“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
God is not asking us to be okay with being treated badly — being insulted, being cheated, taking a beating, having loves ones killed or harmed or trashed in any way. Nobody is okay with that. Your Father isn’t asking you to become so spiritual that you can just turn off the part of you that wants to strike back.
He’s asking something far more terrifying. He’s saying that to walk like Jesus is to have the patience to wait for the day when He will repay injustice with the molten lava of His terrible anger.
That makes me think, “Whoa. Wait a minute. Do I really want that guy that took my parking spot or even that conniving former friend who betrayed me to suffer the vengeance of God? Yikes.”
I’m so glad it’s not up to me who gets forgiven for their hurtfulness through faith in Jesus’ experience of the crushing wrath of God — as I have been — and who remains the object of God’s anger toward injustice and sin. That’s not my job, and I should not want it.
Think: Whose vengeance would be more just and painful, yours or God’s? Would you ever really want to be responsible for deciding who will experience God’s vengeance and who will be forgiven by His grace through faith in Christ?
Pray: Ask God to help you not to take revenge but to leave room for God’s wrath.
Do: Pay attention to your heart this week and notice when you feel like taking revenge.
“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
Christians are so . . . .
How do you think most people would finish that sentence? How about your friends who are not Christians (if you have any)? How about the people in your school, your town, your extended family?
One thing I’ve noticed about us Christians is that we tend to like talking about how Jesus said the world will hate us because it hated Him. But we don’t tend to talk as much about verses like these that tell us we had better not give anyone any valid reasons to hate us.
These are commands: Be careful to do what is right (noble, beautiful, honorable) in the eyes of everyone. And make sure you are never the reason someone is not living at peace with you.
Think: Would most of the people in your life say that you tend to do what is noble or honorable most of the time? Would they say that you do your best to be at peace with everyone?
Pray: Ask God to help you to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on you.
Do: Make a quick list of two people you are not (or might not be) at peace with. Make a quick plan to make peace with each of them this week, as much as it depends on you.
[ March 26, 2010; ] March Focus on Peace and Conflict
Peace and conflict are found at the borders of countries, between provinces, states and almost any boundary you can think of.
In my neighbourhood there is a north side and a south side, even though I can walk the entire perimeter of my neighbourhood in about 25minutes. There is just [...]
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” (Romans 12:17)
Ooh. Ouch. Walking like Jesus is sounding weaker and weaker. It’s sounding like the fast lane to doormat-ville, like a guaranteed strategy for getting used and abused and disrespected.
Once the bad guys find out you’re not going to give back evil for evil, what’s to keep them from just rolling over you for the rest of your life? This is definitely not what Mel Gibson would do, right? He always plays the good guy who makes things right by giving the bad guys worse than they gave him.
But, remember, our goal isn’t to become the action hero or the bringer of justice or even to protect ourselves from being mistreated. Our goal is to walk in the footsteps of the one who could have rained fire from the sky and instead went as a sheep to the slaughter — because He trusted His Father.
Yes, that’s hard — and it gets harder. Stay tuned.
Think: If someone asked you why Jesus didn’t pay back evil for evil, what would you tell them? Why should we want to be like Him in this way?
Pray: Ask God to help you not to pay back evil for evil and to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
Do: Try to think of any action heroes that do not repay evil for evil.
When 18-year-old Gwen Boyne was stabbed in the back of her head by her boyfriend, she thought she would die. Brad wanted to control, demean, harm and punish her. He had succeeded to do so countless times before. This time Gwen was determined to take back her power and right to be treated with dignity [...]
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16)
Is it just me, or is this verse repeating itself? Is it just me, or is this very saying the same thing more than once? It’s like Paul thought we needed to hear it twice in order for this simple idea to penetrate our me-centric hearts.
Here’s one approach to life: Live to win. Protect what’s yours at all costs. Don’t let anyone get the better of you. You’ll never belong in the best crowd if you hang out with the lamest one. If no one is beneath you, then you’re on the bottom.
And here’s the Jesus way to walk: Live to help others win. Take yourself out of competition for most popular. Be good to everyone and too good for no one. Imagine how the least popular people will look in eternity when glorified, sinless, and living up to their full design specifications.
Think: How often would you say you have an actual goal of living in harmony with other people? How many people of low position on the world’s scale would say you’re their friend?
Pray: Ask God to help you to live in harmony with others. Ask Him to help you not to be proud or conceited, but to be willing to hang out with people who rank low on the world’s scale.
Do: Make a quick list of three Christians you know who really seem to make a point to hang out with low-positioned people.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)
My wife is one of the best empathizers I know. She is really good at walking after Jesus this way.
If you were here right now and told her about something terrible that just happened to you, you would see what you were feeling in her face. She might take a step closer to you. You would feel understood. If you had good news, you might wonder if she was even happier about it than you are. And she might be.
Here’s the deal: She’s not faking it. Ever. She can’t turn it on and off. She just feels with people; it’s obvious in her eyes and her voice. It’s real.
Her Jesus-style empathy is so powerful, I’ve seen people unclench their whole bodies and personalities in just a few minutes. I’ve even seen people take a little step toward the Jesus she points to in her tears and her cheers.
I’m not as good at mourning with the mourners and partying with the happy people, but I’m learning. It’s how the Jesus people walk.
Think: Does seeing someone humiliated strike you more often as funny or as painful? Do watching someone win make you feel more jealous or excited for them? What’s in the way of your ability to rejoice and mourn with others?
Pray: Ask God to help you to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
Do: Notice the Christians in your world this week who are good at feeling with those around them.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
Did you just feel the degree of difficulty go up a notch on this list of things Jesus-followers do?
Until this one, everything we’ve covered has been nice things, easy to agree with even if you don’t necessarily plan on doing them. Just imagining yourself doing them makes you feel pretty good.
But this one is personal. This one, I imagine myself feeling bad about if I really did it. Blessing would be exactly last on my instinctive list of things to do if someone persecuted me. It would come after “ducking,” “persecuting back,” “leaving town for the good of my family,” “explaining what the persecutor obviously doesn’t understand,” and “hiding in a hole.”
Following Jesus is hard. His path led through betrayal, torture, and a public, brutal death on a cross — where He forgave those who were persecuting Him. This is what Christians do.
Think: Over the centuries, some people have read this verse while in the middle of violent persecution for their faith in Jesus. Do you think being in that place would make it harder or easier to imagine imitating Jesus and obeying this command?
Pray: Ask God to help you to bless those who persecute you, to bless and not to curse.
Do: Read Matthew 5 and notice everything Jesus says about people who are persecuted.
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13)
What’s amazing about this list from Romans 12 that describes how Christians live, how we follow after Jesus in all kind of practical ways, is that it doesn’t explain anything. It’s just one short, punchy command after another.
What does it mean for someone to be “in need”? What about needy people who are not Christians? How much of my money or food or stuff should I share? What if I’m not good at hospitality? What if I don’t feel comfortable with people in my house or car or heart? What if I don’t have a house or a car?
No answers; just do it.
It’s a human trait to make things more complicated than they have to be. If you know of a Christian in need, share with them. Find a way to use your life and possessions to make other people feel at home. Thats’ what Christians do. Period.
Think: Do you know any of God’s people who are in need? What do you have that you could share with them? How soon could you make that happen?
Pray: Ask God to help you to share with God’s people who are in need and to practice hospitality.
Do: Notice some Christians in your life who use practice hospitality really well and what difference it makes for those who receive it.