by Mike Ratliff
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)
In our daily Christian walk it is a rare day in which we take every thought capture and, through our active repentance, successfully deny ourselves through every circumstance. I don’t think I could claim that I have successfully done this the majority of the time. However, our God is wise and omniscient. It should be a matter of great rejoicing on our part that our perseverance is in His hands and is based on the work of the Holy Trinity on our behalf, not on our will power.
My son is visiting us this week. Today we drove over to Kansas City, Missouri to dine at one of his favorite restaurants then do some shopping. I drove in parts of the metro area that I normally never venture into. As I drove on I-35 attempting to obey the speed limit, I was totally amazed at the impatience of some people who wanted me to speed up or get out of the way. Some of those folks were downright dangerous. I confess to you all that my anger did show itself a few times. I wanted a State Trooper to be right there to witness what these people were doing and put a stop to it. Is this how Christians are to interact with the world?
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14 ESV)
The Greek word Paul used here that is translated as “bless” is “εὐλογέω” or “eulogeō.” It means, “to speak well of” or “praise.” Paul rendered this word in present tense, imperative mood, and active voice. All this means is that Paul is giving us a command to do something in the future that involves continuous or repeated action. In other words, as we walk through each day we are to speak well of or praise those who persecute us. Huh? The Greek word translated as “persecute” here is “διώκω” or “diōkō.” It is a present active participle meaning. This means that in English it should have an “ing” on the end. In other words, v14 should read, “Bless those who are persecuting you.” In Koine Greek present participles express continuous or repeated action, but the action represented is relative to the main verb. What is the main verb in this verse? Isn’t it “bless?” This is emphasized for us as Paul repeats the command by saying, “bless and do not curse them.” He also tells us not to “curse them.” The Greek word for “curse” here is “καταράομαι” or “kataraomai.” It means, “a curse, to wish anyone evil or ruin.”
So what is Paul telling us here? He is commanding that when we are persecuted for by anyone then we are to not return in kind. Their actions could be intended by our enemy to incite us to an inflammatory response of some kind, even if it is all in our minds and hearts. Paul is saying that we must not do that. This is the standard my brethren and it is how our Lord reacted to all who persecuted Him.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 ESV)
The Greek word translated as “rejoice” here is “χαίρω” or “chairō.” This word is closely related to “χάρις” or “charis,” which is translated as “grace” or “favor” in the New Testament. The joy expressed in v15 is the product of God’s grace. What about the capacity to weep with those who weep? “Rejoice” and “weep” in this dichotomy are in present tense, infinitive mood and active voice. This means that Paul is referring to action that is continuous or repeated with no implication as to when the rejoicing and weeping takes place. The Christian is one who is reborn unto the image of Christ. God’s grace is ever present in him or her. This causes them to react as Christ would when around those rejoicing in the Lord and those who are weeping in sorrow for any number of reasons. Think of our Lord weeping as He approached the tomb of His friend Lazarus. He was weeping with those all around Him who were grieving. Think of Him rejoicing at the table of the tax gatherers who repented such as Zacchaeus.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (Romans 12:16 ESV)
Paul is telling us to be impartial with others and we are able to do this by not being overcome with self-seeking pride. We are not to be conceited or to have feelings of superiority over others. As I moderate the comments on Possessing the Treasure it is quite amazing how often this little command in v16 is far from those professing to be in Christ. I had a fellow once who was upbraiding me and others commenting here about our lack of humility and Christlikeness because we were pointing out to him where he was holding on to some heretical teachings. I know for certain that no one was being obnoxious to him nor were any of us name calling or acting as if we were superior to him. However, he became just that so I stopped posting his comments. He sent me an email very soon after that. It was a huge rant and he was furious that I would not let him reply to another commenter about his lack of humility, et cetera. He accused me of being no different than all those others who were continually persecuting him. He attempted to coerce me into allowing him to resume his commenting by revealing how much he was always suffering for his beliefs.
Does this mean that our impartiality should have blinders on to the point that we are not discerning? No! We are commanded to be discerning and wise and to earnestly contend for the faith. Therefore, we must balance these things and do all from a motivation of love.
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. (Romans 12:17-21 ESV)
I know that it may seem to some that we can be quite harsh with those who disagree with our stance on the Word of God, the Gospel, the Sovereignty of God, the deity of Christ, et cetera. However, it is actually for the best to cut the ranting and raving of those who are espousing heresy. It would be far worse to have unlimited “discussion” on these things as all it would it end up doing is inflame passions and we would witness the repaying of evil with evil. I have seen this more times than I care to recount. It is shameful that some who call themselves Christians use the methods of the world to force others to bow to their arguments. This is why I moderate discussion here. We are to live peaceably with all as long as it is possible. However, we will never be reconciled to heresy nor to those who hold to false teachings. We do not seek vengeance. I receive emails all the time saying I should go over to another blog or web site to see what they are saying about me. I used to do that, but I don’t anymore. All that does is feed the desire for me to retaliate. Now, if they are teaching what is false about my Lord, my Father who is in Heaven, the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, et cetera, then I will probably write something addressing it, but I will wait on the Lord’s judgment. He will repay. That is not my function.
My brethren, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. We do this by being Christlike and we become Christlike as God makes us godly as we walk in repentance. It is by God’s grace alone that any of us can approach this level of Christlikeness.
Soli Deo Gloria!