Overcome evil with good
Romans 12:15-21 How to get along with people both in the church and outside of the Christian community.
In today’s verses from Romans, Paul advises the readers of his epistle on how to get along with people both in the church and outside of the Christian community. Most of this seems like common sense, but the advice isn’t followed by many people today and was probably ignored as well by those living in the 1st Century AD.
To begin with, Paul suggests that his readers “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) In other words, show compassion to everyone and be considerate of their feelings instead of waiting for them to be considerate to you. He follows that with the guidance to be humble, saying “do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.“ (Romans 12:16)
Next, Paul echoes one of the commands of Jesus found in Matthew 5:38-45 when he reminds readers of this epistle to “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone”, followed with the admonition to “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Romans 12:17) The first part of this verse tells us to love our enemies and even treat them with respect and honor when they don’t reciprocate, while the second is a reminder that our conduct in public should serve as an example to others about what is good and what isn’t.
In Romans 12:18, Paul issues a call to embrace peace: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” He wisely mentions that it may not necessarily be possible to peaceably with others, as they might not have peaceable intentions towards you! Whenever it is possible, it is the duty of all godly people to avoid strife and not be the cause of it.
When we are wronged by others, it is tempting to take revenge. Paul’s advice in Romans 12:19 tells us to leave vengeance to God: “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.” That latter quote is from Deuteronomy 32:35, from the beautifully written Song of Moses.
Verse 20 continues the words from Deuteronomy, saying “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Heaping burning coals on your enemy’s head doesn’t sound like a very kind thing to do! David Guzik at Enduring Word explains:
i. Is the heaping coals of fire on his head something good in the eyes of our enemy or is it something bad? It most likely refers to a “burning conviction” that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start their own — an appreciated act of kindness.
ii. Nevertheless, we see that we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend.
Finally, we come to the end of the chapter with Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This really sums up Paul’s admonitions to the Roman church very well. We can all follow his advice by doing good to our enemies and looking for ways to help them, overcoming evil with good.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
Lord, there are times when I have been hurt by those who have wanted to harm me and the people I love. At those times, I confess that I would like to pay them back for their wrongdoing, but I know that You have called me to do good to those that treat me badly and to pray for my enemies for Your greater glory. I know that You will eventually put all wrongs to right, so keep me from trying to wrongs done to me. Instead, may my actions and the words I use bring honor to Your holy name. I ask this in Jesus’ name, AMEN.