Writings on Christianity

Overcoming Evil with Good (Rom 12:17-21)

Here’s the notes for my sermon on Romans 12:17-21 “Overcoming Evil with Good,” preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship in Naperville. You can listen to the audio here.

                    “Overcoming Evil with Good” Romans 12:17-21
21 years ago, roommate getting phone call to turn on TV as I got ready for my class.                   
-9/11: 2,977 people were buried under the rubble as planes slammed into Twin Towers & Pentagon.
                                -It was an incredible evil that shocked our country.
        -Since then, evil has continued in our world.
                    -Evil on Big Scale: Terrorist incidents, murder, violence, injustice, genocide, abortion, abuse
                    -Everyday: identity theft, slander, selfishness, pride, deceit, betrayal, unfaithfulness.
                                –QUESTION: How should Christians respond to evil and personal wrongdoing?
The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong.

CONTEXT: Theme of Romans: GOSPEL
Romans 1-11: Gospel Explained (God, Sin, Christ, Response)
Romans 12-15: Gospel Lived Out (How to live as Christians: “Now What?”)
        -12:1-2: The Christian life is a worshipping life. We refuse to be conformed to this world, but are transformed by God.
        -12:3-8: The Christian life is a humble life, embracing humility and serving each other with gifts God has given
        -12:9-13: The Christian life is a loving life: we are called to show genuine love for one another
        -12:14-16: The Christian life is life of loving relationships: gospel transforms how we relate to each other.
TODAY: The Christian life is a life of loving our enemies: as those redeemed by the gospel, we overcome evil with good.
                    The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong!
1. It leads us to REFUSE one way. 2. It leads us to CHOOSE another way.

1. As Christians we REFUSE a Particular Response to Wrongdoing (17-19)
As Christians we are instructed to REFUSE a particular approach to personal acts of evil and wrongdoing. There is a way we must refuse!
        –The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong! It is leads us to REFUSE a particular response.
-REFUSAL. As Christians, we REFUSE to return evil for evil: Repay no one evil for evil,
-When someone does evil against us, we refuse to return evil to them (repay…evil for evil)                    SHREINER: “The desire to retaliate almost overwhelms us when we have been treated unjustly”
        -Christians respond differently when some does evil to them.
                    STOTT: “There is a place for the punishment of evildoers in the law courts, and Paul will get to this in Romans 13. But in  
                    personal conduct, we are never to get our own back by injuring those who have injured us. Non-retaliation was a very early feature of  
                    the Christian ethical system.”
-JESUS’ WORDS: Matt 5:38-48
-There are no exceptions here: we repay “NO ONE” evil for evil.
                    -This is true of those who have done horrible things to us
                    -This is true over small, seemingly petty, personal injuries or grievances.
                                -This is true for those far from us and we have never met in person
                                -This is true for those closest to us, whom we know best.                                     -Instead of returning evil for evil: give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
-We seek the honorable path in the sight of all people.
                    -We are intentional about this: “give thought”
-We try to live peaceably with all: If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all
-The Christian is not seeking conflict, but a quiet and peaceful life (1 Tim 2:2)
                    SCHREINER: “One of the marks of Christians is a winsome and friendly spirit that delights in peace and harmony, not
                    arguments and division”
-This is not ALWAYS possible: If possible, so far as it depends on you,
-Sometimes our views and lives as Christians will cause us to be in conflict, and there is nothing we can do
                                -Christians views of God, sin, gender, sexuality, exclusivity of Christ
-REFUSAL. As Christians, we REFUSE TO AVENGE OURSELVES: Beloved, never avenge yourselves,
                    -The Christian will not seek personal vengeance, in heart or life.
        -Instead, we leave it to God’s wrath: but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
-God’s “wrath” refers to God’s just anger toward sin.
                                -Manifested in various ways in OT and NT
                                            -One manifestation is God giving people over to their sin (Romans 1:18)
                                -A reality present (Acts 12:23) in part now
                                            -A Complete reality after death in hell.
                    -As Christians we trust that God will bring about his judgment in His timing and His way.                
                                            The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong!

        -Refuse to return evil for evil.
        -Refuse to seek out vengeance
        -Refuse to hold on to bitterness.
        -Remember: God will bring about justice on evil in His timing
        -Remember also: Jesus Christ took the wrath you deserved on the cross.
                    -Plead for God’s grace to help you in this. It is hard. (My own personal experience—package stolen)
                                The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong!

2. As Christians we CHOOSE a Particular Response to Wrongdoing (20)
We not refuse the path of returning evil for evil, but we also actively choose another path.
-DIFFERENT. Our response, as Christians, is DIFFERENT: To the contrary,
-Christians are DIFFERENT than the world, and part of this is seen in how we respond to wrongdoing.
-CHOOSE. Christians CHOOSE to Respond with Love: 20 “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;
-Acts of love: If our enemy is…hungry we feed him; if he is thirsty, we give him something to drink.
                    -This could be literal.
                    -It is also is metaphorical “doing good of every kind” (Schreiner)
        -BURNING COALS on our enemies head: “for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head”
                    -‘burning coals’= metaphor for “burning pangs of shame” (Moo)
                                – “Acting kindly is a means of leading enemies to be ashamed of conduct toward us and turn to the LORD” (Moo)
                    -We have likely felt this: we did wrong to another, but they responded in love and kindness.
                                The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong!
-Make a conscious decision to choose the path of love and kindness to your enemies
        -Choose to pray for your enemies
                    (our family praying for person who stole our package)
        -Remember the kindness of Jesus toward you in the gospel
                    -Plead for God’s grace to help you show kindness and love to those who do you wrong.

3. Our Approach Can Be Summed Up in this Way (21)
This last verse is a kind of summary statement of what Paul has been saying in this paragraph. -Summary statement: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
        –Do not be overcome by evil: in particular by choosing the path of evil because you experienced by another.
                    MOO:Evil can overcome us when we allow the pressure put on us by a hostile world to force us into attitudes
                    or actions that are out of keeping with the transformed character of the new realm

                                –We are overcome by evil: when we give in to bitterness, or vengeance, or hardness toward those who wrong us.
        –But overcome evil with good: overcome the evils done to by choosing to do good instead.
                    -Choosing to show love, kindness, and pray for our enemies is right response as Christians
                                The gospel transforms how we respond to those who do us wrong!

There is actually a better path than bitterness and a life of seeking vengeance.
        -Jesus Christ had no sin, but he died for us—his enemies, including you.
                    -Believe on him, and follow him. Here is the path of being delivered from evil and overcoming it with good.
Jesus has saved you to live a life of love for your enemies.
Choose to do this as we live out faith here in suburbia:
-We refuse to snub those who exclude us; we pray for them and invite them in.
                    -We refuse to hold on to bitter thoughts toward those who have wronged us; we pray and love them.
                    -We refuse to hate those who have hurt us; we pray for them and choose to love them.
                    –We refuse to be self-righteous toward our neighbors who care nothing about God and reject our invites

: Corrie Ten Boom
        -Her family hid Jews from Nazi Occupation and later ended up in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp
                    -She and her sister Betsie had a ministry within the camp.
                                -Betsie died in the concentration camp
                    -After war she started a ministry to former guards and those who aided the Nazis
                                -Poignant story of her coming face to face with former guard and expressing love and forgiveness
        “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!”

By Tom Schmidt

Christian, husband of Rach, Church Planter,musician,

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