21/1/07 Romans 12:16-21 - B.C.P. Epiphany 3
Romans 12: 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I suppose we have all seen in films and on television what has been called "redemptive violence". Wrong has been done and the hero comes in and defeats the enemy by inflicting violence upon them, perhaps killing them. James Bond or Rambo are examples of this. The philosophy behind this is that the ends justifies the means. That only violence can defeat evil.
The way of Christ is a different one.
Paul tells the Roman Christians, vs. 17ff, not to seek vengeance, but to leave it to God to judge. God has the knowledge and power to judge fairly and he will do this one day. No-one can escape his justice. Perhaps this has something to say to those who advocate the death penalty.
Paul suggests that doing good to the person who has done wrong may bring shame and repentance to them. They could then become friends and even come to trust in Jesus.
Before this. Verse 16, Paul told the Roman Christians that they should live harmoniously and be humble. Perhaps there is the suggestion that when we do this we are less likely to adopt a judgmental attitude.
We should follow Jesus' teaching which is like that of Paul;
Luke 6:27 "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Paul also tells the Roman Christians "18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." This means that, where possible we should live peaceably and make peace with people. "Blessed are the peacemakers..." Mt. 5:9. This does not mean that we should do so at the expense of what is right. The reason that Jesus was crucified was that he challenged the position and teachings of the religious leaders.
We should also follow Jesus' example. Even when he was being nailed to a cross he forgave and did not retaliate. Luke 23 33 "When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals - one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
To be loving and forgiving we need to know the love and forgiveness of Jesus in our lives. We need God's Spirit to help us live in this way.
"Never cease loving a person and never give up hope for him, for even the Prodigal Son who had fallen most low could still be saved. The bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can kindle again."
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855)