Reading through Romans
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory. You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.
A reading from Romans: Romans 12:17-21 (NLT)
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
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.
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.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Reflection: Romans 12:17-21 (John Stott, The Message of Romans: God’s Good News for the World)
The will of God for changed relationships: (Romans 12:1– 15: 13)
Now all believers, irrespective of their ethnic origin, are brothers and sisters in the one international family of God, and so all have precisely the same vocation to be the holy, committed, humble, loving and conscientious people of God…. God’s grace, far from encouraging or condoning sin, is the spring and foundation of righteous conduct.
(Romans 12:17-21) Our relationship to our enemies: not retaliation but service
How should Christians respond to evildoers?
1. ‘Do not curse’ (14)… but bless. There is no better way to express our positive wishes for our enemies’ welfare than to turn them into prayer and into action.
2. ‘Do not repay anyone evil for evil’ (17)… but do what is right and live at peace. To refuse to repay evil is to refuse to inflame a quarrel. But this is not enough. We have also to take the initiative in positive peacemaking, even if, as the two qualifications indicate (‘ if it is possible’ and ‘as far as it depends on you’), this is not always possible. For sometimes other people either are not willing to live at peace with us, or lay down a condition for reconciliation which would involve an unacceptable moral compromise.
3. ‘Do not take revenge’ (19)… but leave this to God. The very two activities which are prohibited to us (retaliation and punishment) are now said to belong to God. The reason the repayment or judging of evil is forbidden to us is not that it is wrong in itself (for evil deserves to be punished and should be), but that it is God’s prerogative, not ours. We are to ‘leave it to the wrath of God’, which is expressed now through the state’s administration of justice, since the magistrate is ‘God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer’(13: 4), and which will be finally expressed on ‘the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed’(2: 5).
4. ‘Do not be overcome by evil’ (21)… but serve enemies and overcome evil with good. Our personal responsibility is to love and serve our enemy according to his needs, and genuinely to seek his highest good. The coals of fire this may heap on him are intended to heal, not to hurt, to win, not to alienate, in fact, to shame him into repentance.
Thus Paul draws a vital distinction between the duty of private citizens to love and serve the evildoer, and the duty of public servants, as official agents of God’s wrath, to bring him to trial and, if convicted, to punish him. Far from being incompatible with each other, both principles are seen operating in Jesus at the cross. On the one hand, ‘when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate’. On the other, ‘he entrusted himself to him who judges justly’, in confidence that God’s justice would prevail.
“Love Your Enemies”
Christ, as a light illumine and guide me. Christ, as a shield overshadow me. Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me on my left and my right. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me. This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful. Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me on my left and my right.
May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you. May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm. May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you. May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen