“Live in harmony with one another Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.
“On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing so, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:16-21(NIV).
It’s all very well Paul giving instructions about how we should live, but how do we actually do it? After all, we have to contend with Adam’s old nature in us!
That’s the whole point. If it were impossible for us to be different, Paul would not have even bothered to write these words. We, who are followers of Jesus, have to ask the question, “Did the cross work?” Jesus’ life and death had a very definite purpose – to reverse all the effects of Adam’s disobedience and to set us back on course to becoming the Father’s real children once again.
This means that everything that went wrong when Adam sinned was put right when Jesus died and rose again. He not only restored us to our rightful status as sons and daughters, but He also restored the entire creation to its original perfection. Of course, it has not been put into effect yet but, when the final curtain comes down, everything will be perfect once again and everything that does not belong in God’s realm, including all lies and deception and those who subscribe to them, will be destroyed.
“At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken – that is, created things – so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” Hebrews 12:26, 27 (NIV).
How, then, are we to be different from the run-of-the-mill people around us and how do we carry it out?
Firstly, by what we think of ourselves. “Don’t be proud; don’t be conceited.” Get real! Who appointed you to be the model? Pride and conceit are subtle attitudes that lurk in our hearts when we compare ourselves with other people. Since when were we told to set ourselves up as the comparison for others? We have only one model – Jesus – and when we look at Him, we have to admit that there is no comparison! Whoever we are and whatever we achieve means nothing without Him.
Secondly, who made you the judge? Again, get real! Our judgment will always be flawed because it is one-sided and biased. When we leave the judgement and revenge to God, it takes the heat out of the situation and leaves us free to treat people with kindness instead of aggression because it’s no longer our fight. Like little people who look to daddy to fight their battles for them, we can look to our Abba to take care of our adversaries. He is fair, and bigger than they are.
Thirdly, the best way to subdue an enemy is to make him your friend. How can you do that? By treating him with unexpected kindness. That will take the wind out of his sails! Jesus put it this way: “Here is a simple rule-of-thumb guide for behaviour: Ask yourself what you would want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.” Matthew 7:12 (THE MESSAGE).
We have the potential to be different because God has put His nature and His Spirit in us, but it is up to us to put it into effect by making the choice and relying on the Holy Spirit to energise our action. We can only be different when we partner with the Holy Spirit to live out what the cross made possible.
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“Scripture taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”