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"Loving Those on the Outside"
Romans 12:14-21

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:

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 persecutor's good.

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 (Matthew 5:43-48).

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).


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).


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 3:13-18).

C. We are to associate with the humble - just as Christ has done toward us.


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.


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.

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