Romans 12:17-18 by Robert Dean
Where's your comfort zone? Do you find it easy to dislike that obnoxious neighbor? Listen to this lesson as the Apostle Paul teaches us that the purpose of learning Biblical truth is to be changed. As we walk by means of the Holy Spirit we can learn to love one another, no matter how unlovable someone is. See the command not to demand justice and pay people back for what they do to us. Discover that our greatest enemy is what we think, considering ourselves to be better than others and deserving to get our own way. Examine the basic spiritual skills we need to employ in order to resolve problems with one another.

Living in Peace
Romans 12:17-18

Before we get started tonight in our study in Romans I wanted to just give you a little bit of an update or a review on some things that I learned over the last couple of days. I was invited by some friends to go to a JINSA Conference, which stands for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. It was founded by a Houstonian, I believe, Tom Neumann. He's had some health problems and they're transferring the baton of leadership to a younger man, Michael Makovsky. I've known Mike for four or five years because I picked up a book called Churchill's Promised Land which he wrote. I highly recommend it as a study dealing with the whole history of Zionism. He was one of the speakers last night.

We met at a private home over in the Memorial area. There were about 80 people there. The two primary speakers were Ambassador John Bolton and Michael Makovsky. And then, because this was also done under the auspices of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst spoke briefly. There were a couple of other notables there who have a foundation and background with JINSA. Apparently David Dewhurst was the assistant director back in the 80s and was very much involved with Tom Neumann when he started JINSA, as was former congressman, Tom Delay, who was also present last night. Some others that were there were the former chairman of the board for the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., several other very influential players in pro-Israel politics in this country and so it was a very significant crowd who had quite an education.

Yoram Ettinger was there also and he spoke at an event this morning. Yoram told me I needed to get the video from the event. There were two things last night apparently. There was a dinner and the host who had us in his home spoke a good bit about Ukraine. There were two things going on in the topic, the thread of conversation through last night's events and today's events that are near and dear to my heart and our hearts. Number one was Israel and Iran and number two, the intersection of this Ukrainian issue with Russia and how those things are somewhat intersecting. So it was very informative.

The views of all the speakers were fairly conservative. I'm just going to review without necessarily attributing to a speaker who said what because that's not that important and I don't know if I can properly sort out who said what. I wrote down some key basic observations just to give you some basic bullet points of what came out of the presentations. The first point I'll emphasize was stated by both speakers and they supported each other and that is that after the way the U.S. has handled the situation in Libya, Egypt, Syria, and Ukraine, we have learned that the U.S. cannot be trusted to carry out its word and to fulfill its obligations to its allies. The international community has learned this as well. No one can trust this government to do or to undergo its obligations.

One of the things that the host spoke about last night is interesting because he was originally from Kharkov in the Ukraine. He was a "refusnik" which meant a group of Jews that were trying to get out of Russia in the late 70s and early 80s but could not be granted exit visas so they were called "refusniks" and he was among that group before he and his wife finally made their way to Houston. He spoke a little about this. It goes back to the 1995 Budapest Memorandum which was affirmed by then Ukrainian present, Leonid Kuchma who was just as bad as Yanukovych, along with Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, and John Major who was the Prime minister of Britain at the time. These countries agreed and promised to respect the independence of the then existing borders. That's the exact wording of the Budapest Memorandum. That's the then existing borders of Ukraine and it includes Crimea. And it said they would refrain from the threat and use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of Ukraine. So when Putin sent his troops into Crimea he violated this.

It was on the basis of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum that the Ukrainians gave up all their nuclear weapons. One of the things that has always come out of history if we learn anything from recent history is that you're going to survive you must have nuclear weapons and you're going to be a victim to be attacked if you don't have nuclear weapons and this is the lesson that the Ukrainians have just recently learned. But what has happened because of this violation of international law by Russia and the West's inability to do anything? They have been basically rendered impotent due to the economy and due to over commitment of military forces all around the world, especially the U.S. Now y'all need to get some maps and put them up and become familiar with this area. One of the problems Americans have is that we're geographically impoverished and we don't understand how these things relate and why they are significant. We don't realize that everything's global now and this impacts economics, impacts trade, and impacts many things that come right home to roost even though they're not domestic policy. We cannot afford as Americans to be myopic and just focus on domestic policies. That's the history of this country. We just want to sit around and worry about what's in our checking account and make sure we have a good job and a paycheck and health care and nothing else matters.

