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"Loving Those on the Outside"
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
December 22, 2004
It's our duty, as those whom God has justified in Christ, to live-out
the practical implications of our salvation. We must become in practice
what God has made us to be in position. And in this section, Paul continues
to deal with that theme. Specifically, he deals with what it means to
demonstrate "real" love within the context of the different relationships
God places us (see v. 9a).
In verses 9-13, we have seen that we are to demonstrate "real" love in the
context of the body of Christ. But how does our salvation impact our
relationship with those who are outside the body of Christ? Verses 14-21
mainly highlight our relationships outside the family of God. It can be
summed up in five expressions of love to the unbelieving world - all five of
which are to characterize our behavior all of the time in all relationships:
I. BE MEEK AND KIND TOWARD THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU (v. 14).
A. It is to be expected that we will be persecuted for our faith (John
15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12; Rev. 12:13).
B. But in being persecuted, we are not to respond with harshness or
bitterness. We are forbidden from cursing them. Instead, we are commanded
to respond with a blessing - that is, a positive desire and pursuit of the
1. We, of all people, can afford to do this because God is the one who
cares for us and sees to our protection (Luke 21:12-19).
2. We are obligated to do this, because we claim to be God's own children
3. We are compelled to do this because of the examples God has called us to
follow such as Job (Job 31:29-30), Stephen (Acts 8:60; as Augustine wrote,
"The church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen"), Paul (1 Cor. 4:12-13), and
of course our Lord (1 Peter 2:21-23).
II. BE RESPECTFUL OF THE FEELINGS OF OTHERS (v. 15).
A. Jesus Himself set the example for us. He who is the eternal Son of God
entered into the experience of feeling the things we feel (John 11:35; Luke
19:41). Jesus is our Osympathetic' High Priest; meaning that He "feels
with" us (Hebrews 4:15).
B. We are likewise to feel along with those around us. In doing so, we
follow the example of the Son of God. We may not be able to condone the
circumstances in which those feelings occur; but so long as those feelings
are legitimate, we are to respect the fact that people truly feel them:
1. Rejoicing with them (Isaiah 66:10, 14; Luke 1:58; 15:5, 10; Acts 11:23;
1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 2:3; Phil. 2:17-18, 28).
2. Weeping with them (Neh. 1:4; Job 2:11; Ps. 35:13,14; Jer. 9:1; John
11:19, 33, 36; 2 Cor. 11:29; Phil. 2:26; Heb. 13:3).
III. BE HUMBLE IN YOUR ASSOCIATIONS (v. 16).
A. We are to view ourselves as the equals of others. To "be of the same
mind" toward one another involves the attitude or opinion we hold of
ourselves and of others - not necessarily "thinking the same things" as
everyone else, but "thinking about ourselves the same" as we think of
others. We are clearly to do this toward one another in the body of Christ
(Phil. 2:2; 2 Cor. 13:11).
B. We are not to "set our minds on high things" with respect to ourselves.
Obviously, we are to think of high things (Phil. 4:8; Col. 3:1-2); but not
to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Rom. 12:3). We
are not to be "wise" in our own opinions of ourselves (1 Cor. 3:18-20; James
C. We are to associate with the humble - just as Christ has done toward us.
IV. BE CIVIL IN YOUR MANNER (vv. 17-18).
A. We are never to return evil for evil toward anyone. We are to abandon
our "right" to "retribution".
B. We are also to have regard for what is right in the sight of all.
Literally, we are to "think ahead" or "provide in advance" what is good in
the sight of all (Prov. 3:4; 2 Cor. 8:21). As Ernst Käsemann (Romans, p.
348) has written: "Doing good to all is something to be planned and not just
willed . . . Intention alone does not suffice. It must be considered how
the aim can be effectively achieved and with proper tact."
C. We are to seek peace with everyone. This is, sadly, not always
possible; and so Paul cushions this command with the provisions that (1) it
be done so much as is possible, and (2) as much as can be done on our part
(2 Cor. 13:11). We have no right to concede to a condition of hostility -
even with respect to those who are our enemies in Christ - until we have fully
obeyed this command before God.
V. BE PATIENT AND GOOD WHEN TREATED UNJUSTLY (vv. 19-21).
A. We must remember that, at all times, "vengeance" is never our
prerogative (Lev. 19:18), but always and only God's alone (Deut. 32:35).
B. We must also remember that God can bring about conviction on the part of
those who do us wrong through our having done kindness to the one who harms
us. When we do this, we "heap coals of fire on his head" (Prov. 25:21-22).
This is a figure of speech for our actions inspiring guilt on the part of
our wrong-doer and creating a self-accusing repentance in them. It brings
the injustice home to their conscience, which may lead to their repentance;
and it also advances our wrong-doer's happiness as well as our own.
C. We must finally remember that it's not God's way for us to conquer evil
with evil. Instead, it's God's way for us to conquer evil by overcoming it
with good. This was His own manner toward us.