Service to Enemies: Live at Peace

How to treat others (Romans 12:14-16)

When someone strikes at us, the natural response is to strike back. But Paul urges us to instead give a blessing to those who may persecute us (Matthew 5:44; I Peter 3:9). Not only are we to bless them, but we also to be sympathetic with those around us (I Corinthians 12:26; II Corinthians 11:29).

We should treat everyone equally, having the same attitude toward all (Matthew 7:12; I Peter 3:8-9; Romans 15:5; Philippians 2:2). We don't chase after great things, such as wealth or fame, and so we don't give preference to the rich and powerful (Jeremiah 45:5; Psalms 131:1-2; Luke 12:15). Nor do we exclude the lowly thinking that they are beneath us. To accomplish these goals, we cannot see ourselves superior to any man (Isaiah 5:21; Proverbs 3:7; 26:12).

Class Discussion:

  1. Give some examples from the Bible of people who blessed instead of cursed those persecuting them.
  2. Why was it not done in the following: Psalms 69:22-23; Acts 13:10; 23:3
  3. Given examples from the Bible of people being sympathetic to the people around them.

Vengeance (Romans 12:17-21)

When people do us wrong, evil cannot be corrected with evil (Matthew 5:39). Doing wrong in response to evil only causes us to join the other person in sin (Proverbs 20:22). Instead, consider doing what everyone knows to be good (Proverbs 3:4; II Corinthians 8:21; Romans 14:21; I Thessalonians 4:12; 5:15; Colossians 4:5; I Peter 2:12; 3:16). Often works of evil are done in secret (Psalms 64:2-5), but our response should be public (Matthew 5:10-16).

You can't please everyone. There are some who will reject you simply because of what you represent. But where we can, we should seek peace (Psalms 34:14; Romans 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 3:17-18; I Peter 3:11). When someone personally attacks you, you let the Lord handle the problem. When you take your own vengeance, you are acting as the defendant, the prosecutor, the judge, and the executioner. Your personal bias interferes with seeing a situation accurately. God will take care of the matter (Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:35-36; I Thessalonians 6-10). There is no need for personal action.

Since evil cannot be returned for evil, the conclusion is that we must return good instead (Proverbs 25:21-2; Matthew 5:44). Doing good for someone who does you wrong turns the table on the wrongdoer. "Coals of fire" is a symbol of divine vengeance (Psalms 11:6; 140:10). He ends up feeling intense shame over his actions, and perhaps in this way will be turned from evil. God sets this example (Romans 2:4). In this way, the righteous gains "vengeance" on the evil and show a strength that evil does not have (Proverbs 16:32).

Class Discussion:

  1. Can a person take vengeance on behalf of another person?
  2. Would self-defense be wrong?
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