Looked today at Romans 12:9-21, for which the exhortations, “Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” form bookends. Here it is not the call to fight evil that is amazing, it is the method: you defeat evil not with anger and aggression, but with good:
- Warm, genuine love for fellow believers. “Let love be genuine … Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
- Fervent service. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
- Practical love for others. “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
- Humble love for others. “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.”
- Peace with those outside. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
- Love instead of revenge. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them … Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of 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.’
Can we summarize this? I’ll try: for God’s people, fighting evil looks like internal love and external peaceableness. For someone with a very robust view of Christ’s kingship and coming judgment, Paul places a surprising emphasis on taking care of our own and minding our own business. What might this look like?
The practical everyday life of the church will be warm, affectionate, attentive, quick to meet needs, and hospitable; rather than formal, distant, self- or family-centered, holding each other at arm’s length.
In our dealings with outsiders we will be quick to agree whenever possible, ready to back down from a fight when we can do so in obedience to Christ, always taking our personal feelings out of the picture. Because we are confident that Jesus Christ has both received the judgment for our sins, and will bring perfect justice to bear one day, we can forbear and forgive when we are wronged.
We can suspend judgment of others (inside our outside the church), an act of faith in the only just Judge to do his job. We can love the unlovely – warmly, affectionately, practically, humbly – because we are loved.