Romans 12:17. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable [good] in the sight of all.
Romans 12:20. “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Matthew 5:38-45. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
This is by far the most radical love ethic ever stated. It is God’s own ethic. It’s how he lives. It’s how Christ lived among us. It is how we must live.
Yesterday we just looked at the first part of Romans 12:17 – Repay no one evil for evil. This alone is hard enough. It is supernatural when fulfilled. But this statement alone could leave us with a simple “stay away from trouble” mindset. If I stay away from my enemies then I won’t be tempted to repay them with evil. Right?
But then there’s the second half of the sentence. And the second half of Jesus’ sentences (turn to him the other cheek also). It’s the second half of the sentence that takes us even deeper into the ocean of genuine love. Love doesn’t only NOT repay evil. LOVE DOES GOOD. To everyone. All the time. This is true agape. This is enemy love. Not just ignoring your enemies, but giving thought to and executing goodness toward them.
Spiderman never kills his enemies but in Spiderman Homecoming he actually saves his enemy The Vulture.
Again (as we’ve been asking through this whole series of blogs) how do we do this? And the answer is, as always, by the grace of the indwelling Christ. Grace changes how we look at everything and everyone. It eliminates the word “deserve” from our vocabulary. We no longer relate to people according to what they deserve. Instead we do good to everyone because good is good. Not because people are good.
But what is good? Paul tells us to do what is honorable or good. The Greek word is kalos. It means beautiful. But also good, excellent in nature, approved, noble, praiseworthy. The idea of goodness is that something is living up to its intended purpose. Something is good when it does what it is supposed to do.
So the big idea here is that the Christian, the one who is IN CHRIST, should do good because that is what we are – good. It is our intended purpose. Our reason for being alive is to be good. Or to say it another way, to be what God intended a human to be. An image bearer. God is good. We are re-created in his good image, the image of Christ. Therefore, we do good – even to those who aren’t good, or who haven’t done good. No matter what, we should never deviate from our purpose of doing good.
Matthew 7:17-18. Likewise, every good [kalos] tree bears good [kalos] fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good [kalos] tree cannot bear bad fruit.
What will happen when we live this way? All will see it – do what is honorable in the sight of all. To forsake revenge and then to do good to your enemy is the greatest of witnesses. There are no forced conversions in Christianity. There is love. There is peace. There is the life of Christ in us for others to see. The gospel is proven to be true each time we forgive. Each time we forsake revenge. Each time we do good to those who would harm us.
Again, this is the greatest of all love ethics. It is beyond human capability. Only by God’s grace could we ever hope to live this way. “To live is Christ” makes it possible for us to not only not pay back evil for evil, but also to do good in the sight of all. God has demonstrated Romans 12:17 to you and me. He has not repaid our evil with evil. He has done good to us. Do you believe this? The more these gospel truths sink into your heart the more they will become the life that you live.