In Romans chapter twelve, Paul turns his attention to the way that we should respond to everything that we have learned so far. Since we are all sinners. Since we have no hope of keeping the law or earning salvation by our own merits. Since the unbelieving Jews have been cut off opening up the opportunity for the Gentiles of faith to be grafted in. There is a certain way that we should respond that Paul tells us throughout this chapter.
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”
Romans 12:1-2 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/rom.12.1-2.hcsb )
We should: 1. be living sacrifices for God. 2. Not live like everyone else, but be transformed. 3. Renew our minds. 4. Know and do the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. This is a reflection of what we are told by Jesus in Luke 9:23 “…let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Paul also lived this out as he told us in 1 Cor. 15:31 “….I die daily.” Paul lived as if he was already dead, which was true to an extent that he died to himself to live for Christ. Then again Paul says that we have died with Christ in Col. 2:20.
The idea that Paul is getting at here is that we have been given so much by the grace of God and we are now dead to sin, but alive in Christ. Therefore we should no longer seek after the things of this world or be focused on them. Instead, we should be about doing the perfect will of God. What is the perfect will of God? That you know Him and make Him known by using the gifts that God has given us. Paul gives a list of some of these gifts in verses 6-8; prophecy, service, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and showing mercy.
In the rest of the chapter, verses 9-21, Paul talks about how the Christian should live in fellowship with other Christians and how we should treat those who are outside of the Church. This area is probably one of the hardest for most Christians. At least, in the western world where we believe we have rights and “total freedom” over our lives. The ideas presented here by Paul are not in line with what we are taught and believe in western societies. Just look at what Paul says in the closing verses about how we should respond to our enemies.
“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.”
Romans 12:19-21 HCSB ( https://www.bible.com/72/rom.12.19-21.hcsb )
There are a few things that we should clear up first. I don’t believe that this isn’t saying you can’t protect yourself against evil, as an individual or as a nation, but that you should not act based on vengeance. Nor should we repay evil with evil.
What Paul is saying here goes back to everything else he has already said in this chapter. You are a living sacrifice and agent of the Most High God. In every event that happens, we are to show God’s love and perfect will. Perhaps by our humility and love, others will be drawn to the grace of God.
This isn’t easy and many, most, fail at this at some point in their lives. This is the idea, that we don’t repay evil with evil. Sometimes we may feel that the person deserves what they are getting or what we do to them, and it may be that they do. What we have to keep in mind is that we all deserve the wrath of God, but God extends grace and forgiveness to us freely through faith in Jesus. Therefore, be a living sacrifice toward God and extend the grace, mercy, and love that we have freely received to others. That is the perfect will of God.