MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
KJV Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
In this lesson, St. Paul teaches us God’s wisdom about how we should conduct our lives as Christian believers. This is the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle. Although we often see the nature of the man, Paul, in his writings, here the wisdom of the Holy Spirit is most apparent. Man’s wisdom is quite different.
Human wisdom would say: Don’t get mad, get even. Win at all costs. Cultivate the powerful. The Old Adam in us is easily guided by such notions, so it is important to hear God’s wisdom as an antidote to human folly.
Many times people will talk about what our society could be like. Things can degenerate easily. There was one business office, not where I worked, known for the mutual hostility of everyone there. The boss (very prominent in a metropolitan area) gave the best business to his girlfriend and divorced his wife. The girlfriend was not just a rumor, since she became pregnant. No one would leave his office door unlocked, for fear of other people going through their papers.
Our office was completely different. No doors were locked. The boss insisted that everyone be treated with respect. He allowed no fighting among the agents. If something developed, he invited the warring parties into his office for a “come to Jesus” meeting, as they were called. He always told the staff, “We help each other out here. No one is too good to stop and help a newcomer.” Also, very importantly, he advised, “When talking to someone on the phone, pretend he is coming over for dinner that night at your home. That will keep you from saying things you might regret.”
Congregations can be just the same. I recall one member, long ago, who complained that the congregation was not very friendly. Several people agreed. Later, a new member and his wife observed the same thing and made a point of greeting everyone each Sunday. Later, the people who thought the church was unfriendly said, “It has really changed in the last few months.” They could not figure out exactly why.
Everything in this lesson is based upon the Gospel. As sinners redeemed by Christ, we know that we have no plea except guilty before God. Because Christ redeemed us, we receive God’s forgiveness through faith alone. This forgiveness is a gift from God, so we can say with confidence, by grace alone, by faith alone.
The first verse in the lesson teaches us about our attitude as Christian believers. As we can see throughout the New Testament, lowliness or humility is a characteristic of Christ that we should imitate as much as possible.
16 Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
Tapeinos, Humble, Lowly, Cast Down
Tapeinos is the Greek word for humility, lowliness, used for Christ and for Christians.
KJV James 4:6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
KJV 1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
KJV Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
KJV 2 Corinthians 10:1 Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you:
KJV James 1:9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
KJV Luke 1:52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
KJV 2 Corinthians 7:6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
KJV Philippians 4:12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
KJV Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
KJV Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
KJV Acts 20:19 Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:
KJV Ephesians 4:2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
All these verses are worth considering, because they show that lowliness or humility, being Christ-like in our relationship to others, is the foundation for our relationships. Haughtiness, arrogance, and conceit always contribute to strife, envy, and all the works of the flesh.
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
One of the odd things I discovered about the Wisconsin Synod was a tradition of dirty tricks against fellow clergy. Initiation rites were used as a way of hurting younger classmen (prep school, college and seminary), but this juvenile behavior continued into the ministry and limited the positive work of the Gospel. Not everyone was arrested in this stage of development, but many were. They bragged about the hurt inflicted on fellow pastors. One circuit pastor and conference chairman bragged about how he got even with classmates in football practice by deliberately hurting them. A coach might wonder, I thought we were on the same team.
Pranks are common in the world of politics and in church politics. Churches are especially vulnerable to destructive people, because members expect the best and try to assume the best about others. Thus they are easily fooled.
Therefore, both pastors and members will always be the victim of evil men and women within the visible church. And that is especially hurtful. And yet, the answer is not to enter the realm of politics and work as the (church) politicians do. That is using the material realm to handle what must be done in the spiritual realm, that is, solely through the Word. That’s why false leaders welcome political solutions, even political war, but fear a “come to Jesus” meeting about their doctrine.
19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Give place unto wrath does not seem to fit, until we include “the wrath of God.” In other words, as Luther pointed out, we are not to take on the role of God but to let the wrath of God accomplish His justice, something far more severe than we can imagine. One girl was talking about how she was wronged by a guy. I pointed out two basic facts: 1) She was better off without him. 2) Time wounds all heels. God would do more than she could ever plan in her own mind. If he repented, that too would be within God’s plan.
Revenge is not our place. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Human justice keeps evil within bounds to some extent, but it is never adequate. God will not be mocked. Whatever a man sows, he will also reap.
One advantage of being a little older is seeing how God has tumbled so many proud peacocks from their perches. Others take their place and utter their blood-curdling cries and emulate their strutting around. But they belong to their Father Below and serve him for a few moments in time.
The Bible shows us that the Christian follows the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and not the cleverness of the material world. In this respect every Christian will at times be a rug on which people wipe their feet. His lack of desire for revenge will be seen as addition proof of his weakness.
Nevertheless, in weakness and
humility the believer receives all blessings from the Holy Trinity. We can
never be equal to Christ in our behavior, but we can enjoy the spiritual
blessings of the faith and share them with others through our faith in Him. If
we can only do that in our little family at home or our little congregation,
that is a taste of eternal life.
God not only wants us to enjoy forgiveness of sin and eternal life, but to taste those blessings and share them on earth.