I grew up with a group of guys that thrived on playing practical jokes. We had a saying in grade school, “You play, you pay.” Obviously we meant if you do something to me you can expect a payback. Unfortunately we often think the same way as adults when someone wrongs us. The Bible calls the follower of Jesus to take a different path of response in these situations.
We finished our “Transformed” series this week with a study on Romans 12:14-21. It seems to me that these eight verses speak to us about letting God settle the score. It seems to me that the first seven verses expand on what is communicated in the last verse. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 Now, this is a verse that is easy to read and say, “Yeah, I got it.” But I need you to take a moment and reread this section. It is easy for us to gloss over how this verse calls us to respond when we are wronged by another. And if we are in the midst of some type of relational conflict I think we would prefer the Old Testament approach of “An eye for an eye!”
What stands out to me in the passage is that when we toy with evil we are the ones that loose. It seems like forever since we lived in East Wenatchee, the much dryer part of the state. The threat from fires was real each summer especially during late July and August. I remember one instance when fire, driven by wind, was approaching a populated area of Wenatchee. The fire fighters decided to start a counter burn. The counter burn measure is when a fire is started in an effort to back burn to control a fire’s progress. The problem with this approach is that fire is unpredictable and especially so if the wind picks up. The end result was that the counter burn caused more damage than the fire it was attempting to stop. This stands out in my mind as a warning against attempting to use evil to settle the score.
This passage in Romans offers a number of insights on how we can “overcome evil with good” and break the cycle of evil in our lives. It admonishes us to be kind rather than cruel to those that have hurt us. The word “curse” in this verse means to invoke harm on another person. It reminds us to have empathy, a feeling of understanding and to share their experiences and emotions, towards those that are against us. We are called to rejoice when good things happen to them and weep when bad thing happen rather that the opposite fleshly response. It calls us to be a peacemaker. This can only happen if I stop being so arrogant, thinking that I am better than others, and treat them as my equal. It challenges us to be honorable. We are called as Christ’s followers to take the “high road.” We are called to imitate Christ rather than the Devil. We are cautioned to do what we can but we can only do so much. Most conflicts involve at least two people. We are encouraged to do what we can and leave the rest to God. Finally, we are instructed to let God settle the score! He can be trusted and He will do what is best for all involved.
You can check out the full message here, where I go into more detail on each item listed above. So what will you do to break the cycle of evil in your life this week. A good start would be to read Romans 12:14-21 a couple times. I am sure the Holy Spirit will give you direction.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson