Overcoming Evil with Good

Romans 12:14-21 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. 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.’ 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.”

If you look up this word “bless” in the Greek interlinear, you will learn that the word means “good, well” combined with “word, reason”. And it says that it means to speak reason which confers benefit and it means to confer what is beneficial, and it is used of God blessing people. So if we bless those who persecute us, this doesn’t mean we speak well of them, but that we speak to them what is beneficial for them spiritually rather than us cursing them. Thus, we share with them the gospel which can save their souls from hell.

Now, with regard to rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep, this is speaking relationally of our associations with other believers in Jesus Christ who are likeminded with Christ in heart and mind and in actions, for that is the context here. For this is never meant to mean that we should rejoice with sinful acts or that we should weep as the ungodly do over the loss of what is clearly not of God. But it means that we should have sympathy and compassionate hearts towards our fellow Christians.

Regarding living in harmony with one another, this is meant to speak of those who are living in harmony with God and with the word of God and not with those who are living contrary to the Scriptures and who are willfully disobeying the Lord, in practice. So we need to be discerning and cautious about those we unite with in purpose and in actions, for we are never to compromise truth and righteousness, and we are never to unify with others who are not unified with Jesus Christ and with his teachings.

And we are to be humble people, and not haughty, and we are to associate with our brothers and sisters in Christ who may be of humble circumstances, perhaps more humble than our own. Never should we regard ourselves as above others socially. And we should never be wise in our own sight. We should always get our wisdom from God and from his Word, and not from our own flesh and our own human thinking. For what we think may not always be in line with the word of God and with the wisdom of God.

And never should we get even with other people if they do something against us, or even if we perceive that they did something against us. But we are to forgive others and we are to love them and do good to them and pray for them if they have done us wrong. For we should always behave honorably in our dealings with other people. And living peaceably with all is never meant to include compromising our faith or the word of God or holiness and righteousness. It just means we don’t fight back.

For it is not our place to exact punishment on those who we believe did us wrong. That is God’s place, and his alone. Now we can certainly speak the truth in love, and make attempts at reconciliation, and we can certainly make requests for personal consideration if we feel a boundary line is being crossed in some respect. And this goes back to the meaning of “bless,” which is to speak reason which confers benefit, for sometimes people don’t even know they did us wrong unless we tell them, and that might help them to then change in a good direction, though not everyone will.

And then we are taught here that if our enemy is hungry, we should feed him, and if he is thirsty, we should give him something to drink. And this can be taken literally or it can be taken in a spiritual context of giving him the gospel message which, if he accepts it, will quench his spiritual hunger and thirst which he may be trying to satisfy with the things of this fallen world. But the point is that we are to treat our enemies the opposite of what they are treating us. For we are never to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer

Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

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