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Overcoming Evil with Good

socialmedia@cityrise.org August 23, 2021 sermons, cityrise, Crosspoint Church - Bellaire, Good News, Roger Patterson, romans, sermon, West U Baptist,

The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday August 22, at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTubpage.

Last week we began to see how we are to navigate relationships with one another. This week we will examine how we can live out our Christian faith in light of those hostile to us and our gospel. Let’s read Romans 12:14-21.

Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 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.” 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

How are believers to navigate challenging relationships? How are we to endure persecution if that is what we face? How are we to live proactively and intentionally with those in our life who don’t believe as we do?

When I first began to make notes on this passage, I wrote the words, “Intentional Living.” There are a lot of things here that we are instructed to do and not do. There are some positive movements we are to make with words like, “Bless…Rejoice…Live.” Then there are a lot of things here that we are to not do. Paul uses the words, “Do not…Never…To the Contrary.”

Navigating relationships with those outside of the Christian faith requires that we intentionally overcome. Now you may, “We are to intentionally overcome what?” And the simple answer is that we must intentionally overcome ourselves.

Notice this last verse of this section today.

Romans 12:21

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Axiom Illustration: I am sure that you have heard the old axiom, “Fight fire with…fire.” Now, let’s make sure we are clear. That axiom is not in the Bible. The axiom says, “Fight fire with fire.” That language says, “Repay evil for evil.”

But an axiom we should embrace as followers of Christ is that we are to, “Fight Fire with Water.”

That’s how you put a fire out, isn’t it?

We should, “Fight Fire with Water.”

But our nature and tendency is that we want to fight fire with fire. That feeds our flesh. That helps us feel like we have executed justice. That gives us a sense that we have gotten even.

But, that’s not the way of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter but said nothing.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:44…

Matthew 5:44

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

Navigating relationships with those outside of the Christian faith requires that we intentionally overcome ourselves because our first tendency won’t be to bless those who curse us. It won’t be to do good to those who persecute us.

But we need to so love our Lord and allow him to transform us that we don’t fight fire with fire, but with water.

Transition to Outline: So we are to overcome evil with good. How are we to intentionally live out our faith before others, especially if they treat us poorly?

Here is our outline today that helps answer this question.

To be an Overcomer, we must:

  1. Be Together
  2. Be Humble
  3. Be Counter-Cultural

Let’s dig into each of these.

To be an overcomer, we must…

I. Be Together

Romans 12:14-15

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 

We need Christian community in our lives when we encounter adverse relationships. In overcoming our desire to react when we are attacked, we need to call someone and say, “Hey can you give me your counsel?” We need to write our email response, then send it to a friend and say, “Can you tell me if I should send this or not?”

When we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, we can only do this because we are in one another’s lives. We have invested time and energy with one another and we empathize with one another.

During the month of September, we will be highlighting our Community Groups. Our Community Groups have been developed just for this very thing…to equip you to live the Christian life before believers and non-believers. In doing so, we are striving to help foster relationships with one another so you can stand together and face life’s challenges together.

Illus: Mom to hospital — Some of you know that my mom went to the hospital this week with Covid-Pneumonia. She is doing much better. She has received exceptional care at Methodist in Sugar Land and our Lord has been good to answer our prayers.

What was such a blessing to me, though, was the way my wife reached out to some of her closest friends – friendships made in Community Group. You know, Julee has been going to Sunday School by herself for the past 24 years on Sunday mornings here. And in doing so, she and I have fostered some deep relationships with people raising our kids together and walking through life together.  And when we come to a place where we need each other, there is no question about it.

Application: When you invest in others, and their well-being, they will in return invest in you.

I’ve told you about my pastor’s zoom group. I text with these men often. They lead 12 of the finest churches in our city. When we were getting my mom to the hospital, I sent them a note asking them to pray…they were glad to do this for me at 10:30pm at night. And I was able to show my dad the texts from them and then tell my mom of these mighty men who were praying for her.

That’s the power of Christian community – sharing all things in common. We rejoice with one another and we grieve with one another and we have others who can stand with us when things are dark and difficult.

Acts 2:42-44

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.

No one else in the world does this.

Illus: I was with a group of guys at lunch this week and I was reflecting on the pain of flooding in Harvey. And I said, “Within an hour of our returning home, I had a dozen guys ripping out my sheetrock and drying out my house. And no other cars were on the street, though we had all flooded. They were all there serving me because they were all from the church.”