All of those things I just mentioned that are domestic policy are really contingent upon where we sit in the world in terms of trade, the value of the dollar, and many other factors. The impotence of the U.S., and our failure to act, has basically rendered us a fool in the eyes of the world. In terms of relation to Iran this means that our enemies have no reason to fear us. We can draw red lines in the sand all day long but every time we let someone cross them and cross them and cross them, no one's going to pay attention. So our enemies have no reason to fear us and our friends have no reason to trust us.

The second thing that came out of a very interesting speaker today. He's an orthodox Jew, stands about six four, thin, long beard. He wears a bowler. I've seen all kinds of hats in the Old City. Those of you who have been there know what I'm talking about but I have never seen a bowler. Afterwards when I was introduced to him I said, "I'm really curious. I know that all the different hats indicate different Polish villages that different rebbis came from but I've never seen a rebbi wearing a bowler." He took it off and spun it on the table and it was a riding bowler that's a helmet. He said, "This way it doesn't get crushed when I'm flying on the airplane." How practical. It also looks distinctive. And this guy was just a brilliant security analyst, his specialty is on oil and energy security. He talked about all these other things because that's what everyone else was talking about. He told us a little bit about his background. He was called in to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff on cyber security. Get that picture in your mind. The Joints Chiefs of Staff with their regalia of medals and their military uniforms and an orthodox Jew with his frock coat, his long beard, bowler, and prayer shawl, briefing the Joint Chiefs of Staff on cyber security two weeks after 911. He was quite interesting and quite conservative. At least 3 times while he was speaking he affirmed that he was a social conservative, a fiscal conservative, and a political conservative. That's the only way it works. You need to have all three.

His first point was that evil must be recognized. If we're not dealing with our enemies on the basis of accepting reality of the existence of evil then we're living in a fantasy world and we're going to be destroyed. Then he built the rest of his case upon that. It was interesting that earlier the president of the University of St. Thomas in Houston, a retired major-general who had been responsible for carrying the atomic nuclear information missile launch codes for President Reagan gave a thirty minute talk about President Reagan. He pointed out that Ronald Reagan had identified the USSR, against the advice of all his advisors, as the "Evil Empire". But it was the use of that term that really spoke to the heart of Gorbochov, and to the heart of numerous Russians and to a number of Americans who realized when he identified the USSR as an evil empire they knew there was someone in America who understood the real issue and the Soviet Union's days were numbered. I believe and I've said this since 911 that when President Bush came out and identified the "Axis of Evil" that this is what caused the Left to hate him so much. As soon as you identify their actions as coming out of an absolute immoral position of evil which runs completely counter to their whole relativistic mentality then you have challenged everything in their world view. That's why they hated him so much. It wasn't just because of individual policies. They hated him because he challenged their core world view, their whole spiritual atheistic-secular outlook on life where there is no such thing as evil.

A third thing that came out of the talks is that since the brokered deal with Iran back in September that was for six months, that Iran has gained at least an extra twelve billion dollars in revenue they wouldn't have had. Probably by the time it's up in June it will be another five billion in income but just in case you missed it, it's already been announced that it's not enough time so we're going to have to extend the deal by at least another six months, which gives the Iranians more and more time to get more and more money. We had them on the ropes in terms of the sanctions because they were beginning to starve to death because they didn't have income. Now they've got plenty of income coming in.

The fourth point is that the twenty-eight nations in the EU are already fragmenting and the EU is on the ropes and we don't know how much longer it's going to last. Basically Germany and Austria are carrying the EU and they're regretting it. There's a lot of anger and resentment towards the rest of Europe. Southern Europe is in massive unemployment. Spain, Southern Italy, Greece, and a couple of other areas have 20-25% unemployment. They're in deep depression and they're losing businesses to the point where it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to ever recover. When we read about Lady Catherine Ashton negotiating with the Russians over Ukraine, it's not good. Hers is a name you need to recognize. She's gone to Israel several times. She's a virulent anti-Semite. What is she bargaining with when she talks to Putin? Europe doesn't have anything to threaten them with or to offer them. So when we hear that she's gone to talk to Ukraine and the Russians, what's her bargaining position? There is none.

