It’s never natural to want to forgive someone who’s just deliberately hurt you, offended you, persecuted you or mocked you is it? Our gut reaction is always to get our own back, to make sure they live to regret what they’ve done or at least to keep our distance in future.
As studied Romans 12:17-13:7 in RML this week, it probably didn’t come as a surprise to many of us that the Bible teaches that Christians should forgive those who do evil to them. After all, even those who don’t study the Bible know that Jesus told people to “turn the other cheek”. But non-retaliation in itself is not the opposite of getting your own back. Paul in Romans tells Christians to go further: “on the contrary, if your enemy is hungry feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”
This is where I think the challenge really does come to our daily lives. When someone at work takes credit for a project that we’ve spent weeks toiling over, stealing what’s rightfully ours, it’s hard enough not to resent them, but God’s word is telling us that we should repay them with good. Next time they’re working late to make them a cup of tea! The reason this seems so outrageous to us is that it looks completely unfair… and it would be, if we left God out of the equation.
However, the mindset of the Christian who has been saved by the gospel and has received God’s mercy is to put God at the centre of their thinking. How does God change our outlook? He’s the one who will make sure that justice is done. Living a life of worship to God means recognising him as the judge of all the world and trusting him to carry out justice rather than taking it into our own hands (Romans 12:19). That’s why we can be free not only to forgive our enemy, but to repay them with good.
Here are some questions to think and pray over as we meditate on this part of Romans:
- How does worshipping God make a difference to my relationships with people who have hurt me in the past?
- What can I do not only to forgive them but to repay them with good?
- What is the big truth that I need to remember when I’m next tempted to retaliate?