What does Romans 12:17 mean?
ESV: Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
NIV: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
NASB: Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people.
CSB: Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone's eyes.
NLT: Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
KJV: Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
Paul continues, in a list of commands, to describe what Christians should expect life in Christ to look like. Taken together, Romans 12 is a pretty thorough picture of what it means to follow Christ on this side of eternity.
Paul now comes to what is a difficult command for many people, including Christians. It is absolutely the example Jesus set for us, however. Paul declares that we must resist our natural human instinct for revenge and refuse to ever pay back evil when evil is done to us. This would be true whether the person who hurts us is a believer or not.
Instead, Paul tells us to be thoughtful when evil is done to us. He seems to suggest we see that moment as an opportunity to demonstrate that, in Christ, we are honorable people. We cannot, after all, display the love and forgiveness of Christ until we have the opportunity to forgive. When we do, we make a powerful statement that we are choosing to live in service to God instead of to ourselves.
The following verses will expand on this idea, including the claim that doing good for one's enemies is a far more powerful response than attempting petty revenge.
Romans 12:9–21 is a list of numerous brief, bullet-pointed commands. Taken together, they paint a picture of what the living-sacrifice Christian life should look like. The unifying theme of the list is setting ourselves aside, to effectively love and serve the Lord, each other, and even our enemies. We must serve with enthusiasm and focus, mastering our emotions to rejoice in our future and be patient in our present. We must refuse to sink to evil's level in taking revenge and instead overcome evil by doing good to those who harm us.
In Romans 12, Paul describes the worship of our God as becoming living sacrifices to our God, giving up seeking what we want from life and learning to know and serve what God wants. That begins with using our spiritual gifts to serve each other in the church. Paul's list of commands describes a lifestyle of setting ourselves aside. Our goal as Christians is to love and lift each other up. We must focus our expectation on eternity and wait with patience and prayer for our Father to provide. We must refuse to sink to evil's level, giving good to those who harm us instead of revenge.
Romans 11 ended with a hymn describing God's vast ownership of the universe. Romans 12 begins by asking the question, ''Since He owed us nothing and has given us great mercy, how should we respond?'' The answer is a life of self-sacrificing worship spent in serving the Lord and other believers, refusing revenge and overcoming evil with good. Romans 13 will continue to describe God's intended lifestyle for those in Christ.
The book of Romans is the New Testament's longest, most structured, and most detailed description of Christian theology. Paul lays out the core of the gospel message: salvation by grace alone through faith alone. His intent is to explain the good news of Jesus Christ in accurate and clear terms. As part of this effort, Paul addresses the conflicts between law and grace, between Jews and Gentiles, and between sin and righteousness. As is common in his writing, Paul closes out his letter with a series of practical applications.
Accessed 11/30/2023 5:08:28 AM
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