As these examples of "sincere, unhypocritical love" move from love for Christian family (vs. 10-13), to love for people in general (vs. 14-16), to love for those who hate us (v. 17-20), we become increasingly aware that this love is a distinctly "Christian" characteristic. Expressing love toward one's enemies - desiring what's best for them and doing what's possible to cause that "best" to happen - is a reflection of our "Father in heaven's" nature. He did what was best for us (his people), by sending his Son to die in our place (John 3:16) and to bring us new, eternal, life. Even those who never turn to Jesus for salvation are recipients of God's blessings and kindness (Acts 14:17; Romans 2:4) - expressions of love that are examples for us to learn from (Matthew 5:44-48).
We must not forget that our enemies are enemies by their choice. Our desire (if we are following Jesus, and our "heavenly Father's" exmaple) is to do whatever we can to turn them into friends - specifically, members of God's family. It is love in its purest form.
[This section is in the process of being written.]
Paying back others with good (v. 17)
"Do not repay anyone evil for evil."
Some people teach that moral obligations in the New Testament are different from those found in the Old Testament. Some go so far as to suggest that God changed his mind about moral issues when Jesus came - or even that the Old and New Testaments portray the views of two different gods! In reality, God has not changed. Though the Old and New Testaments have different emphases, our moral obligations remain the same. (This issue can affect how a person interprets the first part of Romans 12:17.)
Circumstances may have changed, but the moral principles have not. God requires justice; but when designated authorities fail, Romans 12:17 shows us (as individuals) how to respond.
We have an obligation to "pay back" evil... but not with evil! However, when determining how to "pay back," we must consider the way God defines "evil" (as well as "good"). Otherwise, it becomes very easy for us to excuse and "justify" anything we may want to do.
"Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody."
Doing what is right and good requires requires conscious effort. We must use our minds before we move to action. We must carefully consider what we do - something which involves "pre-planning."
Yes, the "good" we do must be visible to others. This is because we are the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:14-16). [We are "lights" only because we follow Jesus, the "light of the world" (John 8:12).]
We cannot do it on our own; we need renewed minds (Romans 12:2). As we grow in Christ, we will grow in our ability to obey this verse.
This first of two articles focuses on the issues of ignorance, not applying what we know, and fakeness (pretension).
This second of two articles focuses on wrong attitudes about God - a faulty "God-view" - and how we can change it.
The good we do will not always be understood by the unsaved, because their minds are corrupted by sin. But God has graciously made it possible for them to understand some things - and doing such things should be a part of our pre-planning.
We cannot pre-plan "good" without learning God's Word and applying it to life. This will take conscious effort on our part.
There are many good results from pre-planning. Some affect us; some affect other people. There may also be opposition from the unsaved; but even that, God will use for our good.
Promoting peace in the world (v. 18)
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."
We cannot promote "peace," until we know what "peace" is! In the Bible, we discover that genuine peace is quite different from the limited (and often distorted) understanding that the world has.
Sin destroyed our ability to have peace; but God graciously restores what sin has destroyed. Unsaved people can comprehend some aspects of peace (even when they don't have it); but the full experience of peace is possible only for those who have first made peace with God.
If you belong to God, he calls you to be a peacemaker; he accepts no excuses for not doing so. There may be times when peace cannot exist; but when this happens, it better not be because of you.
[To be continued.]