Scripture

Romans 12:4-21

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love in Action

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Reflection

In our divided and abrasive world, Christians are called to be different. We aren’t to be different just for different’s sake, but rather because of who we love and whose love we have to share. In verse 4, we see we are called to be a blessing. We aren’t to simply turn the other cheek to someone who persecutes us, but to go beyond that to bless them! 

The Christian is not to retaliate, not to live in hatred or resentment. Rather, we are to return blessings for persecution and good for evil. Notice that nowhere in here, or any of the scriptures, does Jesus say, “Retreat! Run away from evil people and persecution!” No, we are not to escape the world, or withdraw from it and build a Christian island on which to hide ourselves. Though sometimes that may sound like a good idea. Rather, we are to move into the world, live in its midst just as Jesus did, and bear witness to the truth, even though it is often rejected.

This witness relies on the Holy Spirit. I cannot, by my own will, bless someone who persecutes me. I just don't have it in me to do so. But, the Holy Spirit does what no person can. The Spirit opens hearts, removes blindness, and opens minds to understand. Just before Jesus’ ascension, he said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts l:8) The Holy Spirit empowers us to be a blessing when we are presented with hatred, evil, destruction and oppression. Call on the Holy Spirit today, my friends. Face those who mock you, dislike you, or stand against you to be a blessing.

Prayer

Loving God, I know our world is not as it should be. I am surrounded by hurting people who sometimes seek to harm others out of their pain. Help me be an instrument of peace. Give me words to comfort and heal. Guide me to see through the cultural barriers, hardened hearts and destructive actions. Let me bring grace to those around me. Give me courage to see my neighbor as you see them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.