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
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” summarizes the entire chapter of Romans 12 and provides us with an answer as we look to answer the question: How do we persevere and not drift away from the vision of who God has called us to be as His church?
By our sinful natures, we are hard-wired with an impulse to retaliate, to repay evil with evil. The evil that is latent within us, within those around us, and within our culture is all working together to overcome us.
Evil wants to destroy our ability to be a Jesus-centered family on mission:
Jesus-centered: Evil has two ways to do this:
- Evil overcomes us when we choose sin over Jesus
- Evil overcomes us when we choose religion over Jesus
Family: Evil wants to rip apart our sense of family with one another. Evil takes joy when churches are full of relational strife and division.
On mission: Evil overcomes our effectiveness in ministry easily by causing us to be consumed with:
In the midst of all of this evil seeking to overcome, Paul gives us three encouragements—three tools to fight with—to last for the long haul.
Three ways to persevere:
- Remember that God will make everything right in the end. (Romans 12:18) Paul says to live peaceably with all and to do this, we’re going to have to choose not to avenge ourselves. Every act will be paid for so we don’t have to retaliate. We don’t have to fix everything now; Instead, we can rest in the fact that God will make everything right in the end.
- Remember that evil loses when you refuse to play. (Romans 12:20) When people hurt us and make themselves our enemies, instead of retaliating, we serve them. Evil loses when we refuse to play the game; it puts the ball of burning coals back in the other person’s court.
- Remember the grace you’ve been given. (Romans 12:19) Remember that God, in Jesus, didn’t repay us evil for evil like we deserved, but instead he has called us his beloved. Instead, God has chosen to love us the same way that he loves Jesus.