And one of the guys responded, “That’s why people must belong to a church. At one time, you are the one flooded and they serve you. At another time, it’s someone else, and you serve them. This is what the church does for one another.”

Friends, I promise you, if you invest deeply here by rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep, the return on your investment will be CRAZY, long-lasting and will far exceed what you are depositing.

We need to BE TOGETHER to be OVERCOMERS.

How else are we to overcome?

To be an Overcomer, we must:

  1. Be Together
  2. Be Humble
  3. Be Counter-Cultural

To be an overcomer, we must…

II. Be Humble

Romans 12:16

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 

Notice something about this verse. It speaks to our view of ourselves as well as our view of others and how that gets lived out.

Paul instructs us to live in harmony and not be haughty. He challenges us to associate with the lowly. But then he adds, “NEVER be wise in your own sight.”

This word, “NEVER,” just jumped off the page at me. I am never afforded the delight of thinking how smart I am. I’m never to do that.

Because when I do that, I won’t:

  1. Live in harmony with others
  2. Associate with the lowly

And I will end up being HAUGHTY.

Definition: Haughty – to be arrogantly superior and disdainful

That’s what being haughty is – an arrogant superiority that communicates disdain for others.

We can’t walk that way and live in harmony. It’s not possible.

We are to Be Together and to Be Together for any length of time, we cannot be haughty. But we MUST BE HUMBLE.

This proves out in every relationship. The arrogant person ends up alone. But HUMILITY LEADS TO HARMONY.

  • Marriage – When there is pride in the relationship, there will be conflict, because there is a winner and a loser.
  • Parenting – When we don’t walk in humility toward our children, we wound them.
  • Employee to Employer – When we are haughty, we communicate we are smarter and know better and we disrupt versus build unity.
  • Employer to Employee – When we are arrogant, we put a lid on others’ contributions. We simply communicate, “Do it my way and suck it up.”

F.F. Bruce states…

The idea of living in harmony with one another (v. 16) is reminiscent of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:2-5, where he charges them to be “of the same mind.” In Philippians 2, Paul gives further context as to the only way that this is possible: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” We cannot possibly live according to our own agendas and have harmony with others, for our agendas will certainly conflict with theirs. But when we have the mind of Christ and His kingdom purposes are our greatest pursuit, we can live in harmony as we pursue the same goals.[1]

Let me also note something about this little phrase, “…but associate with the lowly.”

It’s hard to be the new kid, isn’t it? It’s hard to be somewhere over and over again and not be noticed. Some of you might also say, “Well it’s also hard to connect with others that are not like me.”

It’s true, birds of a feather do flock together.

But, it’s also true that the gospel calls us out of our comfort zones when it comes to relationships and Jesus commands us to love one another. He demonstrated this by washing the feet of the disciples. Though he was their teacher, he lowered himself.

Nasa Meets Duck Dynasty

I have a friend who pastors in the Nasa/League City area. And he has people of all sorts in his church. He says, “It’s where Nasa Meets Duck Dynasty, and it’s a hoot.”

You see, the beauty of the local church is that we are all on the same footing. We are sinners, who need a savior and it humbles us. We have no positions that we should take pride in. Instead, we were gifted by grace (see above in Romans 12:3-8) in order to serve one another and build one another up.

In so many ways, we leave all of our worldly successes at the door and instead, lower ourselves and realize we are all on the same footing. And that’s beautiful.

So, to be an overcomer, and to overcome evil with good, we need to:

  1. Be Together
  2. Be Humble.

Third, we need to…

To be an Overcomer, we must:

  1. Be Together
  2. Be Humble
  3. Be Counter-Cultural

To be an overcomer, we must…

III. Be Counter-Cultural

Look with me at verses 19 and 20.

Romans 12:17-20

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.” 20 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.” 

Here it is again: Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t repay evil for evil. Instead, take the high road…the path that no one can argue with. That’s what it means by doing what is honorable in the sight of all.

The way of the world is to repay evil for evil. It’s to seek vengeance. It’s to seek to render street justice. Be Counter-Cultural as a follower of Jesus…overcome evil with good!

And just because you came to Jesus Christ, it doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted to take this path, as your flesh cries out for its way!

Furthermore, refusing to repay evil means refusing to inflame a quarrel—but this is not enough. We also have to take the positive initiative in peacemaking, as far as it depends on us (v. 18). Sometimes this is not possible, if the other person is not willing to live at peace with us, or if their conditions for peace and reconciliation would involve an unacceptable moral compromise. Outside of those two things, we have the responsibility to be peacemakers.

