When Jesus gave his sermon on the mount, he broke past those norms and comfortable positions. He said things that were not natural to people or society at the time. Paul in Romans pushed into those areas as well. When Paul spoke of unity, it went against the mindset of those who lived in Rome. And he leads them to the truth that Christians have to have the same foundation if they were to be able to answer the question of life and it is in that foundation that unity can be found.
In this transition verse, Paul reminds us that we are to love people. But we cannot take this to mean blessing the world. Because we are called not to love the world. And even though someone else is in the world, and even persecuting us because of that, we are still to love and bless them. He follows this by telling us to bless others and not curse them. This doesn’t mean to not cuss at them, but it means don’t call on some sort of supernatural power to come against someone. And by blessing them, we are asking for the barriers between us and them to come down. We are asking us to bless them in spite of what others are doing to us. This is dramatic!
Paul is saying that we are to share in the moments of others. And Paul uses the extremes of life to describe this. We are going to be engaged in all aspects. Not just picking the good times and avoiding the bad times when connecting with people. In the first century, they didn’t have the technological distractions as we do, but they did have distractions of other kinds.
In Rome, there was a dramatic class system. Different classes didn’t intermix, and when those of a higher class interacted with someone with a lower class, it was at the discretion of those in the higher class. But Paul is addressing this directly. We are not called to allow pride of one’s position to limit our connections with others. The relationships around you should be determined by your relationship with Christ. What we do and the position of people shouldn’t even come into play with a decision to relate with them. If God is telling us how He sees us, that is more important than our own opinion or the worldly position that someone is in. How we all measure up in His eyes is the most important thing.
This appears to be common sense, but it is hard to incorporate into our lives. Paul tells us to take everything captive in obedience to Christ. It takes intentionality on our part because it comes against our nature to do.
Paul continues with another issue. In that time, you were legally allowed to respond some evil or insult. But Paul tells us that we are not to react in that way. This can be compared to Jesus speaking of turning the other cheek. And Paul is reminding us that everyone is watching when we respond in this way. And by doing right means that we respond in a right way, but may still be shocking to others. Why would we night hurt someone if they do wrong to you? Wouldn’t everyone not blame us for responding that way? While people might understand, they cannot tell you are wrong to respond in grace and mercy.
And imagine what might happen. What will the perpetrator think when you respond to their attacks with grace? What will those who are watching think when they see you attacked and you respond with grace? If we do not have a firm foundation based on the love of God and grace of Jesus Christ, it will be very hard to respond this way. Let God take control of our lives and prepare us for those moments.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (ESV)
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (ESV)
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. (ESV)
17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. (ESV)
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (ESV)