Romans 12:17-21, Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 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. 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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The problem of reacting to enemies in God’s way: it requires being considerate to people we do not like—to those who would not be considerate to us. We could paraphrase Paul’s instructions to the Christians in Rome this way. “Never allow evil people to force adoption of evil means. Instead of using evil means, put the problem in God’s hands. Let God control the situation by your being kind and considerate to an enemy. Realize evil is not defeated by resorting to evil. Only doing good defeats evil.”

These thoughts were written to Christians living in Rome’s evil environment which did not appreciate Christian values. Evil people did not appreciate Christian morals because such morals were too different to an idolatrous society’s morals. Roman society craved power and used people. Christians did not seek power and were kind to people.

The Christian treatment of enemies brings to the forefront an interesting, practical question. Why? Why do Christians give kind consideration to people who would give them no consideration?

Is it because Christian kindness brings a wonderful resolution to all physical confrontations? No! No one was kinder than was Jesus! Yet, his kindness did not prevent his death. In some instances, kindness merely infuriates those who oppress Christians. Remember, this involves a war between good and evil!

Is it because doing good “is the thing to do” for a Christian? Before a response can be given to that suggestion, an answer is needed. What is meant by “the thing to do”? If the response is that being kind to the unkind is a hoop a Christian must jump through in order to finish the divine obstacle course, the answer is, “NO!”

Is doing good to the unkind an appropriate reflection of God our Father? Yes! That is the motive for being kind to the unkind! God is good to us—good enough to show us compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness; good enough to let us be children instead of enemies; good enough to give us a indestructible hope.

Remember Romans 5:8? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:44, 45? “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Represent God well! May your values be formed by God’s character, not society!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 13 April 2006

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