Another point which I thought was interesting because I hadn't thought of it in these terms but a couple of different speakers addressed it this way. Yoram was one who didn't really think that Iran was that close to producing a bomb, a couple of others did as well. They used the analogy that in terms of enriching uranium you can refine gasoline all day long but that doesn't mean you're going to build a car. The Iranians are enriching uranium like crazy but unless they have help outside of Iran they don't have the capacity to produce the weapon system needed to carry the weapon. Unless they can do that, they're probably not a threat yet. But guess what, this morning or late yesterday the Russian foreign minister issued a veiled threat that if Obama continues the sanctions against Russia for the actions in Crimea then they might rethink their commitment to sanctions against Iran and everything else related to Iran. So if the Russians were to help Iran, then we would be in a world of hurt.

That leads to my next point which I think Henry LeHavre or something like that said that what's going on right now is not that similar to 1938 as a lot of people think. The Nazis went into Sudetenland and then went into Czechoslovakia. He says it's not 1938. In 1938 you had one major evil empire which was the Nazis. You had the Italians and you had the Japanese which were not that big of a threat to the west at least. He said today Japan has been replaced by China, which is much more to be feared than the Japanese. We have Iran and we have Russia. The connection of Iran, Russia, and China together is a much bigger threat than what we've faced before. So it's not 1938. It's much, much worse.

And then the seventh point is that I thought was also an interesting observation or opinion is that Putin is very likely to keep out of Eastern Ukraine. Despite the fact that due to our satellites we know they've amassed 80,000 troops on the border. They're making a threat but if Putin goes in and he carves off those provinces in Eastern Ukraine, according to the speaker and leaves the rest of Ukraine then he's going to leave a parliament in Ukraine that is purely anti-Russian. If he leaves it alone and the pro-Russian provinces are still part of Ukraine then they will elect pro-Russian parliament members and you contribute to more and more instability in Ukraine. Russia's whole objective is for Ukraine to stay neutral and not as an ally of the west.

That goes to another point related to the problem with the United States policy is that at the end of Bush's era there was a big move for the Baltic States, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania to join NATO. There was a push for Ukraine to join NATO but Russia was making such a big stink about it that the Europeans backed off. This was the time Barack Obama was elected president. We should have gone back and continued to push that because the idea is that if we can pull Ukraine into the western orbit that pushes the borders of Russia back even further. They just completely dropped the ball. They have no interest in foreign affairs whatsoever because their whole objective is to remake American culture and to change Americans socially, and they really don't care what's going on in the rest of the world. The inner sanctum that makes most of the decisions in the White House has very little foreign policy experience because it doesn't really matter to them. What matters to them is irreversibly changing American culture. So what we're left with is that the west is completely impotent. We can't do anything even if we wanted to do anything. We think it's too far away, Ukraine is right on Russia's doorstep, the supply chain would be far too long and many other problems so there's nothing we can actually do about Ukraine. Mother Russia is now on the rise. There's nothing the west can do about it even if we wanted to and yet this is going to be the future that will challenge us.

Some of us remember that when the Soviet Union broke up in the early 90s we had a pastor that very clearly predicted that the Russian bear was wounded but not down and it would be back. And it's coming back under Putin. The last thing to really lift your spirits this evening is that all these speakers agreed, a nuclear Iran is a foregone conclusion unless the Israelis do something. The Israelis recognize as does everybody else that if they're going to do anything they're going to do it without us. They're not even going to tell us when they're going to do it because they can't trust the United States any more. That's the only way we're going to stop a nuclear Iran is if the Israelis do it. They've been working on it in lots of ways to see if they can possibly do it.

Now having brought all that to your attention, I want to bring a little Scripture to your attention related to this before we get into our Romans passage. We have an election coming up this year and it's a vital election and it's important for us to throw the Democrats out of office. That is my opinion. We need to throw the Democrats out of office because they fight lockstep. You don't ever hear a Democrat calling another Democrat "DINOs". Republicans need a leader, they need a strategy, and they need to pull together despite differences because party really does matter when you get into Washington. Party politics really does matter and as conservatives and Republicans if we continue to be fragmented then we will be rolled over once again by people who want to destroy this country and who are operating on evil belief systems and evil presuppositions.

