Home > Karl Barth, Lectionary Reflections > Do not repay evil for evil…

Do not repay evil for evil…

If I had to choose my favorite passage from Paul’s Letter to the Romans it would be the lectionary reading for today: Romans 12:9-21.

In it, Paul lays out the ethical guidelines for living the Christian life in light of his discussion in the first 12 Chapters.  In the first part of this chapter Paul writes that we as followers of Jesus Christ should be renewed by the transforming of our minds.  Paul’s admonitions in this part of the chapter are in some way the guidelines for ethical living that he Paul presents that should result from the renewing and transforming of our minds.

My favorite are his comments about violence:

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and no not curse” (v. 14)

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (v. 17)

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written “It is mind to avenge, I will repay” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If you enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head”.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

These aren’t my favorite verses because I’m a strict pacifist – I am not.  I agree with Barth that there are certain “limiting cases” in which the command of God to war/violence.  However, those are the “limiting” or extreme cases.

In our day to day lives, both Paul and Jesus teach us that rather than overcoming our enemies through power and revenge, to overcome them with love.  Why?  Because, love disarms.   If someone has an intense hatred for us and we respond in hatred back, it merely intensifies the situation and makes it worse.  Whereas if someone has an intense hatred for us and we respond to that person in loving concern, it can often disarm the situation and make it considerably harder for the other person to maintain that hatred for us.

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