Responding to A Relationally Broken World:
Read Romans 12:14-21.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
We live in a fractured world where political, social, and racial divides are separating people. Today resembles the Civil War era where the question was no longer, “Who are you related to?” Rather the question was, “What side are you on?” So today if someone disagrees with another’s perspective, they are now seen as the enemy. The Pew Research Center affirms what we already know that Americans have rarely been as polarized as we are today. The division we see is not over just superficial issues of politics and policies but focus upon core issues of values and beliefs that form our identity. We are divided along political lines, racial justice, climate change, law enforcement, economics, morality, and the list goes on. However, the divide that we see in our country is also seen in churches across the country. In one study, pastors identified that the most significant challenge they faced during the pandemic is maintaining unity within the church.
Conflicts and broken relationships are nothing new. To live as a Christian in a broken world is to live in a state of conflict with the values and morality of a world that has rejected God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ does not call us to uniformity, nor does he tell us to disassociate ourselves from those who disagree or even attack us. Instead, he challenges us to respond differently, love our enemy, and respond gracefully to those who verbally and even physically attack us. Paul further highlights this point in Romans 12:14-21. Instead of pronouncing a curse upon those who persecute us, he calls us to bless them. Instead of seeing them as the enemy to destroy, we are to view them as a friend to build up. In verse 15, we find the phrase, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” We often quote this in reference to our response to a friend who is experiencing profound tragedy or a rousing success. But the context suggests that pronoun “those” does not refer to our friends or companions but our enemies. Instead of rejoicing when they experience adversity, we are to grieve with them. Instead of being envious when they encounter a blessing, we are to rejoice. Instead of getting revenge when we are wronged, to respond with kindness and compassion by ministering to their needs.
During the height of the Civil War, when hatred permeated the division between the North and South, Lincoln was criticized for referring to southerners as fellow human beings rather than irreconcilable enemies who must be destroyed. Lincoln responded, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” In his closing words of his second inaugural address, he urged people: “With malice toward none, with charity for all…let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” In these words, Lincoln echoed the words of Paul. The path of influence in the way of benevolence. We silence our critics, not with harsh arguments, but works of compassion. As Christians, we are to respond differently to the issues dividing us. While we are to stand for truth (the truth that is grounded in scripture rather than our personal preference), we still do so in love. Are you in conflict with a neighbor or friend? Instead of responding in kind, respond in kindness, and you may discover a friend and influence them for Christ.