Repaying evil with kindness is radical, God-honoring behavior. #mercy
Romans 12:20 “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’”
Paul is calling us to even more radical behavior here. What are we to do instead of seeking vengeance against those who have wronged us? Not only are we to leave that vengeance to God, but we are also called to be kind to them, to serve them and give to them. The first question that begs to be answered is “How?” How are we supposed to do that? The answer lays all the way back in Romans 12:1. Only in God’s mercy can we obediently leave ourselves at the door and seek only His glory in every situation, including those with our enemies. This naturally leads us to the question that comes immediately after the first, “Why?” Why should we be kind to our enemies and serve them? Once again it is because the result is not about us at all but about God, His glory, and advancing His kingdom. By emulating the love of Christ in our responses to evil, we do not fan the flames of hatred with more hatred, but we instead we do the radical thing—we are kind. The picture of heaping burning coals onto a fire that is already burning means that our kindness will do one of two things: it will either cause the fire to rage out of control and be lost in its own destruction, or it will burn itself out and find the fire gone, seeking instead the source of our love. In other words, it will result in judgment on or repentance from that person. Our job is simply to be about God and not ourselves in all situations.
Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 5:43-48. What did Jesus say on the subject of how we are to treat our enemies?
*Father, help me respond to those who hurt and abuse me in ways that are honoring to You. Amen.
The desire for revenge is a desire to unseat the holy Judge. #GodisJudge
Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
There is not a person on earth who hasn’t been wronged at one time or another, most likely many, many times. Often the offender seemingly never pays for the wrong he or she committed. As a matter of fact, it very often appears as if they have moved on with their lives happily as if the wrong never occurred. When this happens, we may feel as if it is still unresolved. How can that person go on as if nothing happened after what he or she did? Our need for justice keeps us bound in anger and bitterness which often leads to a desire for vengeance. Please understand that our desire for justice is not wrong. As a matter of fact, making clear distinctions between correct behavior and incorrect behavior is one of the marks of the indwelling Holy Spirit. However, allowing this desire to dictate who should administer this justice is wrong and will lead to a skewed perspective on roles as well as the aforementioned pain and bitterness. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 so that we are reminded that God is the only truly just One, and it is His role to administer final justice. He has promised us that He will, and His will be just in the truest sense of the word. When we respond in this truth, we can breathe and let go of the need for revenge, focusing instead on the Judge who loves us and has promised to avenge us for His Name’s sake.
Study/Meditation: Read the following: Nahum 1:2, Deuteronomy 32:43, and Isaiah 59:17. What do these passages say about God’s vengeance?
*Father, help me let go of bitterness and anger toward those who have wronged me. Remind me of Your justice and righteousness so that I fully trust in You as the perfect Judge. Amen.
Winning others to Christ trumps winning an argument. #peace
Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
In today’s world, peace seems like a far-fetched notion, doesn’t it? On an international scale, peace is fleeting, often nonexistent entirely, and most of us can do little if anything about that. Unfortunately, very often we can do little or nothing about the absence of peace in our own personal worlds either, but Paul is reminding us that we should do everything in our power to seek it. Notice that he says, “If possible.” Sometimes peace simply isn’t possible. It takes at least two parties to have perfect peace, so it isn’t only the Christian’s responsibility to attain it. But then Paul adds, “so far as it depends on you.” Basically he’s saying, “If peace cannot be gained, it mustn’t be your fault.” Do everything within your power to have peace with everyone, and if the other party will not go there, you will have done all that you can first. Argumentative, cantankerous people are not people who attract others, and they surely do not draw them to their beliefs. Our goal is to show others the love of Christ so that they desire it too. Winning an argument most likely will not bring about this end, but kindness, humility, and long suffering may.
Study/Meditation: How can you seek to attain peace with others without necessarily winning an argument? How might this approach also draw them to Christ?
*Father, help me as I relate to others. Give me a gentle and soft heart that sees past my pride to their hearts. Amen.
Christians are called to honorable behavior toward everyone. #honor
Romans 12:17 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.”
What a tragedy when the world looks on a Christian life and sees nothing kind and generous and honorable toward them. It is extraordinarily sad when we hear the word “hypocrite” used from unbelievers to explain why they won’t go to church. These kinds of reactions are direct responses from those who have not seen grace and forgiveness and honor from the very people who should exemplify those things to everyone, not just to those within their Christian families. Paul has changed gears slightly beginning in this verse to address how Christians are to treat those outside of the faith. The world ought to look on believers and see something different, and that difference should be manifested in the way they treat others. Paul reminds us that we are called to different behavior than the world, behavior that does not retaliate or cheat or lie or speak unkindly or act dishonorably. The world should see Christ in us by the way we live, and they should see love in us in the way we treat them. Christians are to be holy, or set apart, in all ways, including the way we relate to others.
Study/Meditation: Explain the different ways a Christian is called to be “holy” in this world? How does that include the way we treat others?
*Father, give me a heart that reacts in grace and love toward all mankind. Help me display for the world a heart that is changed by Your mercy. Amen.
There are no economic or cultural distinctions for those who are in Christ. #humility
Romans 12:16 “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited.”
Paul is not speaking of living in harmony the way we often think of it, to get along well with one another. Paul is speaking to the harmony of oneness, living together with no distinctions based on social, economic or cultural standards. That is why he continues this thought with statements on pride and humility. Basically he is reminding us of how we must treat each other with this new and transformed mind that is Christ-centered instead of self-centered. The Christ-centered mind does not see itself in terms of human distinctions because it is fully devoted to Jesus. Therefore, favoritism and arrogance are replaced with compassion and servitude. Christians never consider a task too low for them or beneath them when they are serving the kingdom. On the contrary, our task is as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant that yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
Study/Meditation: How is Jesus our supreme example in living this way? (Read Philippians 2:5-8)
*Father, help me see the times when I am less than humble and give me opportunities to serve as one who is fully devoted to You. Amen.
Great ideas can be tiring, but God-ideas are inspiring.
I am learning. Gradually.
I love to volunteer, jump in, help out, run the show. However you want to put it, I’m in. I joke periodically that God gave me my sweet husband to hold my hand down. While not altogether true and knowing he is far more of a blessing than that, I do know that he helps keep me in check and remind me of my priorities before I drive us all crazy.
God calls us to many things in our lifetime. Whether acts of service to others or stewardship of resources, not a day goes by when He does not speak to our hearts about something. But there is a drastic difference between the “business of God” and the “busyness of God.” (more…)