Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” To the contrary, “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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.Rom. 12:17-21
Dear Lord Jesus, apart from your presence and your grace, the admonitions in this one passage mock our sensibilities. We cannot, and we will not, live this way apart from all the resources of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. Everything within us instinctively wants to get even when we suffer betrayal, lies and relational pain.
Whether it’s a “lighthearted” insult or an outright assault; whether it’s our forgotten birthday or a remembered failure; whether we’re excluded from a party or included in someone’s madness, relationships hurt like nothing else. And, more often than not, the pain we experience gets recycled and redistributed to others.
Jesus, we ask you for thicker skin and bigger hearts. We want to love well—to love to your glory, when we experience everything from unintended slights to fully intended harm. Where evil has already deeply wounded us, or is presently stalking us, remind us that you will repay—you will avenge. Make this real to us and not just a vague spiritual maxim.
Indeed, much more clearly than we see the enemies of beauty, let us see the wonders of your cross. Much more than we desire to see burning coals heaped on the heads of those who have harmed us, Lord Jesus, let us see you, who love us. The only way we can even imagine overcoming evil with good is by remembering you’ve already secured the utter annihilation of all evil and darkness.
And Lord Jesus, when we’re just too sensitive or too easily offended; too quick to keep a record of wrongs done to us and too slow to overlook things we don’t need to make a big deal about, have mercy on us. Free us to do the right thing—the gospel thing. Show us how to make peace, guard peace, and nurture peace with everyone possible. So very Amen we pray, in your compassionate and mighty name.