
From a worldly perspective this approach seems naïve and appears to concede defeat, but the apostle Paul knew better, which is why he started off in Romans 12 by saying, “2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…” (Romans 12:2NLT) Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Paul had learnt that God’s ways are not the world’s ways. He understood the profound power we have through Christ.
In my blog post next week, I’ll chat through some biblical principles, “weapons”, to use in this quest.
Until then, take care, God bless, and be safe!