Unity In Times of Disagreement
Today we are going to finish our study, “Bless Who?” Let’s read our Scripture together. Turn with me to Romans 12:14-21 and let’s begin.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21 NIV)
If you will remember, in the first section of Romans 12 Paul gave us some great guidance about how we are to relate to our brothers and sisters in Christ–this includes those that we may not be naturally drawn to as well as those that get on our last nerve. Beginning in Romans 12:14, Paul turns his attention to those who persecute us, those who do “evil,” those who would consider themselves to be our enemies.
In Romans 12:14-21, Paul gives us 8 roadside markers to chart our course, to give us guidance as we relate to those who oppose us or those who oppose the cause of Christ. We covered the first four in our last study. Let me mention them.
1. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
2. We are to live in harmony with one another.
3. We are not to be proud, but we are to associate with those who hold no position in society, those who are forgotten and considered as unimportant.
4. We are to never repay evil with evil.
Today we will cover the last four roadside markers, reminders to us of the life we are to live and how we are to relate to those who oppose us, those who consider us as “enemies.” Take a look at verse 17 with me.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. (Romans 12:17 NIV)
The first part of this verse was covered in our last lesson. We will begin our study today by taking a look at the second sentence in verse 17.
The fifth roadside marker: We are to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of others.
Paul says, “Be careful to do what is right.” The Greek word translated, “right,” is “kalos” and it means, “beautiful, excellent in its nature and characteristics, good, admirable, or beautiful to look at.” This verse throws many of the followers of Jesus for a loop because we know that we are only to do what is “right” in the eyes of God. It doesn’t matter if what we are doing is right in the eyes of people or not as long as it is right by God’s standard. James Montgomery Boice gives us some background on the word.
The way to understand kalos is to know that it was the word used by the Greek philosophers, especially Plato, to describe the goal of sound thinking. Usually we think of this goal as ‘the good,’ which Plato proposed as the right pursuit of all rational beings. But if we are working in the area of aesthetics, the ‘good’ that we are pursuing becomes, ‘the beautiful.’ In philosophy it is ‘the truth.’ If we are thinking of morals, it is what is ‘right.’ If we are thinking of character, it is what is ‘honorable.’
The point is that this is what all people should aim at. So when Paul told the Romans that they were to ‘be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody,’ he was saying that Christians are to lead the way in good or right things, and they are to do this always. We are to be known as those who always pursue the very best in all areas. (James Montgomery Boice, Romans: Volume 4. pg. 1614-1615.)
Is there some action, some “good” that we can engage in that is perceived by the vast majority of people as “good?” I believe there is. I know people from a wide variety of backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles. I can talk about God’s Word or matters of doctrine and theology and their response is varied. I can talk about how we pulled together to help provide 500 families in our community with Thanksgiving turkeys and they all applaud. I can talk about how we worked together to provide Christmas presents for 50 kids from our neighborhood whose dad is in prison and they tear up. I tell them how we have people working at our church doing odds and ends so that they can pay their electric bill and they are amazed! I can tell them about ministering to families who have lost a loved one and they are touched to the core of their heart and soul.
In Scripture we receive encouragement to live our lives in such a way that God, as well as people, will take notice. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus let us know that there are eyes watching us, evaluating our lives. He said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
Jesus didn’t say to live our lives so that other believers might take notice. He said, “Let your light shine before men, (before all people,) so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” We are to give great thought as to how we live so that others, especially those who do not know Jesus, might take notice of God’s work going on through us.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, Paul let the people of Corinth know that he was seeking to live in such a way that his life would be pleasing to all of those who were watching him. Let’s read this Scripture together.
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NIV)
Paul knew that he was called to live in such a way that all people would see the “good” in what he was doing. For most Christians today we are satisfied if we simply go to church on Sunday. We think we have fulfilled our obligation if we fill a pew for an hour on a Sunday morning, but for Paul, what he ate, what he drank, everything he did had purpose, and the purpose was to bring glory to God and to work for the good of all people. Paul didn’t want to be a stumbling block for anyone.
I was having lunch with a friend a few weeks ago when he asked me, “Is it a sin to drink alcohol?” I said, “No, it’s not a sin to have a drink, but it is a sin to get drunk.” I quoted Ephesians 5:18 as a reference point. Paul said, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV) Then my friend asked, “Do you drink?” I said, “No.” He said, “But you said having a drink is not a sin.” He was puzzled. I said, “Let’s say we are having lunch today and you order a beer so I order one as well. Someone, who knows who I am, comes in this restaurant and sees a beer sitting in front of me. In their mind, is that beer number 1 or number 10? How does the human mind work?” He said, “Number 10.” Exactly. I said, “My desire to drink whatever I want to drink is not nearly as strong as my desire to never cause anyone to stumble. What is permissible for me may not be beneficial for the mission God has called me to.”
