Love's Commission.

Love that has its foundation in divine transformation shows compassion within the body of Christ and has great influence in the surrounding community.

Romans 12:17-21 displays a paraenetic writing style. It gives moral instruction, often using a loose structure and multiple quotations. The order of instructions seem random in this passage, but they are all about relating to people who you know well, but who don't know Christ. The ability to follow these commands assumes a depth of relationship and spiritual maturity and health.

"Never pay back evil for evil."

The word for "repay" in Romans 12:17 means an exact payback, penny for penny. This is the automatic sinful reaction of human nature when it has been wronged. Yet verbal, emotional, or physical payback is not an option for the Christian. Aside from being backed into a corner where legal self-defense is necessary, if there is an escape available, take it. The Lord Jesus did not get even with his enemies. Neither did Paul.

"Respect what is right in the sight of all."

This phrase refers to both moral and physical sight. Christians should appreciate what is good and right as they spend time with others. We should be known for having "a careful regard for that which is noble." For this to be evident to people who don't know Christ, we must have relationships with them!

"Be at peace with all men."

Romans 12:18 recognizes that it is not possible to be at peace with everyone all the time. But we must make our best effort to maintain peace when our friends are acting like our enemies. Even if they do not reciprocate, we can be assured that we honored God and made an effort.

"Never take your own revenge."

As with paying back evil, Romans 12:19 makes it clear that revenge is not an option for the Christian either. We must give space for God's wrath and know that His vengeance will have its way. God is infinitely capable and exact in working vengeance in His perfect time.

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him.”

We are not to be reactive when wronged. Romans 12:20 tells how we should respond actively to our enemies. When unsaved friends wrong us, we are kind. We do good to them because we love them and have been praying for them for a long time.

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

Romans 12:21 is a summary statement for the whole passage. We should not be known for being overcome in our response to evil. Such victory is possible for people walking by the principles in the whole chapter. Someone who is living a holy, relational, aware love will not be overwhelmed by the wickedness of this world.

Application Points

How can we keep growing in our practical love for those who don't know Christ?

  • Maturity doesn't sinfully react when wronged. What is your usual response?
  • Love God, His Word, and prayer.
  • Gather with the church family to learn God's Word and enjoy fellowship.
  • Maintain a disciplined relationship with your discipler.

Our love commissions us to relate with the unsaved. Our love demands that this relationship not compromise our holy living. This love constrains us to take the highest ethical road possible when attacked. Love compels us to consistently saturate our lives with good, so evil cannot have its governance in our lives. This love calls for Christian maturity as outlined in the whole chapter of Romans 12.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Proverbs 25:21-22, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27 – Doing good to our enemies.
  • Psalm 140:10 – Our kindness to enemies is the opposite as God's righteous indignation but has a similar effect.
A Hymn to Encourage: "For the Sake of His Name"

Go to the world for the sake of His name;
To every nation His glory proclaim.
Pray that the Spirit wise
Will open darkened eyes,
Granting new life to display Jesus’ fame.

In Jesus’ power, preach Christ to the lost;
For Jesus’ glory, count all else but loss.
Gather from every place
Trophies of sov’reign grace.
Lest life be wasted, exalt Jesus’ cross.

Love the unloved for the sake of His name;
Like Christ, befriend those whose heads hang in shame.
Jesus did not condemn,
But was condemned for them.
Trust gospel pow’r, for we once were the same.

Rescue the lost for the sake of His name;
As Christ commands, snatch them out of the flame.
Tell that when Jesus died
God’s wrath was satisfied.
Urge them to flee to the Lamb who was slain.

Look to the Throne for the sake of His name;
Think of the throng who will share in His reign.
Some for whose souls we pray
Will share our joy that day,
Joining our song for the sake of His name!

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