Summary: A sermon on Romans 12:17-21 on the Christian's response to evil (Outline and material adapted from Mark Copeland's sermon titled "Responding To Evil" at: http://executableoutlines.com/ro2/ro12_17.htm; Jelly Bean illustration came from Sermon Central)
Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. "Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days, when we’re out on the play ground, I’m going to jab him back,” John Jr. said. After hearing this his 7 year old brother spoke up: "Maybe he should feed his enemy like my Sunday school teacher talked about." So they looked up Romans 12:17-21. "Well," the mother asked John Jr., "do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes." "Jelly beans," he almost shouted, "Bob just loves jelly beans." So the family prayed about John Jr.’s enemy and about the Jelly beans. Then, they went out and bought a bag of jelly beans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his "enemy’s" desk. The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, "It worked, Mom! It worked." The mother wanted the details: "What did Bob do? What did he say?" "He was so surprised he didn’t say anything - he just took the jelly beans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!" In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends - all because of a bag of Jelly Beans.
In general terms: Romans 12:1-2
The next section, vs. 3-16 mainly talks about how we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, the church. The kind of behavior we have been discussing is certainly an indication of transformation through the gospel of grace.
Probably one of the greatest signs of transformation is how one responds to evil, and how one responds to their enemies. Moving from the church to those outside the church.
Vs. 17-21 is probably one of the most difficult rules of Christianity, but the NT on the subject is firm. This is a serious demand made on all of Christ’s followers, and it must be obeyed.
Thesis: Talk about Christian’s response to evil
How we are to respond to evil
Repay no one evil for evil (vs. 17a). Paul is not the only one in the NT with this teaching. Began with Jesus- ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:38-44, NIV. When one of the martyrs was being tortured and tormented in a horrible way, the official who had caused his sufferings said to him, “And what has your Christ ever done for you that you should bear this?” He replied, “He has done this for me, that in the midst of all my pain, I do nothing else but pray for you.”
Reply to evil with good (Vs. 17b-18, 20) Do good things in the sight of others. Live peaceably with others if at all possible. We are not to respond to evil by doing nothing, but be active and do good things to those who do evil things to us. Our response is to be active good will and kindness like giving them food, drink and other good things.
People respond differently to evil. Some take vengeance, some passively resist, some run away, some take on a victim mentality. Yet Christians should respond with love. How unlike human nature. Why are we to respond with love?
Why we are to respond with good
Vengeance belongs to God
Vengeance is God’s. Vs. 19. Only God can administer vengeance justly. “The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The LORD takes vengeance on his foes and maintains his wrath against his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. ” Nahum 1:2, 3.
God has the tools to administer vengeance.