I want to share one more verse with you as we consider Paul’s statement to “be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.
11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NIV)
Paul is speaking to brothers and sisters in Christ, but he is giving them instructions on how they are to relate to “outsiders,” those who are not followers of Jesus. He tells the church folks to live in such a way that it gains the respect of outsiders.
Have you ever noticed how sometimes unbelievers have a better sense of how we should be living then we do? They can spot a hypocrite from a mile away. Have you ever heard an outsider say, “He calls himself a Christian?” when one of his church buddies acts in a way that betrays the lifestyle of Jesus? Or, have you ever witnessed an unbeliever reach out and help someone who was going through a tough time while her Christian friend sought an escape route by saying that she would have to pray about what to do?
They aren’t followers of Jesus, but in some ways they sure understand His heart better than many of us do. They mock churches that spend millions of dollars on elaborate, ornately decorated buildings because they wonder out loud if Jesus would spend His money on such things. They are repulsed at preachers who prey on the emotions of people to get what they want. Folks, there is a watching world fixed on you and me and we are to be thoughtful about how we live this life. We are to live in such a way that the most hardened atheist respects how we live.
The sixth road marker is that we are to live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on us.
This is such a fascinating verse to me because many Christians, who are unfamiliar with the Bible, view biblical times as a utopian period of history. People got along better, there weren’t the kind of worries present that worry us, and God was “more” present in the world. These same people look at those we read about in God’s Word as somehow different than us. They talk about the Apostle Paul like he was somehow different than the rest of us.
Paul was no idealist, he lived in the midst of strife, constant opposition, and turmoil, and yet he recognized that God had a purpose in it all. Paul knew that he lived in a broken world and that is why he wrote,
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)
In Matthew 5:19, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” We should never be the source of strife, contention, or division–we are called to be peacemakers. Paul adds, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you.” There are some people who simply do not want to live at peace with those around them. Their behavior is not an excuse for us to become contentious or argumentative or filled with hate. We are to make every effort to live at peace with those around us.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was known for his passive resistance. He could not go along with the injustices that he saw taking place in this country, but he would not fight fire with fire, he fought the hate-filled oppressors with love. On July 4, 1965, at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke these words.
To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.’ (Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love. Fortress Press. 1981.)
We are to love even those who absolutely refuse to live at peace with us. This ability to love those who oppose us is outside the realm of possibility for you and me, but “greater is He who lives in us than he who lives in this world.” (1 John 4:4)
The seventh road marker: We are to leave room for God’s wrath rather than to make room for our own.
In Romans 12:19, Paul writes,
19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19 NIV)
Next week we will turn our attention to Romans 13 and we will learn about the role of civil authorities in society and our relationship to them. I mention that so that you will know to come back next week and see that God holds people accountable for their actions. He has ordained our civil authorities to do just that–to hold lawbreakers accountable. Today, we are not talking about the governmental authorities; we are talking about the Body of Christ and our relationship to those who oppose us, those who do evil. Paul says that we are never to avenge ourselves. We do not take the law into our own hands.
This biblical truth is personified in Jesus. Throughout His life Jesus was opposed, He was mocked, they beat Him, ridiculed Him, and hung Him on a cross. How did He respond? When they came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Simon Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest. Jesus said,
53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:53 NIV)
With that Jesus allowed them to take Him away. Why do we not retaliate with force? Why do not simply fight fire with fire? Because Jesus didn’t retaliate in these ways. Jesus came into a world that was dead set against Him and He loved it to His last breath. We are to go and do likewise. This teaching was not new with Jesus. In the Hebrew Bible we read about the way of love. Listen to Leviticus 19:18.
18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NIV)
Instead of seeking revenge we are to seek to love our neighbor. Instead of holding a grudge against those who treat us unfairly or who mean us harm we are to love them. In Romans 12:20 Paul gives us some examples of how we can demonstrate God’s love to our enemies. He writes,
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20 NIV)
Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda were dictators of the worst stripe. Ferdinand was President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 and with each passing year his greed grew greater while his love for the people diminished. In 1973, Marcos’ two term limit as President would expire and the Filipino people would be free of his power hungry ways.
