“Bless those who persecute you…” Romans 12:14a
In his commissioning address to the first century church of Rome, after explaining how they were to live out their faith before each other, Paul explained how they were to live out their faith to an unbelieving world (vv. 14 – 21):
1. Believers are to bless those who persecute the church. In other words, God’s love is to be extended in practical ways to those who mistreat those who carry the name of Christ to a darkened world (v.14a). Paul provided a qualifier to the first item on the list, namely, to be intentional – not reactionary. One’s reactive default may be to curse those who malign, abuse, or mistreat the faith community. Instead, Paul instructed just the opposite is to be done (v.14b).
2. Followers of Christ are to empathize with others, thereby building a relational bridge between Christ and those who do not know His restorative love (v.15). When we celebrate the joys and understand the sorrows of those we meet, we become intentional in connecting with others’ hearts, sharing the commonality of life’s joys and crises.
3. Paul directed Christians to live harmoniously with their fellow believers and, as much as personally able, to live at peace with everyone (vv. 16 & 18). He provided clarification on this point by adding some qualifiers:
a. Knowing that God resists the proud (Psalm 18:27, 31:23, 138:6; Proverbs 3:34, 6:17, 8:13, 15:25, 29:23; Isaiah 23:9; Daniel 4:37), Christians are not to act overly proud, being willing to associate with the poor and underprivileged without conceit.
b. Faith-walkers do not repay a wrong with another wrong, trusting God as The Avenger of wrongs (vv.17 & 19).
c. Paul echoed Solomon’s words when he directed Christians to be intentional toward the enemies of the cross, offering food and drink to them (Proverbs 25:21&22; also see Jesus’ similar teaching in Matthew 5:43 – 48).
d. Paul summed this section up with these words:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (v.21)
‘Followship’ to Christ makes one a target for the world which despises Christ and His Kingdom. The disciple whom Jesus loved wrote: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17; also read James 4:4) This passage is speaking about worldly systems – not people. The Christian must struggle against the tendency to judge non-believers and, at the same time, be intentional about avoiding the traps of worldliness. Christ lives through the lives of those who impact others’ lives by random acts of love, kindness, empathy, and sympathy.
In the rest of the letter to the Roman church, Paul provides further clarification and explanation of the nuances in interpersonal relationships, being in the world without being of the world, personal greetings, and other teaching.
Contemporary American society is resembling the first century Roman culture more each day. Christians will experience with increasing frequency the world’s disdain for Christ and His people. Nevertheless, Christians are to adopt Paul’s counsel to the Romans and be the only Jesus those in their circle of influence will ever see. Be ready to BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU.
Have a blessed day…