Romans 12:21


Monday, 25 November 2013

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21

Paul finishes chapter 12 of Romans with this verse. When we allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, we are the ones who lose the battle. This is perfectly obvious when observing the actions of an instigator. As he needles and pushes he will delight in his perverse exploits. As one falls prey to him, the smug satisfaction of victory can be evidenced on his face; he has overcome and feels vindicated by the reduction of you, his foe, to his own depraved level.

However, if you stand against him and continue to put forth blessings and goodness, there will eventually be a vindication of your approach in one of a couple ways. One is that the instigator will simply release a stream of anger and profanity and depart, or he may concede that you have been right in your actions. Either way, good has overcome the evil.

An excellent place to see this in action is on a news talk show where a political issue is debated. Or, listening to various talk-radio hosts will allow the same opportunity. Those hosts who continuously put forth a stream of positive thoughts and encouragements will inevitably win their debate. Eventually, opponents don’t even bother entering the dialogue because they see that the host won’t be shaken.

However, for those hosts who allow themselves to get rattled, those who engage them will continue to needle them until that comes about. In these cases, even if the stronger or morally right argument is held by the host, the debate is still lost.

This is what Paul is speaking of in any life situation. When we allow evil to overcome, then only evil has come. But when we overcome evil with good, then good has prevailed and the enemy is silenced.

Life application: One of the most difficult tasks of all is to know when to throw out a blessing in order to fend off an attack. As a stable and reasonable thinker you will always win the argument if you keep your emotions in check and allow grace, not angry emotion, to rule the situation. Learn this thought from Paul and remember it when you face such pressure – “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” Colossians 4:6

Lord God, help my words to be seasoned with grace and free from anger. Grant me the ability to throw out a blessing instead of reviling when I’m attacked by others. I know that as soon as I respond in anger, the argument is lost. So please, help me to overcome evil with good and to never be overcome by the evil which comes my way. In so doing, I know that You will be glorified. Amen.  

Romans 12:20


131124_at_the_airportSunday, 24 November 2013

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
If he is thirsty, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
Romans 12:20

Paul begins this verse with “therefore” which is translated from the word alla – “on the contrary.” He has been speaking of not repaying evil with evil and not taking vengeance on others. Instead of such actions, he says that, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink.” This is almost a direct quote from Proverbs 25:21. Proverbs is one of the five “wisdom” books in the Old Testament and is one which peers deep into the state of humanity and then pulls out general applications which can (and should be) used regularly. Many of Jesus’ sayings bear directly on the wisdom found there. In intent, His statement in Matthew 5:43-45 follows the same line of thinking now presented by Paul in this chapter of Romans –

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

What Paul has written here in verse 20, is an obvious, clear, and direct statement. It has been the customary practice of many soldiers throughout wars of the past. When the battle is engaged, you fight without holding back, but when the enemy surrenders, you patch up their wounds, give them food, and treat them decently.

This type of truly noble behavior has the positive effect of helping to bring nations together after wars end. The nations which fail to do this continue to have long-standing animosities even generations later, but those who practice this attitude can resolve their conflicts and put the past behind them very quickly. This same attitude is asked of believers as well.

By acting in this manner, we are told that “in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Coals of fire are extremely hot and very targeted in where their heat is directed. Unlike an open flame which is all-consuming, a coal will burn what it touches directly. When coals are heaped on something, that thing will be consumed by the heat, but the surrounding area will remain unaffected. A coal, for example, is an extremely effective means of torture.

The idea here isn’t that of actual torture, but that the same intended effect will result. Just as heaping coals on someone’s head is intended to obtain a complete change in the person, the kindness expected of the believer towards their enemy will achieve the same. The very notion of kindness to one’s bitter enemy is so contrary to what they would expect, that when it is received, their complete change in attitude is almost certain.

Life application: As difficult as it is to bless one’s foes, lovingly care for one’s enemies, and willfully withhold the returning of evil for evil, it is what we are called to do. In the end, by taking this course the change in the one who we direct these favors to will hopefully result in their conversion. Such a change has eternal value, so let us pursue these difficult avenues zealously.

Lord God, I suppose that feeding my enemy, turning the other cheek, and blessing those who curse me is about as difficult to do as anything You ask of me. But You have asked me to pursue these avenues of peace and reconciliation. As You are Lord, I will do my best to comply. Forgive me when I fail and strengthen me in my resolve to meet Your expectations. Amen.

Romans 12:19


Saturday, 23 November 2013

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  Romans 12:19

Paul has just written these words to us – “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”

In order to show that this is the proper avenue and that repaying evil for evil is completely unnecessary, he will turn to Scripture (“for it is written”) to show us that all will work out as it should. He begins though with “Beloved.” By beginning with this, he is making an appeal to the heart because it is the heart which will inevitably lead us to do wrong if left unattended.

And so in a heartfelt appeal we are now given our instructions, “Do not avenge yourselves.” This is linked right back to “Repay no one evil for evil.” As noted, committing an evil doesn’t cover an evil, it simply produces more evil. To grasp this, think of the modern call for abortion. The original demands came under the guise of fairness; cases of rape and incest certainly necessitated making the procedure legal, right? Once the foot was in the door, it opened the procedure for any and every reason. But even if it were only for cases of rape and incest, it doesn’t make it morally right. To murder an innocent human because a previous sin was committed doesn’t negate the original sin, it merely adds another to it. This is the logic of Paul here.

And so, rather than us carrying out vengeance, we are told instead to “give place to wrath.” This expression is speaking of divine wrath. Though it may seem slow in coming, it will in fact come. The wicked shall not always prosper and they will have a day of reckoning. And so we are asked to not get in the way of the divine wrath; something that we will do when we take matters of vengeance into our own hands.

And this is where Paul now cites Scripture. He refers back to Deuteronomy 32:35 for a verse from the Song of Moses to justify his stand – “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” As surely as evil is committed, the Lord has vowed to repay. There is no “getting off scot-free” and all sin will be judged. Because the Lord has spoken, He will follow through. This then is an absolute guarantee. So why would we seek to repay evil with evil when His coming judgment of the first evil will suffice?

Having said this, and understanding it to be true, there is still the caution against going too far in the opposite direction. This verse is held up on banners at rallies opposing the execution of criminals. It is often misquoted, being taken completely out of its intended context, in an attempt to stand against those who commit violations of set laws. This is an abuse of what is being stated here and is similar to the incessant and continuously incorrect use of “Judge not lest you be judged.”

Jesus never surrendered His rights under the law, but appealed to the law during His trial. Throughout the rest of the New Testament, the apostles appeal to the law for their defense and as a just means of settling wrong-doings within society (see 1 Peter 2:13-17 for example). This verse today is speaking of personal vengeance, not the regular and proper execution of sentences within the framework of the governing laws of the land.

Life application: Paul has shown, directly from Scripture, that the Lord will avenge evil. It is not within our right to do so, except within certain contexts, such as the law of the land. Leave personal vengeance to the Lord. He will repay.

Lord God, when I see evil in the world, I really would like to handle the judgment all by myself… setting things right as I see it. But You have asked that I not repay evil for evil and that instead You are my protector and defender. In the end, You have vowed to repay all evil and execute justice. Though it is hard, I will confidently wait on Your timing, knowing that You have it all worked out. Amen.

Romans 12:18


Friday, 22 November 2013

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18

Unlike other admonitions, Paul begins today with “If it is possible…” This should tell us that this will be a most difficult task to fulfill. A few reasons should be obvious –

1) Not all people want to live peaceably with Christians. They have harmful intent towards them, thus making peace impossible.

