Summary: These verses could be considered a summary of the core expectations of supernatural living. If we love the way Christ loves us we should be willing to love others. If we have experienced God's grace we are able to, and should want to, pass it on to other
ROMANS 12: 14-21 [CHRISTIAN RELATING SERIES]
THE RESPONSE OF GRACE
[Last week we learned that God calls us to supernatural living which is having our outer life transformed by the inner life being conformed to Christ-likeness. In that text we looked at the believer's duty toward fellow Christians.] The next section in this list of basic characteristics of supernatural Christian living widens to include our duty to everyone, believers and unbelievers. These verses could be considered a summary of the core expectations of supernatural living. If we love the way Christ loves us we should be willing to love others. If we have experienced God's grace we are able to, and should want to, pass it on to others.
What is requested here is not difficult, it is impossible without God's grace. Remember what grace is - God's undeserved favor? By giving undeserved grace, as demonstrated in these attitudes and actions we are not excusing someone's misdeeds. What we are doing is by grace, forgiving him and loving him in spite of his sins against us - just like Jesus did and does for us.
Our passage can be broken down in the following way:
I. OUR GRACE RESPONSE TO ALL, 14-16.
II. OUR GRACE RESPONSE TO ENEMIES, 17-19.
III. OUR VICTORY OF GRACE, 20-21.
This section begins with a command that is impossible to unredeemed human nature in verse 14. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." The obedient Christian must not only overcome hating and retaliating against those who harm and curse him but is commanded to go even further and bless them. Paul is echoing the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:27-30. So that we would not think that Jesus was simply asking for non-mistreatment Jesus explains what Agape love was capable of in Luke 6:29-30 and then continued with the reason for it in Luke 6:32-33. "Whoever hits you on the cheek," He commands, "offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold you shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back" [Luke 6:29-30]. Commenting further about our attitude in such situations, Jesus explains, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same" (vv. 32-33). This love is something the world does not have. To truly bless those who persecute us is to desire their eternal salvation.
As we would expect, the supreme example of blessing one's persecutors was given by our Lord Himself. As the sinless Son of God hung in the great suffering of sin-bearing on the cross He prayed with unimaginable mercy, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:32). As Stephen lay beneath the bloody stones that were crushing the life out of him, he echoed those words of his Savior, saying, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60). Many years later Peter wrote, "For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously" (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Verse 14 continues "bless and do not curse." Beyond withholding our hand from doing them harm we are not to wish them loss or harbor ill-will toward them but are to bless them and do them good. In other words we are not to desire the outpouring of divine vengeance on our persecutors but are to bless them desiring their salvation. We should be people who have let go of all persistent attitudes of resentment, hostility and retaliation. We should utter no evil or condemning words against anyone. Have you uttered evil or spiteful words against someone?
In verse 15 we are told to enter into the feelings of others. "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep."
One way to verify that our heart is in the right place is to identify with other people so that we "rejoice with those that rejoice." Rejoicing with the brethren may seem easy but what if great good falls to our enemy? What about if their accomplishments make ours seem bare and dull?
We also need to be sensitive to the disappointments, hardships, and sorrows of others, to "weep with those who weep." This calls us to the duty of sympathy and empathy, to entering into the heartache of others. The word compassion contains the idea of suffering with others. This deep identification is not only with fellow believers, but with all those whom we have a relatively close relationship be they believers or unbelievers.