Fortunately, history is controlled by the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God. We need to be involved in politics, not because we trust man but because that's our responsibility under our Constitution. As citizens of the United States it is part of our responsibility to be knowledgeable voters and to be involved in this civic process to whatever degree we can. It doesn't mean we're trusting in man because the Scripture says in Jeremiah 17:5, "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength." We have to recognize that ultimately the only real permanent solution is a spiritual solution. But that doesn't mean there aren't secular decisions and secular solutions for secular problems because I believe that there are.

It's just like if you have a problem at your bank and you have an overdraft the solution is to first of all pray about the situation and then get some money into the bank to correct the overdraft problem and if necessary, get a second job. That's how it works. We pray to the Lord because we believe the Lord controls history but we also have to start the lawnmower and go out and cut the grass if we're praying about the problem of overgrown grass to be solved.

So just because we get involved in politics doesn't mean our ultimate trust is in man because this is what Scripture says. The contrast is "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope (confidence) is in the Lord for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes." Heat there refers to adversity coming. We won't be afraid because we know that no matter what happens God is going to take care of us even if that means He's going to take us home. It finishes, "And will not be anxious in the year of drought nor will cease from yielding fruit."

We do not live in a good world. When I was talking to this one speaker at the end I said, "You talked about so many different things in forty-five minutes that I'm trying to figure out how to summarize it." He said, "It's real simple. There is a hell and we're living in it." But there's hope for the believer. Let me take you to one more passage before we get into Romans and that is at the end of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is one of the Minor Prophets coming after Nahum and just before Zephaniah. Habakkuk is a great book to preach through. I've gone through it in one shot before. It is the realization on the part of the prophet, Habakkuk, to focus on the Lord alone and that he will have joy no matter what the external circumstances will be. He begins by asking a question. He looks out on the scene of the culture in Judah in approximately 605 to 607 B.C. and he says, "Lord these people are pagan. They're perverted. They're twisted. They're antagonistic to you. They're idolatrous. Why won't you punish them?" and the Lord said, "Guess what, Habakkuk. I've got these people over here, the Iranian…no, whoops, the Chaldeans, same part of the world, okay, the Chaldeans and they're on the way and they're going to take care of the problem." And Habakkuk said, "What? How can you use those horrible people? They're worse than we are? How can you use them to punish us?" So in the chapter you get a meditation on God's answer to Habakkuk's objection. Then Habakkuk, after meditating on it, recognizes that God has the right to rule His creation absolutely.

When it comes to the end of the book, like most of us if judgment is coming Habakkuk realizes he's going to lose all of his security. He's going to lose all his comfort. He's going to lose everything he likes in life. What in the world am I going to do? Because if the Chaldeans come, he's going to lose everything. And this is how he ends in Habakkuk 17:3, "Though the fig tree should not blossom…" In other words if there's no food at the grocery store. "And there be no fruit on the vines," There's no paycheck.  "{Though} the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food," The grocery stores can't get any food because there's nothing being produced by the farmers. "Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls…" Right now our beef supplies are the lowest they've been since the early 50's and beef prices are about to skyrocket. It's a good time to go on a diet where you're not spending as much money on red meat. Basically what he's summarizing in verse 17 is that even if he loses all the details of life, security, comfort, the house I want to live in, the car I want to drive, in fact, I don't even have a car because everything's been lost with the economy turned upside down. Though I lose everything near and dear to me, he continues in Habakkuk 3:18, "Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation".

That is what we talk about when we talk about doctrinal orientation and grace orientation, when we talk about the problem-solving devices, that's what we're focusing on. It's because we have a love for the Lord. Personal love for the Lord. All of those are mixed in with the application of that verse. Then comes the last of the problem-solving devices, sharing the happiness of God. Habakkuk 3:19 says, "The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds' {feet,} And makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments." It's not the military that's our strength. The military was never the strong point in the Old Testament. They didn't defeat the Canaanites because they had a superior technology. They didn't defeat the Canaanites because they had a superior officer corps. They did not defeat the Canaanites because they had a superior non-commissioned officer corps. They did not defeat the Canaanites because they were superior in numbers. They defeated the Canaanites because they trusted in the Lord. "The battle is the Lord's."

