This section deals with how we are to interact with people, whether they are saved or unsaved. Some of the verses definitely relate to interaction with the unsaved (such as v. 14). Some may be more applicable to our interaction within the family of believers (such as the first part of v. 16). But most are applicable to our interactions with all people.
Blessing one's enemies (v. 14)
"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse."
God requires us to bless those who persecute (or willfully harm) us. This is something we cannot do without the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to do so.
According to Romans 8:28, God uses all things to accomplish good for those who love him. This includes the things that our persecutors do to us!
If you are following Jesus, you can expect the world to mistreat (persecute) you... just as they did to Jesus.
We are to treat those who harm us the same way Jesus treated us - with blessing.
There are two New Testament Greek word groups that are often translated as "blessing" in the English Bible. This article looks at both of them and examines some principles that can guide us in knowing how to "bless" those who harm us.
There are some legitimate instances of cursing found in the Bible; but the type of cursing mentioned in Romans 12:14 is prohibited. This article looks at the various ways this concept is used in the New Testament.
Rejoicing and mourning (v. 15)
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."
We are to rejoice and mourn with others, but not the way the world does. The world has has distorted values (having rejected God's values); so the way it rejoices and mourns is often incomplete, distorted or just plain wrong.
We must rejoice in ways that will honor God. This means we will sometimes not rejoice when the world does, and often rejoice when the world doesn't.
We must mourn in ways that will honor God. This means we will sometimes not mourn when the world does, and often mourn when the world doesn't.
Living with unity, humility, equality (v. 16)
"Live in harmony with one another."
The world treats the concepts of "mind" and "heart" as opposites ("thinking and logic" vs. "emotions and feelings"). Scripture shows us that these concepts are inseparable, and often refer to the same thing.
Two issues are examined here: 1) Why only saved people can fully obey this verse; and 2) How we (the saved) should relate to the unsaved.
United in a common cause, valuing each other, working together, etc. This will often be impossible in our interactions with the unsaved (though we can try). But it is surely relevant (and necessary) within God's family!
"Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position."
This is an attitude that anyone can have - but all must get rid of. Considering one's self as more important or better than others is not a legitimate option for anyone... much less for God's people!
Humility is the "replacement attitude" for being "high-minded." More than that, it is the only attitude that is really truthful about who we are, when compared to others. It is important to remember that humility is not just an "attitude"; it's a way of life... and our actions will demonstrate whether or not humility is present.
"Do not be conceited."
The previous part of this verse focused on our attitude toward others. Here, we look at our attitude about ourselves. Do we go around with an attitude of self-importance, and ignore the fact that, in God's sight, others are just as important as we are? We all need each other!