Taking the Gospel to the Streets (Romans 12:17-19)
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” —Romans 12:17-19
Ours is an age where people increasingly live in separate worlds. However you began reading this article, you did it using a personalized medium—your internet browser, with your “favorites;” your Facebook feed, curated especially for you; or your phone, filled with the apps that you chose.
We live this reality all day, every day. It makes it so easy to fall into the trap of not just disagreeing with people but demonizing those who see the world differently. For Christ followers, it is particularly hard to avoid this temptation when we feel under attack from the culture. If they are demonizing us, why shouldn’t we retaliate? Maybe it would be better to just withdraw from the culture?
It’s so easy to see the brokenness in our world and want to protect ourselves from it. For parents, the desire to protect our children from the world is even stronger. I imagine there were many members of the church in Rome who felt this pressure. Under persecution, rejected by the culture, even facing strained relationships with loved ones, the temptation to fight back—or withdraw—must have been very strong.
Into that context—and ours—Paul speaks a challenging and important command. In the previous verses of Romans 12, Paul has shown the believers that worshipping God results in a transformed, unified community where love overflows. To enter the church meeting is to observe a counter cultural gathering. In the church, diverse peoples from different cultures and stations in life, of different ages and personalities, are united by an uncommon love.
This week’s Fighter Verse is a reminder that the beauty of the church must extend beyond the walls of her weekly meetings. Believers are to work hard at engaging with and commending the gospel to our culture. We are to be proactive in considering how to act honorably (v. 17) so that even those who oppose us or disagree with our worldview can tell that there is something different about us because of Christ. We are to expend energy seeking peace with everyone (v. 18). And even though we see the brokenness in the world, even though we are rightly outraged by it, we are not to take upon ourselves the work that belongs to the Lord (v. 19).
I have spent the last five months in a children’s hospital while my son, Benjamin, undergoes treatment for Burkitt’s lymphoma. When I read these verses, I think of the beauty our family has seen in the love of Christ expressed by His Church as believers all around the world have prayed for my son and cared for our family. I also think of the families that we have walked alongside in the oncology ward and Ronald McDonald House. Their browser history, Facebook profile, and phone probably don’t look anything like yours or mine. But without question, they are people who need Jesus.
I ache to see these families encounter believers who choose to “give thought” to doing what is honorable in their sight, especially in the depth of their suffering. I long to see the beauty of the church overflow in the lives of these people. I see the brokenness of the world—especially as cancer ravages young lives—but I choose to trust the One who will set things right in His time.
Brothers and sisters, even though we may feel under attack from the culture, the gospel demands we do not retaliate or hide away. We must take the beauty of the church to the streets and work to commend the gospel to a world that desperately needs it.
Are there particular people in your life where it is hard to let go the urge to retaliate when you have been wronged?
What practical steps might you take to “do what is honorable” in their sight, to point them to the gospel?
Are there unbelievers in your life with whom you can seek peace and proactively seek opportunities to hold out the gospel?
If yes, what practical steps will you take to do that this week? If no, how might you go about pursuing those relationships?