Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Conquer Evil by Doing Good!

Rom. 12:17-21NLT
17  Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.  18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
19  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
     “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. 

20  Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
     In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
21  Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

We've been reviewing together in Paul's letter to the body of Christ-followers at Rome in 57 AD, and to us in 2010. The message is as true today as it was over two thousand years back. The characteristics of a Holy Life are clear, specific, and precise. Chapter 12 is discussing for us how we live as members of Christ's body. We learned about responding to all that comes our way with the love of Jesus Christ. Beginning in Verse 17 Paul hits us where we live. "Never. . ." you know you are in trouble when the message starts with that word, or with 'always.!' We are not ever to respond in an evil way, even when we have been treated with evil. Everyone is to see us as 'honorable' by the virtue of our 'good' response. You and I both know that we struggle with our hostile nature. We want to give 'payback' when we are mistreated. Jesus encouraged us to get well beyond even the desire for 'payback' when he told us to love our enemies. Paul repeats the Lord's commands in this message too. Paul is not speaking on his own authority but only that which Christ had taught him and the Holy Spirit was inspiring him to dictate at this time. And now, the same Holy Spirit has, once again, inspired you and me to be reading this words right now! There are no accidents in God's plan!

After telling us in another way-- live at peace with everyone-- Paul uses the "never" word again in regard to taking of revenge. I remember preaching a message to a room filled with homeless people, many of them under the influence of drugs, alcohol and the meanness of living on the streets in a large inner city. At the end of the message several responded wanting to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. One young man, call him Ken, took me aside for several minutes of discipleship training before he had to go outside again. As we chatted, another person from the group waked by and called out my name, in greeting. Ken grimaced and said "I hate him."  We were talking about forgiveness-- God of us and us of others-- at that particular moment. "I hate him, I hate him, I'm going to shiv him one of these days."  I took the moment to suggest that God had forgiven Ken unconditionally and asked if he understood what that meant. Did he appreciate it?  Then I mentioned the other person and said that God had forgiven him as well in just the same way. Then I shared with Ken from the scripture in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus directs us to forgive others "for as you forgive others, so you will be forgiven."  I pointed out that our non-forgiveness of others could have a negative impact on God's forgiveness reaching us.

Ken exploded in anger, shouting that he could never be a believer if it required that he forgive that person. We talked some more and then he went off to have his meal. I was saddened for this new believer, and prayed more that Ken would learn from the Lord how to walk with Him and in Him and through Him, and with God equipping him to forgive others.  It is a hard thing to forgive those who have harmed us. Can you imagine you on the cross of Crucifixion saying 'father forgive them' instead of something like "father wipe the ground with them. . ." or some such thing?

How do we treat an enemy?  Food, clothing, drink, meeting needs, kindness, and whatever the Spirit of God moves us to do for him or her.

Are there some around you who have treated you badly in the past? As you see them, can you pray for them now? Can you ask God to show you how He wants you to show him or her a special kindness?

Your servant
Daniel C. Elliott

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