2) Rom 12:17–18: In Rom 12:9–16, Paul exhorted his readers to engage with their neighbors in sincere love.[1] First, he described how to relate to fellow believers.[2]

Then, he declared, “Bless the ones persecuting you. Bless and do not curse” (Rom 12:14).

In these verses, he expanded upon that directive, addressing how to respond to those who hate us.[3]

The apostle began this section by writing, “Never evil for evil repay, have regard for what is praiseworthy before all people.”

This may represent a standard formula from the early church (Cf. 1 Thess 5:15; 1 Pet 3:9).[4]

However, the basis for this teaching occurs in the Old Testament, even though it appears to overturn the law of retaliation (lex talionis) (Exod 21:24–25; Exod 23:4–5; Prov 20:22).[5]

Paul’s statement also reflects the teaching of Jesus (Matt 5:38–48).[6]

“Have regard for” (pronoeō) appears in the present tense. This indicates that believers must continually reflect upon and promote positive attitudes and actions.[7] Sensitivity to common decency requires us to willingly behave accordingly (2 Cor 8:18–21).[8]

In contrast to the typical word for “good” (agathos), which Paul used in Rom 12:21,[9] here the apostle employed a term which reflects moral laudability (kalos) (Rom 7:21; Heb 13:18).[10]

Since sin affects the ability of people to think righteously, Paul called his readers not to live by the standards of those around us (Rom 1:21).[11]

Instead, we must conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with what the Lord considers noble (Prov 3:3–7; Matt 5:16; 1 Pet 2:12).[12] Claiming to know Christ while living disgracefully dishonors him.[13]

Paul then wrote, “If [it is] possible, as far as it depends on you, with all people live in peace.”

Jesus commended peaceful coexistence in a hostile world (Matt 5:9; Mark 9:50).[14] Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, people who hate Christ may despise his followers also (Matt 10:16–20; John 15:18–21).

We cannot compromise our faith to gain a peaceful life. When conflict emerges between the moral demands of the Lord and of our neighbors, our allegiance must lie with Christ (Acts 4:18–20; Acts 5:27–29).[15]

Yet, this never gives us license to conduct ourselves in an offensive manner (1 Pet 3:13–17).[16]

People living in the Greco-Roman milieu also lauded those who promoted peace.[17]

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus (55–135 AD) contended this:

A wise and good person neither quarrels with any one himself, nor, as far as possible, suffers another to do so. The life of Socrates affords us an example of this too…since he not only everywhere avoided quarreling himself but did not even suffer others to quarrel.[18]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Rom 12:17–18. Why shouldn’t we return evil for evil? How can we obey Paul’s command to do what is right in everyone’s eyes when people disagree on what is good? Think of an area of conflict you are experiencing. What can you do to live with others in peace?

 

 

 

Go to Leave Vengeance to God

[Related posts include Leave Vengeance to God (Rom 12:19); Responding with Kindness (Rom 12:20); Overcoming Evil with Good (Rom 12:21); Submitting to Governing Authorities (Rom 13:1); Engaging in Anarchy (Rom 13:2); Do What is Good (Rom 13:3); Bearing the Sword (Rom 13:4); Blood for Blood (Gen 9:5–7); Transcending the Law (Matt 5:21‒22); Be Reconciled to Your Brother (Matt 5:23‒24); Delivered from this Body of Death (Rom 7:14–25); Set Free from Sin’s Dominion (Rom 8:1–14); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]

 

[1]Moo, Romans, 416.

[2]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 784.

[3]Moo, Romans, 412.

[4]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:645.

[5]Dunn, Romans 9–16, 747.

[6]Moo, Romans, 412.

[7]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 785. For participles in Koine Greek, the present tense reflects a continuous or repetitive action.

[8]Dunn, Romans 9–16, 747–8.

[9]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “ἀγαθος” (agathos), BDAG, 3–4, 4.

[10]Walter Grundmann, “καλος” (kalos) TDNT 536–50, 549.

[11]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:645–6.

[12]Dunn, Romans 9–16, 748.

[13]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2:646.

[14]Dunn, Romans 9–16, 748.

[15]Moo, Romans, 412.

[16]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 785–6.

[17]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Rom 12:17–8.

[18]Epictetus, “Discourses,” in The Works of Epictetus: His Discourses, in Four Books, the Enchiridion, and Fragments, 4.5, 2161–2, http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0237%3Atext%3Ddisc%3Abook%3D4%3Achapter%3D5.