Waiting in the wings was the people’s leader, Benigno Aquino. Aquino had accomplished much: He became the mayor of Concepcion in 1955 at age 22. When he was just 28 he was elected Governor of the Tarlac Province. At age 35, Benigno Aquino was elected senator, the youngest ever. Aquino was excited about running for President once Marcos’ presidency came to a close.
Marcos, always on the grab for more power, had Benigno Aquino arrested and declared martial law. He took total control over the Philippines. Aquino was held in prison for eight long years. His health failed until President Jimmy Carter intervened so that he could leave the country and undergo open heart surgery.
After his surgery and rehabilitation period, Benigno Aquino took a teaching fellowship at Harvard University. He could have lived out his life in the luxury of America, but God was calling Aquino back to his home, back to where the Filipino people were suffering.
On August 21, 1983 Benigno Aquino boarded a jet and headed to Manilla. He tried to keep his flight a secret, but when he boarded the plane he was swamped with journalists. When the jet landed in Manilla the people saw a blue van pull up and soldiers carrying automatic weapons circled the plane. Seconds after he stepped off the plane–Aquino was shot and killed. Marcos’ people said communist gunmen did it, but everyone knew who killed Benigno Aquino.
Why would God call a man to die? Wasn’t Benigno Aquino’s life wasted? Wouldn’t his people had been better served if Aquino would have simply spoken out for them? God’s ways are not our ways.
Two million people lined the streets for Aquino’s funeral and Cardinal Jaime Sin delivered a powerful sermon and then predicted to himself, “This is the beginning, when the eyes of the people will be opened.” The people’s eyes did begin to open and at a rally staged by Marcos, to boost his inflated ego, there were banners in support of Aquino everywhere.
Cardinal Sin sent pastoral letters criticizing the government for human-rights abuses; these were read in every Catholic church in the Philippines. Yet the Cardinal made it clear that he did not speak for the opposition party, but he spoke for God! Cardinal Sin informed Ferdinand Marcos that the people would organize for the next election. He went to Benigno Aquino’s grieving wife, Corazon Aquino, and asked her to run for President. Cory Aquino felt God leading her so she said, “Yes.”
Marcos’ military didn’t try to hide that they would throw the election. They bought ballots, forced people away from voting, and stole ballot boxes. Marcos won. Cory Aquino held a protest rally on February 16 in Manilla. Well over one million people gathered and chanted, “Cory, Cory!” At the protest rally Corazon Aquino did not send the people to storm the palace of Ferdinand Marcos, but she did call them to a day of prayer and a series of non-violent protests — boycotting certain banks and businesses owned by Marcos.
Marcos called his troops to attack the opposition. Tanks and trucks filled the streets…and so did God’s people. The little villages were filled with people holding crosses, others offering flowers or water, and prayer. No one threw rocks, fired a gun, or hurled insults at the soldiers.
Marcos’ military was greatly affected. On February 22, 1986, the Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, could no longer support the twisted President so he and General Fidel Ramos held a press conference announcing their support of Cory Aquino. Ferdinand Marcos was going to come after them with force. Cardinal Sin got on the airwaves and called God’s people to go to Camp Crame and Camp Aquinaldo and support Enrile and Ramos. He said, “Protect them and bring them food; they have nothing to eat.”
Four days after Enrile and Ramos held their press conference, Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda, fled the country and the people of God, who stood by the side of justice and rights for all of God’s people claimed the victory for God. Two and one half years after Benigno Aquino was killed, his wife Cory became the first female President.
The last road side marker for us is to never be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.
Evil holds no power over those who are in Christ. We must overcome evil by following in Jesus’ steps. I’ve told you the stories of Johnny Lee Clary and Wade Watts. You know the story of Martin Luther King Jr. You now know the story of Benigno Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos. Each and every week I share with you the story of Jesus, our Risen, Victorious Savior. Evil shall never prevail. Never. Don’t allow the opponents of the cause of Christ to draw you into their diabolical ways. Never stoop beneath who God has called you to be. You and I are more than conquerors through Him who has loved us. We are not conquerors because of our might, our military strength, or intellectual aptitude–we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Now, let us love the world.
It all begins at the cross my friends. If Christ does not live in you, if He is not Lord and Master of your life, then all of this is empty talk, an impossibility for you. Won’t you invite Him in and allow Him to do a work in you that you can’t even imagine?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 2, 2014