Unless there is a spiritual solution all of these other solutions are simply temporary fixes on a flat tire. They're just patches. You've got to replace the tire. There has to be a change in the culture or we are doomed. But as believers that's not bad. Our joy is not in the culture. Our joy is in the Lord. Then Habakkuk concludes, "The Lord God is my strength. And He has made my feet like hinds' feet and makes me walk on my high places [hills]. For the choir director on my stringed instruments." If you're a Texas you have to be careful about those high hills because you might want to pronounce that high heels but you have to articulate. Habakkuk recognizes that joy is not in the details of life, it's not in the things we have. It's not even in the people around us. It's not in things going to way we would like things to go. Our joy needs to be oriented to the plan of God and when we're oriented to the plan of God and understand that He rules history and when our mental attitude is aligned with His plan, we have joy no matter what the circumstances might be.

So, things aren't rosy, but that's okay. We have a God who's in control of everything and we can have an influence in this nation because we're believers and we can be involved in the problem solving areas that have been established by the government and by our Constitution and we can have an impact. That's part of our responsibility. But a greater part of our responsibility as believers is that we need to really know the Word because one of the things that's coming out of Ukraine is this. If we ever get to the point where we're like Ukraine it is a great opportunity for believers to know the Word. That's one thing that's coming out again and again is these people who have been trained by Jim Meyers and others in Ukraine are having an impact on the people. There is a great receptivity to the Gospel now and to the truth. And not only is there a great receptivity to the truth but these people who have come out of that ministry and have been studying the Word for the last ten, twelve, fifteen years have a stability of their souls in the midst of this Russian threat that is at their front door. That's why we need to be in Bible class all the time. We need to be studying the Word, keeping our focus off the details of life and on to what really matters.

Okay, now, open your Bibles to Romans 12. We're going through various principles here related to the Christian life. Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." Basically I think a lot of what is developed in verses 9 through 21 has to do with some form of the expression of love, either impersonal love for all mankind or personal love for God.

This is a tough subject for a lot of us to focus on. Loving one another is great when the one another's we're loving are lovable, when they're nice, when they're clean, when they've had a shower, but it's hard to love the unlovable. It's hard to express this kind of love with people who are obnoxious, with people who are not physically attractive. By that I don't mean simply looking good but there are people who have myriads of other problems because maybe they don't bathe, or they don't dress in clean clothes or any number of other factors. It's easy to dismiss them. There's not a qualification in these commands. We have to understand what it means to love because it doesn't have that simplistic, superficial, shallow emotive meaning that most people think.

Love means doing the right thing, the best thing for the object of love. But that presupposes that you're able to understand that value. What is best? What is right? It's not just what's right for me. Too often what you see in marriage ceremonies when two people are declaring their love for another is a hidden text that says, "I love you and I'm going to give you the opportunity to love me back for the rest of my life and make me feel just the way you've always made me feel." This is a great opportunity to do that.

We often come from a selfish set of standards, not an objective set of standards, which is what the Word of God gives us. When we do that we're able to get out of ourselves. Remember, our basic problem is that we're self-absorbed. That's the orientation of the sin nature. We come into life thinking it's all about me and unless the "rod of correction" drives that far from us through parental training and unless we are taught from establishment truth and the Word of God, the problem we'll discover is that when we reach our adolescent years it's all going to be "about me" and we're going to get into a lot of trouble. Then when we get into our twenties and thirties we're going to have a lot of problems in our marriages and in our jobs because we're going to think it's "all about me". The only way we can truly, genuinely avoid doing everything in life out of the pursuit of self-interest is to understand God's plan and purpose for our life as an individual believer and then to start living in light of that.

 In that sense we can have genuine true compassion for other people. We can understand with empathy what they're going through. We can rejoice with them when there are wonderful things in their life and we can weep with them when there are terrible things in their life so we learn to "rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep". The word there for weeping is not just being upset and crying a little bit but someone who is so overwhelmed by adversities and disasters in life that they are wailing in distress over the things that have taken place.

Then in Romans 12:16 we read, "Be of the same mind toward one another."  This means that are to treat everyone from the same framework. That framework, of course, is the Word of God. We are to treat one another as a fellow believer in the royal family of God. We are not to prefer one over the other as though one has a higher value than the other. So we are to think the same way. This is the word PHRONEO which means to be wise or to think. We are to think objectively toward one another but the only way we can think objectively is if we have an objective standard in our soul and that comes from the Word of God.

