We’ve been talking about thinking small to respond to the enormous tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook a few weeks ago. I took a break to focus on a few other topics, but wanted to finish that series tonight. If you thought sincere love and hospitality was a challenge, wait until we read what the Apostle Paul tells us next in Romans 12:14-21 –
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Lots of words here, but there are two themes here to tease out: how to respond to evil & how to respond to what others are experiencing.
How to Respond to Evil
Of the two themes, this is by far much more difficult and unnatural for most of us. Quite simply, Paul says that our response when others sin against us should be to love them.
To bless them.
To feed them.
To clothe them.
To give them a drink.
To shower them with the favor of God, that same favor we don’t deserve either.
Some days, I wish Paul wrote a different passage. Or I think he didn’t understand what I was going through. Then I remember his experiences:
He was stoned.
He was whipped thirty-nine times, five times.
He was shipwrecked, three times.
And yet he is the one who told us to bless not curse those who persecute us. He who understands far better than nearly all of us what is means to experience evil, and what it means to be persecutes. Perhaps it’s time for a gut check?
How to Respond to What Others Are Experiencing
Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep. I believe he was just giving us some examples, and that list could go on:
Laugh with those who laugh.
Mourn with those who mourn.
Be confused with those are confused.
Be hurt with those who are hurt.
The big idea is to stop insulating ourselves and living separate lives. We were never meant to live apart from community. All the way back in the garden, we see God saying “It is good…It is good…It is good.” Then He sees Adam alone, and “It is NOT good.” We were not meant to be alone. This speaks not only to marriage, but community.
Three questions to respond to:
1) How well do you respond to evil?
2) How well do you live in community?
3) How can I help you respond better with either one?