Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
How do you love your enemies? In Romans 12, Paul gave us very practical ways to do that.
First, when you have been offended, let God settle the score. Romans 12:19 says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Vengeance is a long-term, premeditated plan to destroy your enemy. It is that festering feeling inside that grows and grows into a tumor of bitterness. When you are wronged, you can either try to settle the score yourself, or you can let God settle the score. Paul was saying, “If you want to settle the score with somebody who has wronged you, don’t try to do it yourself. Let God do it.” Leave room for the wrath of God.
When we forgive somebody, we are not giving up our desire to see justice for that wrongdoer. Instead, we are giving up the right to exact that justice ourselves through vengeance. When we forgive somebody, we are saying, “I am going to let go of this hurt in my life. I am going to let God settle the score. I am going to let God make things right with this person instead of trying to do it myself.”
Second, when someone mistreats you, do something good for your enemy. Paul said in Romans 12:20-21, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” You may ask, “Why would I want to do something good for my enemy?”
Notice two reasons Paul gave for doing good to our enemies. First of all, it will bring conviction to your enemy. “In so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (12:20). I have read several convoluted interpretations of that phrase. But I think Paul was saying that when you do good to your enemy, you are giving him what he really needs, and that is conviction. He does feel pain when you do good for him, but that pain leads him to repentance. So by doing good, you are giving your enemy what he needs most: repentance that leads to salvation.
The second reason Paul said we should do good to our enemy is to overcome evil with good. Whenever we respond with goodness to evil, it helps break the cycle of sin and evil in our world. Isn’t that what God did for us? God did not give us what we deserved; He gave us what we needed. And in a very real sense, when we respond to evil with good, it breaks the stranglehold that evil has on this world.
Are you ready to let go of the bitterness in your heart toward your enemy? The only way to destroy an enemy is to make him your friend.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living With Your Enemy” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.