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13. The way of Jesus Christ on the cross - do not repay anyone evil for evil

Bible reading Romans 12vs14-21. My life (put) alongside God's word, volume 1.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody,” Romans 12:17. (Italics mine).

Ever since our human nature fell into sin we have found it very hard to resist taking revenge when we have been (or feel we have been) wronged. This is true for us as individuals and for our communities.

However, the Bible teaches Christians must see “revenge” as something we do not seek, read Romans 12:14, and then vv17-21.

As Jesus died on the cross He did not retaliate against His Jewish accusers or His Romans executioners, 1 Peter 2:21-23. Verse 24 continues: Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness”. Because our Lord and Master Jesus did not fight back but chose to suffer Himself, surely we must do the same as He did?

The church I pastored in Khartoum was written about in a Sudanese national newspaper, the Khartoum Monitor, on the 12th October 2002. A nearly full-page article was headed: “KIC (spelled in full) is an agency of organised subversion”.

I quickly met with the Elders. We decided not to answer the charges (although we could have). We chose to say nothing to the editor and to write no reply to the accuser. We let the accusations pass us by, even if people thought that we were being weak, which many cultures did. By saying nothing we were actually being strong Christians!

As a result of this wisdom from my Elders, the matter went no further. In a few weeks the charges were forgotten about. There was no private argument, no public debate, no violence at church meetings, and no anger expressed. Because one side refused to fight, there simply was no fight!

In a small way this was obeying the principle of Romans 12:14, 17-21. The Christian church in Rome was quite like our Sudanese churches. They were mixed congregations and communities who did not always get along with one another. They were also a minority as Christians in a city and country dominated by other religions. And they were not even the founding fathers of the Christian church in Rome, but their successors, not always given (or due?) respect. This is “a recipe for conflict, divisions, arrogance, boasting, judging, disunity and lack of love”.[1]

Notice the four things Christians are not to do:

1. “Do not curse (those who persecute you)”, v14

2. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil”, v17

3. “Do not take revenge”, v19

4. “Do not be overcome by evil”, v21.

Any form of retaliation, getting your own back, taking revenge is forbidden to the followers of Jesus. Think of Jesus “He Himself never hit back in either word or deed”.[2] Romans 13 shows us how the State can deal justice to the lawbreaker, but the individual Christian can never say: “I am going to take an eye for an eye, (or a cow for a cow, or a field for a field, or a home for a home, or a brother for a brother, or a daughter for a daughter, etc.)”.

Think of what Jesus could have done from His cross. He was Almighty God in human flesh. Then remember, that He did not do these things! He prayed, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”, Luke 23:34.

Notice the four positives for Christians in Romans 12:14,17-21:

1. “Blessing”, v14, means to wish people good. Jesus taught us even more than this, Luke 6:27-28. Take real action and do your enemy good.

2. Let everybody see, and (if possible) approve of, the creatively good actions you are living out in the conflict, vv17-18.

3. “leave room for God’s wrath”, v19. When we leave retaliation and revenge to God we take the evil out of conflict and, in essence, turn the other cheek, Matthew 5:39. God may choose to use the State for later punishment (see Romans 13:1-4), or His Judgement certainly will ultimately come in Eternity. By being positively Christian we have room for sharing social service to our enemies, v20.

4. “Overcome evil with good”, v21. When we allow ourselves to respond in any of the worldly ways (see points 1-4 earlier in the chapter) we add evil to the evil of the conflict. But when we respond in the good and positively Christian ways (see these points 1-4) we replace evil with good and the fire of evil will go out, given time. We will have stopped giving fuel to the fire.

“Believers should not be the ones responsible for any lack of peace in their communities or in their relationships with unbelievers”.[3]

We live in an important era for the Sudan and South Sudan. We are the only people who can be a salt effect and a light influence for good, in our own particular historical time. May we who say we are Christians show we are followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Even if we are taken to the cross, we know resurrection to a better kingdom follows!

Discussion questions:

1. Describe a situation you have known where an individual or a group have taken revenge on another person or people. How could it have been avoided?

2. Try to apply Romans 12:17-21 to that situation. How could it have worked out in practice?

3. In Matthew 27:11-14 our Lord Jesus said very little in His own defence against charges made. Why do you think this was?

4. Is it an example for us? Why?

Why not?

[1] David M. Kasali Africa Bible Commentary (Word Alive: Nairobi, Kenya) Romans p.1349. [2] John Stott Bible Speaks Today Romans (IVP:Leicester) 1994, p.334. [3] David M. Kasali Africa Bible Commentary (Word Alive: Nairobi, Kenya) 2006, p.1370.


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