“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17)
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Where the rubber meets the road”. It’s used in many different contexts. It is used to describe the point in which after intense training, an athlete is tested in competition. It’s used in business where upon completion of all the planning, the time has come to act on that plan. And yes, this phrase is used in the Christian life as well as we are called to live out what we profess to believe. To use the phrase “where the rubber meets the road” simply indicates that the moment of truth or the point of when a plan or theory is put into action has been reached. I have a friend who refers to this as “reality”.
One of the characteristics of the apostle Paul’s letters is they tend to flow from theological or doctrinal teaching to application. Through the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul taught many wonderful theological truths to those in the church at Rome. From Romans 12 and throughout the remainder of the letter, he urged his brothers and sisters in Christ to live out those truths. In the first half of chapter twelve Paul expressed what was to govern their relationship with God, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2), that their spiritual gifts came by God’s grace and that they should not think too highly of themselves (Romans 12:3-8). And then, from Romans 12:9 to the end of the chapter Paul wrote of virtues that were to characterize those who called themselves Christian. Specifically in verses 17-21 he addressed the proper Christian response to one’s personal enemies. Paul set the tone for this section in verse 17, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all”. He then elaborated in verses 18-21, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…never avenge yourselves…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
There are no doubt area’s in our Christian lives where “reality” hits in such a way that it’s difficult to live what the Bible teaches and what we profess to believe. For the Christian, this is where the rubber meets the road. To not repay evil with evil is difficult, but it’s what God calls us to do and is a mark of genuine faith. If Christians are to be in the world, but not of it, then our lives have to be different and therefore, our responses to evil against us have to be different. “Getting even” cannot be our default response. Admittedly, this is difficult; in fact, it’s impossible without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That’s why we must call on the Lord’s help daily. We must not be overcome by evil, but instead overcome evil with good.
One commentary writer fittingly titles Romans 12:3-21 as Love Lived Out. After all, isn’t love where it all began? Not our love for God or for others, but God’s love for us. We were once His enemies, undeserving of His of His love, but He gave it anyway. It comes only by His grace and it comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Now that’s true love! Let us pray that the Lord would help us to show that same grace and love to others as undeserving of it as you and me. “So far as it depends on you…”
Lord, way too often we take Your Word as if it is but a mere suggestion. It’s not! You call us to be different. Do I dare to be? In my own strength I know I will fail. That’s why I call on Yours. Help me live in a manner worthy of Your sacrifice. Help me to do what is unnatural in my humanity, but possible in Your power. Conform me more and more into the image of Christ that I may bring glory to His name. By all means, He is worthy!