The Christian and His Enemies

Thursday: Blessing Others

Romans 12:14-16 In this week’s studies we see that the Bible speaks of suffering and persecution as an expected part of the Christian life.
Blessing Others

Yesterday we talked about prayer as a means for blessing those who persecute us. But there are more ways than that of being a blessing, and Paul discusses these in verses 15 and 16. The way they are written, these verses could apply to Christians as well as to enemies. But since they are bracketed by references to those who persecute us, in verse 14 which comes before and verse 17 which comes after, Paul must be thinking of how Christians should relate to unbelievers. 

Empathy. Empathy describes what Paul is talking about when he says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It is the ability to identify closely with someone else, to make his case your own and allow what has happened to him to affect you also. 

But it is not so easy to do, is it? It is true that we often do it in a superficial manner. We would not think of joking at a funeral, and we express our condolences to those who suffer loss. Again, when a friend is promoted we send congratulations and may even attend a party in his honor. But that wears thin with us quickly. And when someone does very well we find it hard to be anything but jealous, even when we are congratulating him or her. How do we break out of this? There is only one way. We have to stop thinking of ourselves and our own interests all the time, and the only way we can do that is by an inner transformation accomplished in us by Jesus Christ. Jesus set the example, of course. For He did not exalt Himself but rather took “the very nature of a servant…and became obedient to death, even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:7-8). 

Amicability. Christians should be easy to get along with. This is what Paul is thinking of when he says that we should “live in harmony with one another.” He is not talking about making peace, which is a positive thing. He will deal with that later (in v. 18). He is talking about not making sparks or causing turmoil. If this is still dealing with enemies, as it must be since the verses both before and after speak of them, then he is saying that we should not be like those Christian crusaders who are always looking for a fight or hunting down “Christ’s enemies.” We are to love and win people, not root them out to beat them senseless. 

The common touch. Christians should “be willing to associate with people of low position” even more than others, because that is what most of us are. God did not choose “many who were wise by human standards,” many who were “influential” or “of noble birth.” Rather “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Cor. 1:26-29). 

We are to associate with those who seem unimportant even if we have a high position. Jesus did it and was criticized for it (Matt. 11:19). We need to stop thinking of other people as being beneath us and instead come to regard them as people made for everlasting fellowship with God, 

Humility. The last sentence in this paragraph takes us back to where Paul began. He said in verse 3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.” Right thinking, both about ourselves and others, dominates verse 16, as it did the earlier statement.1 Can we do it? Leon Morris has a helpful suggestion when he reminds us that “the person who is wise in his own eyes is rarely so in the eyes of other people.”2

1This is obscured by the New International Version’s characteristically idiomatic translation. In the Greek text the word for “thinking” (phroneo), which occurs four times in verse 3, occurs three more times here. The King James Version captures the idea a little bit by using the word “mind” twice and “wise” once. It says, “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.” 

2Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, and Leicester, England: InterVarsity, 1988), 451.

Study Questions
  1. What is empathy?
  2. How do you live in harmony with others?
  3. Why should Christians be willing to associate with the lowly?
  4. What is the right way of thinking about ourselves?

Application: Are you empathetic towards your enemies? Think of times when you’ve shown empathy to your enemies. Can you remember times when you haven’t? How does your attitude toward your enemies need to change to be pleasing to God?

Prayer: Bring your enemies before God today, praying for their needs. Is your enemy facing a trial of his own? Is her home life rough? Ask God to bring you into genuine concern for that one who is hardest for you to love.

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “The Cost of Discipleship.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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