The Bible study on Romans 12:14-21 looked at how our sacrificial living plays out in real life. These verses are not hard to understand, but effectively take a lifetime to put into practice. The sentiments expressed are so contrary to the world’s way of thinking and doing that we will only ever be able to do them if we have had our thinking transformed (Rom 12:1-2).

We are commanded to bless those who persecute us, to bless and not curse them. We are commanded not to repay anyone evil for evil and not to take revenge. We are commanded to do practical good to those who persecute us, giving them food and drink if necessary. There is no room for putting ourselves first or reacting as the world reacts, wanting to get even (see also Matt 5:41-44). The world’s modus operandi is ‘if you want to get ahead, get even… If you are wronged, hit back and even the account.’ God’s way is not like that. While we were still His enemies, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8) He does not ask us to do anything He has not done Himself; as always, He is the perfect role model for us.

By leaving room for God to work in situations and by reflecting His character (and thus demonstrating that we are indeed His children), we open up the doors for repentance. Others who were repentant in ancient times demonstrated this publicly, by tearing their clothes and putting ashes on their heads or by walking through towns with burning coals on their heads. Repentance is costly and visible; by our fruits shall we be known. We cannot guarantee our enemies will turn to God, but by living as God does, we give them the opportunity to see love in action.

Our job is to do what God has commanded. Feelings can’t be our fuel; obedience has to be the key. We have to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn’ – again, learning to put other people’s needs before our own. The Christian life is not lived in isolation, but in community. We are therefore called to ‘live in harmony’ – making a beautiful sound, not a discoardant one! We are not all the same, but there is a richness in diversity that is in harmony which is beautiful. There is no room for conceit or wrong thinking, just a constant giving over of ourselves to God and to each other.

Evil is not overcome by more evil. If we want to break the vicious circle of evil, we have to do good. We have to be totally transformed in our thinking so that we can reflect God’s character.