Good vs Evil
I always attempt to begin my sermons with a prayer just like the one I just prayed. I always want God’s Truth to be the star of the show here. This week, when I read this passage, I already knew that it was going to happen because this is just one of THOSE verses. You don’t need to read into this. There’s not a parable to break apart. This is just a passage that has lays out big Truth and Rules as plainly as you can read it. Personally, that is always comforting to me. I spend so much time reading the Bible for work or class, and I always have to look at what the passage really, truly means. There’s so much that goes into it, just to ensure that I am bringing educationally true facts to you from the pulpit to back up the Truth of God. When I come across this, there’s no room for interpretation, just application. Its like a breath out. So please, breath out with me as we read Romans 12:15-21.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So I don’t know if you all saw on Facebook this week, but last Saturday we had a nasty wreck outside of our house. It was bad enough that it woke us up out of a dead sleep just a little after 7am. The car had been travelling too fast and they got off into the gravel on the side of the road, which pulled the car into the deep ditch. They took out our mailbox, then hit a field access drive which flipped the car into the air, landing in the ditch about 100 yards from where they first got into the shoulder. Everyone in the car was 18-19 but they were miraculously all ok.
As we sat out there and watched the EMS take over the situation that myself and another person had begun to help the kids, Cheris and I talked about how hard it would be to be an EMS person. They have to go into every situation and, regardless of their own thoughts, feelings, observations or prejudices, treat each and every person the exact same. There was a bit of a smell of alcohol and drugs on the boys as they exited the car, but these EMS workers didn’t hesitate for a second to get each of them checked out based on severity.
It reminded me of how God looks at all of us in this world. He doesn’t care for the best people first nor the worst people last. We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. Therefore none of us are any worse or better than each other in the eyes of the Lord. So how do we overcome these labels and judgements that we have that are, at their very core, a result of simply being human?
Well Paul gives us a pretty clear picture in this passage of Romans as to how we should behave towards others in the world. Let’s break this down really quick here this morning.
First, rejoice with those that rejoice and weep with those that weep. Here we are called to understand each other and empathize with other people. Basically, we need to not make everything about ourselves.
Second, live in harmony with one another. We are not better than other people so we have to stop trying to be. We are not worse than other people so we have to stop trying to label our stations. We should treat each other as equals no matter the situation or circumstance.
Next, Do not repay evil with evil. No matter how hard it may seem, we are called to do what is right in the eyes of Jesus no matter how we have been treated. Just because someone steals from us, it does not give us the green light to begin to steal from others.
Next, Live peaceable with all. This one even has a disclaimer in it as it reads, “If possible.” We should not fight with one another. However, we can only control ourselves so if someone seeks a confrontation with you for whatever reason, our response should be to peaceable solve it, or else avoid letting it take root.
Next, Do not avenge yourself. It is not our duty to seek out vengeance against those that have done wrong to us. We must be quick to forgive and allow God to be the judge, for judgement is not our roll on this earth.
Finally, we are to be kind to our enemies. By showering those that seek to harm us with kindness, we often take away one of their greatest strengths. Our enemies gain strength in our lives when we give them the power to affect our mood. When we rise above that, and are kind to them regardless of their attitude, then we are also doing a service and obeying God.
So this is one of those passages that people outside of Christianity often point to as one of the “good rules” for humanity that the Bible contains. Most non-Christians do not deny that if we all lived the type of life taught to us by Jesus, regardless of our faith or belief in him, the world would be a better place. Obviously, if we have no faith in a higher power and we attempted to live as this passage tells us to live, we will be living a good life and would spread good among those we meet.
But we aren’t here to spread good to other people. We are here to spread Jesus. When I first looked at this passage I tried to think of a time that I was confronted with Evil. I know that there is bad in the world and that some people that I’ve encountered have been self-serving or manipulative in their dealings with others, but does that qualify as evil?
Well it didn’t take me long, about 5 minutes of watching the news, to see that the word Evil is a constant in our lives. While they may not say it enough, the world is full of evil acts and people. We try to live our lives for the good and often times that can create for us a bubble of safety that we begin to solely exist within. So that when we read a verse like this one, we tend to think of a co-worker that wasn’t so nice to us or a neighbor we don’t get along with or maybe even a family member that makes us upset.
Hear me when I say this, we live in a world of evil. We are confronted with it every single day and many of us have put up blinders to pretend it doesn’t exist. Satan is winning this world away from God and it is time that we step up and do something about it. This passage is not just a “list of good ways to live,” it is a weapon that we can arm ourselves with as we walk out into the world. That can be hard for us to think sometimes because we think of weapons as things used to hard someone else. However, this is the weapon that God has demanded that we use. We are to be empathetic, kind, forgiving, peaceful and tolerant to those people and actions in the world that would seek to harm us; the true evils that we face.
The story in this passage is clear and applicable today, just as it was 2000 years ago. We live in a dark time and a fallen world. It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ, and our relationship with the Creator, that we have any chance of finding fulfillment. The world is fallen but we are lifted up! If we stop trying to fight one another and begin to treat each other with the respect and dignity that Paul describes to us here, not only will we make the world a better place, we will be spreading the love and message of our Savior farther into the world than it has ever been before.