Romans 12:14-16 ESV
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”
Bless, Don’t Curse
What does it mean to bless someone? Well, it appears that it is the opposite of cursing him. So, what does it mean to curse someone? It means to desire or to call for someone to be harmed or for him or her to face misfortune of some kind. So, to bless, by contrast, would be to desire good for someone.
And the word “bless” means “good word” or to speak reason (wisdom) which confers benefit (1), i.e. that which is helpful, useful, valuable, or constructive. So, it is to speak something to someone or to do something for someone which is valuable, good, and helpful to him or her.
And what is good? God is good, so all that comes from him is good. And good is the opposite of evil, and evil is wicked, immoral, and sinful, so good is what is decent, moral, upright, pure, and honest, as well as beneficial. So, to bless someone is to speak or to desire what is pure and upright for him.
Rejoicing and Weeping
When this says to rejoice with those who rejoice, it is not suggesting that we rejoice with others over what is evil, immoral, dishonest, and vile. We don’t join with others in their dissipation. So, this means that we are not being entertained by what is evil, immoral, dishonest, and crooked, either.
What we are to rejoice over with others is what is good, beneficial, trustworthy, honest, and of good report. It doesn’t always have to be something spiritual, but it should never be anything wicked or harmful. Like we can rejoice that someone got a job or a place to live, etc.
And the same would apply with weeping. We should not weep with people because their plan of revenge against someone backfired on them. We should not lament with them that their crooked schemes didn’t go through.
We should weep with them over sin and over harm done to them or over the death of a loved one. And we should show them compassion and concern.
In Harmony, Not Haughty
We are to live in harmony with other believers in Jesus Christ who are in unity with Christ and who are likeminded with him. We are not to unify with all people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, especially if they are living immoral lives, for not all have genuine faith.
We are also not to live in harmony (union) with all the people of this world in the sense that we become likeminded with them and thus we compromise our faith and convictions in order to make peace with them. We are to try to live peaceably with all people as long as it does not mean compromising our faith.
There are many people today who are teaching a cheapened form of God’s grace, which is a false grace, and so they are presenting the notion that living holy lives pleasing to God is prideful, and that it is trying to earn your salvation, and that it is being self-righteous.
But when this tells us not to be haughty but to associate with the lowly, it is not instructing us to lower our moral standards or to willfully live in disobedience to our Lord so that we don’t appear haughty, prideful, or self-righteous. And it is not telling us to unequally yoke together with unbelievers.
We do not alter God’s moral standards or his commandments just so we don’t appear “haughty” for living holy lives, pleasing to God. Not being haughty means being humble and not prideful, but that does not equate to being immoral and disobedient.
Don’t Take Revenge
Romans 12:17-19 ESV
“Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’”
Going back to blessing those who persecute us, we are not to try to get even with those who do evil to us. Instead, we are to do good to them and speak to them words of wisdom which are beneficial for them, and which could lead them to faith in Jesus Christ.
Now this doesn’t mean that we stop speaking the truth to people, or that we shy away from confronting sin in order to live peaceably with them. For the peace that we are looking for is not absence of conflict, but it is refusal to try to punish others or to wish them harm. And it is to show love and compassion to others and to be kind to them without compromise of faith.
And as far as punishment for evil goes, that is God’s job, not ours. If we are in a position to exercise church discipline for willful misconduct within the church, then we should do that, but with the goal to restore someone to a pure relationship with God, not to inflict harm on them.
Not Overcome with Evil
Romans 12:20-21 ESV
“To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
This is how we are to treat those who do evil against us. And I believe this applies not only to physical hunger and thirst but also to spiritual hunger and thirst. We should not only provide food for the hungry and water for the thirsty, but we should feed our enemies the living word of God.
The point is that we are to return their evil with good. Where they are hateful, we are to be kind in return. Where they lie to us or about us, we speak the truth in love to them for their benefit, and we are kind. Where they do evil to us or against others we love, we treat them kindly in return.
But none of this should ever involve us compromising our faith or God’s moral standards or his commands for holy living. In all of this we are not to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good. So, we don’t join in with what is evil, thinking that is being kind. True love remains true to God and it does what is for others’ good, not what will harm them.
A Believer’s Prayer
An Original Work / July 31, 2012
With my whole heart, Lord, I pray
To be Yours, and Yours always.
Lead me in Your truth today.
May I love You, and obey.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
When I sin, may I confess;
Bow before You when I pray;
Live for You and You always.
Love You, Jesus, You’re my friend.
Life with You will never end.
You are with me through each day,
Giving love and peace always.
You will ne’er abandon me.
From my sin You set me free.
You died on that cruel tree,
So I’d live eternally.
Soon You’re coming back for me;
From this world to set me free;
Live with You eternally.
Oh, what joy that brings to me.
I will walk with You in white;
A pure bride, I’ve been made right
By the blood of Jesus Christ;
Pardoned by His sacrifice.