In Romans 12:1-2 we see how we are to love and serve God because of His grace shown to us in the salvation He has provided for us. Since God sacrificed His sinless Son in order to redeem us from sin, we are now to give Him our bodies as living sacrifices – living for Him and no longer for ourselves and the world.
In Romans 12:3-13 we see how we are to relate to other believers in the church because of the grace shown us by God. The grace given to us is to guide our relationships to one another in the church as we respond to each other in grace. The way we relate to others is a pretty good indicator of whether or not we are living as children of God and the starting point is in our relationships to other believers.
Now we come to Romans 12:14-21 where we will see how we are to relate to all people whether friend or foe. Since we are saved by grace, God wants us to live by grace. Since we have received grace, God wants us to give grace. Sounds easy, right? Well, let’s see how we are doing in reflecting the character of God in our relationships with either friends or foes.
First, we are to bless those who persecute us instead of cursing them (Romans 12:14). This exhortation is completely contrary to our sinful human nature – bless those who persecute you! Yeah right! We don’t just get mad, we get even! That’s not living by grace though is it? That isn’t how God treated us and that is not how we are to treat others. We are to bless those who persecute us and do not curse. This is precisely what Jesus said in would mark those who belong to Him – (Matthew 5:43-45). To truly bless those who persecute us is to treat them as if they were our friends.
Second, we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). We are to rejoice in the blessings, honor, and welfare of others rather than resent their happiness or success. The same is true for those who are facing disappointments, hardships, or sorrows – we are to weep with those who weep. We are to enter into their suffering. This is what the Lord Jesus did – not only did He enter into the happiness of others such as His presence at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where He performed His first miracle of turning the water into wine which was a symbol of joy (John 2:1-11); He also wept at the tomb of Lazarus entering into the sorrow of Lazarus’ family and friends (John 11:1-35).
Third, we are not to show partiality or high-mindedness (Romans 12:16). The virtue expressed in the words, “Be of the same mind toward one another” is that of impartiality. God doesn’t show any partiality and neither should we. When we begin to show partiality we are no longer living by grace but by merit. This is dangerous because it moves one into the realm of using people rather than loving people and is a result of being haughty in mind or high-minded. The person haughty in mind will show partiality and will be interested in only those they perceive can further their status or cause. Instead we are to associate with the lowly and not be wise in our own estimation.
Notice that this is the second time in this chapter alone that the Holy Spirit has warned against thinking more of ourselves than we ought. When we properly understand grace and our need for it we will begin to better understand that we are no better than anyone else no matter how rich or how wise and we are no worse than anyone else no matter how poor or uneducated. The ground is level at the foot of the cross! A conceited, self-promoting Christian is a serious contradiction. Just as there is to be no social aristocracy in the church, neither is there to be an intellectual aristocracy in the church. A church that is seeking to faithfully serve Christ will pursue and eagerly accept all genuine believers regardless of superficial human distinctions.
Fourth, we are not to fight fire with fire (Romans 12:17a). “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. Paying back evil for evil is operating by merit rather than by grace. How easily we forget that God hasn’t dealt with us according to merit but according to grace.
Fifth, we are to have regard for what is honorable (Romans 12:17b). “Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” We are to be honest and forthright in our dealings with others whether they are friends or foes. Notice that the right or good that we do is to be visible to all men – in the sight of all men. This principle is illustrated in 2 Corinthians 8:20-22 – “Taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. We have sent with them our brother, whom we have often tested and found diligent in many things....” We should handle every situation with an honorable manner.
Sixth, if possible, we are to be at peace with all men (Romans 12:18). The believer who seeks to obey God is going to have his enemies. However, the Christian is to be a peacemaker not a troublemaker. Offending others with the truth of God is unavoidable for the uncompromising Christian. This truth is clearly seen in Matthew 5:9-12. We are not to compromise the truth in order to have peace but neither are we to hold a crusade to war with infidels. Short of compromising God’s truth and standards, we should be willing to go to great lengths to build peaceful bridges to both offended friends and foes.