Paul’s next prohibition is to “never avenge yourselves,” or to “not take revenge,” and he assures them this is the way of love as he begins this verse by addressing them as “Beloved.” This too, is counter-cultural.

To this negative Paul offers two positive counterparts: leave wrath to God, and actually seek to serve your enemies:

  • Paul supports the idea of leaving it to God’s wrath by quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35. The point of this quotation, that “Vengeance is mind, I will repay,” is that if vengeance and compensation are God’s prerogative and not ours, then we should also leave the exercise of vengeance and compensation in God’s hands. Judgment of evil is not a bad thing, it is simply God’s thing. To take it into our own hands is the way of the world, but it is not the way of those who submit to God’s ultimate authority and judgment.[2]
  • Note: Chapter 13 will further explore how God’s wrath and judgment can be expressed through the judgment of the state, for the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. He paints a picture of the private citizen having the duty to love and serve the evildoer, whereas the public official is to bring him to trial and, if convicted, to punish him.

This second idea of serving your enemy comes out of Proverbs 25. This ancient wisdom challenges us to draw near to difficult people and serve them in such a way as to help in changing their mind.

Illus: Let me see if I can illustrate this with this story…

Corrie Ten Boom  tells the story of Thomas, an African man who loved God and loved people and his neighbor who hated God and people who loved God. The neighbor became so consumed with animosity towards Thomas that he began to sneak over to set fire to Thomas’ straw roof at night, even with Thomas’ small children inside. For three nights in a row, Thomas ran outside to put out the flames. “The fact that he never said an unkind word to his neighbor, only showing him love and forgiveness, made his neighbor hate him even more.” After the neighbor did it yet again, a strong wind blew sparks from Thomas’ roof onto his own. Thomas put out his own fire and then put out the fire of his neighbor’s, but burned his hands in the process. At this point, Thomas did speak out against his neighbor.

Word got around to the chief of their tribe and the neighbor was arrested. Thomas felt so bad that his talented neighbor had to be in prison, so the missionary and Thomas prayed for the neighbor, but Thomas prayed that not only would his neighbor be saved, but that they would work together to bring the gospel to the tribe. The missionary ended up speaking at the prison and after sharing the gospel the neighbor was the first to receive Christ. The missionary talked with the neighbor, sharing with him Thomas’ love despite the neighbor’s actions and Thomas’ desire to share the gospel together. The man affirmed God’s vision.[3]

Imagine having the faith in God to claim the person who repeatedly tried to burn down your house not only for Christ, but as a gospel partner? Imagine telling others you not only forgave him, but risked your life to save his house when he set yours on fire. Thomas didn’t do this to heap fiery coals on his neighbor’s head, but literally put out the fire on his house. The change of heart from enemy to prospective partner is God’s work in our hearts and mind.

But how are we to actually live like this?

While we might recognize a lot of truth or good ideas in these verses, when it gets down to it, some of us are overwhelmed at the thought of constantly living a life that “overcomes evil with good.” When others persecute us, or when people are sowing dissension around us, or when people truly hate us—it’s difficult to think about truly loving them under those circumstances.

How can we actually overcome evil with good, when our natures are so contrary to this standard?

Robert Candlish and James Boice offer a few things we must do if we are to be successful in this:

  1. We must know with deep gratitude that this is how God has treated us. We deserve to be condemned, but God was good to us and overcame our evil by his good by sending his Son to redeem us. If we appreciate this rightly, it will empower us to do the same. Overcoming evil with good is not optional for Christians. We must forgive because we have been forgiven.
  2. We must study the example of Christ. Overcoming evil with good is what Jesus did, and if he is our Savior, we will love him and want to be like him. In fact, he died to purchase forgiveness even for those who persecuted him, if they would only repent. Nothing in history has done so much to heal human hurts and redirect retaliating lives than the example of Jesus, who suffered for us, that we should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21).
  3. We must be close to Christ and strive to draw closer to him always. As Important as Jesus’ example is, the example itself is not enough. In order to live as Christ we must first belong to Christ and second draw close to Christ, indeed striving to draw closer to him always. Apart from Christ we are like a branch severed from the vine, which has no hope of bearing fruit.

 

[1] F.F. Bruce, Romans, 228.

[2] F.F. Bruce, Romans, 228.

[3] Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), Kindle Electronic Edition: Chapter 11.

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