Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rom. 12:14
It is entirely possible that this command is one of the toughest commands to obey in all of Scripture. We are sinful creatures. When mistreated, we are quick to respond. In our flesh, we lash back. We attempt to repair what was damaged while doing some damage of our own. We recall the oft heard statement “Vengeance is mind, saith the LORD” (Deut. 32:35), but we feel justified in taking a few shots ourselves before leaving the persecutors in God’s hands.
You know what I am taking about. We’ve all been guilty of trying to settle the score. It’s only natural. That’s why Paul continued in v.17:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. 19 Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.
Why do you suppose that we are commanded to leave room for God’s wrath (12:19); to “turn the other cheek” (Mt. 5:39)? Why must we overcome evil with good (12:21)?
Because we bear the imago Dei. And as image bearers of God, we are to mimic Him. That’s why the Apostle Peter p0inted to Jesus as our model:
18 [i]Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse. 19 For whenever anyone bears the pain of unjust suffering because of consciousness of God, that is a grace. 20 But what credit is there if you are patient when beaten for doing wrong? But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered[j] for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps.
22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”[k]
23 When he was insulted, he returned no insult; when he suffered, he did not threaten; instead, he handed himself over to the one who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
Admittedly, Peter was speaking to slaves in the first century. Like their ultimate Master, Jesus, they were entrust themselves to The Judge. Rather than respond in an unrighteous fashion, they were to live for righteousness (2:24). Since they had returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of their souls (2:25), they were act, react, speak, think, etc. like Christ.
We are to do no less.
My reason for writing this particular blog entry is simple. I am working through Romans, chapter twelve. Your reason for reading today may be completely different. Perhaps you are neck-deep in a challenging situation. Maybe you have been mistreated recently. Maybe you are about to be. Being persecuted is definitely a tough spot. God’s help is critical during such a time. We need His assistance if we are to glorify His name and walk like His son. Leaning on Him is of absolute necessity if we are to remain meek.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:3