Summary: BIG IDEA: We make our love revolutionary when we refuse revenge and generate grace.
"Doing Right When You’ve Been Done Wrong”
INTRODUCTION: A man went into the preaching ministry, worked for seven years, then resigned to go back to medical school and become a doctor. He came to the conclusion that “People don’t want spiritual health. They just want to feel good.” He said that after working as a physician for seven years, he again resigned, this time to go back to school and become an attorney. He said, “People don’t want spiritual health. They don’t even want physical health. They just want to get even.”
>>Is there a difficult person in your life? Someone undeserving of your favor? Someone deserving your wrath? Last week we saw from Paul the Apostle how spiritual revolutionaries love to live because they live to love. But what about those difficult people? What about those who have done us wrong? [READ 14-16]
Before we answer our question, we have to recognize ...
I. Two important keys to having a love that’s authentic (15-16)
A. Love involves empathy (15)
1. Following Jesus will mean that we will pass through a kaleidoscope of experiences in life. Christianity is neither denying life’s hardships nor dulling life’s excitements.
2. Our perspective of eternity in Christ can free us to enter into the full variety of living. Both laughter and tears are appropriate before God. Each has an important place in representing our feelings. Empathizing with the joys and heartaches of others is an important way to show them our love.
3. Yoda in the Star Wars movies makes less & less sense as the saga unfolds—is he Buddhist?
4. This is no stoic teaching, which held that an impassive detachment was necessary for the good life. Instead, we are to emote with passion: “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
B. Love involves humility (16)
1. In order to live in harmony with others, we cannot be proud or conceited.
a. People of low position are only identified as such by the world’s standards.
b. Christ thought they were worth dying for.
2. We cannot love if we are preoccupied with self.
C. ILLUSTRATION: In his book, Sources of Strength, President Jimmy Carter shared:
“After a personal witnessing experience with Eloy Cruz, an admirable Cuban pastor who had surprising rapport with very poor immigrants from Puerto Rico, I asked him for the secret of his success. He was modest and embarrassed, but he finally said, ‘Senor Jimmy, we only need to have two loves in our lives. For God, and for the person who happens to be in front of us at any time.’ That simple yet profound theology has been a great help to me in understanding the Scriptures. In essence, the whole Bible is an explanation of those two loves.”
>>Ok, so we’ve made sure our love is real. But what makes a real love revolutionary?
II. A revolutionary love REFUSES REVENGE (17-19)
A. ILLUSTRATION: In March, 2001, a little Jewish girl was killed in the tit-for-tat fighting in Hebron on the West Bank while she sat in her stroller. On a wall near where she died, there is a poem in her memory. According to the Chicago Tribune: It is an elegy to her pinchable cheeks, her sweet smile, her kerchiefed cuteness—and to the urgent need of revenge. "We will take revenge, we will scream for revenge in body and spirit and await the coming of the Messiah," the poem says.
That is how people thought of the Messiah in Jesus’ day, too. That is why they were so unprepared for a Messiah who preached repentance and faith, who paid scant attention to the Romans, who said he would win freedom by dying for sins.
B. The community of believers in Rome was a tiny segment, vulnerable to the edicts of pagan emperors and persecution by any who disagreed with them. Paul, aware of these realities, counsels them and us to avoid trouble by refusing to retaliate when persecuted.
1. By doing this, they would be obeying Christ’s words, for he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).
2. They would also be imitating Christ, who when he was on the cross, said “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
3. QUOTE: C.S. Lewis: “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”
C. Refusing to take revenge avoids grudges and feuds. In human practice, revenge is repaying evil for evil, with interest. Because our personal demands for justice are mixed with wounded pride, hatred, and sinfulness, opportunities for revenge ought to be consciously turned over to God.
1. APPLICATION: This applies not only in dealing with enemies, but also in family situations. It is so easy to strike back verbally when a family member dominates, criticizes, or belittles us. Paul’s advice is to not act vengefully.