2) Doctrine must take precedence over tolerance. The concept of “tolerance” in today’s society is so awry that everyone is offended by everything. The only thing that isn’t tolerated is being intolerant. It is a confused system which asks all individuals to compromise morality. However, Jesus tells us differently. We are never to compromise our morals and we are to stand firm on the biblical truth that there is one and only one way to be reconciled to God. John 14:6 allows no other option. We must hold to the gospel of Christ even if it offends.

3) In a fallen world, peace is not attainable in its truest sense. Trials, stresses, weariness, etc. all effect humanity. These external pressures naturally lead to conflict.

The Christian is asked to live within these difficult circumstances with the intent and goal of living peaceably. And so, in order to establish sound guidelines, Paul adds in the thought, “as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” To the greatest measure the onus is on the believer to effect peace. Sometimes it simply isn’t possible. Even though many within the faith see it otherwise, Paul would never ask a believer to compromise their morals or proper doctrine for the sake of either peace or tolerance.

When either is compromised, the believer becomes an ineffective member of the body and does more harm to the cause than good. However, this is what the liberal arm of Christianity has come to. Don’t be swept up in this, but rather stand first on doctrine and then exercise the peace which Christ has granted you in order to, if at all possible, live peaceably with all men.

Life application: Some things aren’t possible for us in this life, but that doesn’t give us a blank pass to ignore our responsibility to attempt to meet the lofty goals set down for us. It is incumbent on every believer to endeavor to live peaceably with those around us.

Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for the peace I find in You. In a world of toil and strife, I can rest in knowing that I have a future and a hope which will far exceed the trials I face today. Because of this assurance, it gives me even the ability to stand calmly as the storms swirl around me now. I know that whatever happens, it is only temporary, but Your sure promises are eternal. Great stuff Lord! Amen.

Romans 12:17


Thursday, 21 November 2013

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. Romans 12:17

What a difficult thing this verse asks! “Repay no one evil for evil” equates to “turn the other cheek.” For a good analysis of this directly from Jesus, refer to Matthew 5:38-48. As this is a part of Paul’s prescriptive writings, these words are intended to be followed despite being contrary to our normal human nature. By staying in the word, fellowshipping with others, talking to the Lord continuously, and praying without ceasing, this high and lofty goal can be attained. But with the distractions in the world, constantly tugging at us from every direction, it truly is a difficult task. In the end, repaying evil for evil is simply producing a second evil. If the first evil was wrong, a second one doesn’t make the first right; it only adds to the evil.

Next we are told to, “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.” This thought comes from Proverbs 3:3, 4 –

“Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.”

By living with mercy and truth as lamps on our path, we will be able to use them when strangers step in our way. When they look to harm, we should return with peace. When they bring a curse, we should utter forth a blessing. And should they refuse our graces, we should be ready and willing to offer a second helping. By writing them now on the tablet of our hearts, we will be prepared in advance when the calling comes.

It should be noted that to “have regard” for good things is not speaking of what man determines is good. The thing man determines is good is a bad standard to rely on. Rather, we are to have regard for good things which are noted in Scripture and to have that regard “in the sight of all men.” They are to see our conduct toward that which is truly good. And the intention of the term “in the sight of all men” is that we are to apply this precept at all times and in all places. In other words, we’re not to act rightly just when men are watching, but as if men are always watching.

Life application: Repaying evil for evil can only lead to an unhappy result. Even if we think we obtained the upper hand, in end we will always reap a negative reward. And that negative reward may only come when we stand before the Lord. It is incumbent on us to live without acting in revenge. As hard as this is to accomplish, it is the right avenue for peace in this life and favor from the Lord at our judgment.

Jesus, You have asked me to turn the other cheek and to not repay evil with evil. It is an extremely high calling for a person like me. It is in my fiber to come back with punches, but You would have me return with blessings instead – even a kiss of love. Help me to fulfill this that You will be glorified and I will have a life of peace and favor from You. Thank You Lord. Amen.