Unfortunately, there are too many people in our culture today that because they do not have the Word of God the only thing they operate on is their own self-interest. They're self-absorbed. They may disguise it in numerous ways but ultimately the only motivation in their life is their own self-interest. So they need to learn to think differently. Remember in Romans 12:2 Paul said not to be conformed to the world. The world operates on a self-centered, self-absorbed modus operandi so we are not to be pressed into the mold of the world. We are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, the renewing of our thinking. So in Romans 12:16 Paul is expressing one of the ways we do that. We are to have the same thinking toward one another. Now one another doesn't refer to people outside the body of Christ. This is talking about how we are to relate to one another in the body of Christ, that is to fellow believers no matter what their relationship is to us. We're of the same mind, a mind of objectively toward one another.

Paul often teaches by contrast. He will state positively what we should do and then the negative that we should not do. He does this in areas where he's teaching what Christians believe and then negatively what pagans believe. So here he's talking contrasting behavior and thought here. We're to have the same mind toward one another. We're not to set our minds on lofty or high things, HUPSELOS. This has to do with things that are unrealistic, operating out of pride and arrogance. We're not to set our mind on arrogant goals and objectives.

Then he goes on to say we are to "associate with the lowly [humble]". Now this is a difficult passage to interpret. The word there, translated associate, SUNAPAGO, has the idea of being carried off or associated with humility. Then Romans 12:16 continues, "Do not be wise in your own estimation [opinion].

Then we come to Romans 12:17. Here he continues to develop the idea which started in verse 9 talking about letting love be without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil. Now he says in Romans 12:17, "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.' When people do bad things to us, when people do things that hurt us, when people disappoint us, when people betray us, we are not to react in kind. As my mother used to say, "Two wrongs don't make a right." A right thing done in a wrong way is wrong so often when we retaliate in any way, shape or form, it is wrong. It is operating out of our own vindictiveness, trying to gain justice instead of leaving it in the Lord's hands.

This is not only stated here in Romans 12:17; it's also stated in other passages, such as 1Thessalonians 5:15a where Paul says, "See that no one repays another with evil for evil." So in the first case in Romans 12:17 we have a present active participle, another one of these independent participles used with an imperatival sense. In 1 Thessalonians 5:15 the imperative is in the word "see". It is a present active imperative of HORAO and he's directing them to observe and watch over the behavior in the congregation to make sure that no one repays another evil for evil. So that the verb there for repay, same verb APODIDOMI, is in an aorist subjunctive, which is put there because that's the correct Greek syntax after you have a purpose clause. So it's still an imperative. We are not to repay evil for evil.

Instead, we are to "Respect [have regard for] what is right in the sight of all men." The word there is PRONOEO which is the verb form of the word NOUS which means to think. So this word indicates we are to think about our actions ahead of time, to take care of things beforehand, to take care of something beforehand or to think about it. In other words don't just go through life reacting but to think about things ahead of time. We are to have regard or to think ahead of time, planning a course of action related to good things in the sight of all men. That qualifies it there. It's not just talking about believers. It's not one another. This applies to how the believer should even treat unbelievers. We are to treat them well, with impersonal love, even when they are undeserving. That is an expression of God's grace.

If you don't understand grace, you can't understand love. That's something that ought to be pounded into every teenager before they ever get old enough to ever think they're in love. If you don't understand grace, you can never understand genuine love. Because, for love to function, it must function on grace. Within any relationship there are going to be good things and bad things. There are going to be successes and there are going to be failures and we have to forgive one another. The principle for forgiving one another flows out of grace. Undeserved merit. Undeserved favor. Now this principle of not doing evil to others in return for evil is also expressed in other verses such as 1 Corinthians 13:5 where we're told, "[Love] does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,}."

We have a love crisis in this country. Some politicians love to talk about crises. The more we have a crisis of arrogance and self-absorption, according to the Scripture, the less people can love. True love doesn't "seek its own". It's not self-oriented but the more we have a culture that is based on self-absorption and arrogance, the less it's able to genuinely love so they substitute sex, they substitute drugs, they substitute all kinds of things. They substitute pleasure for love but they don't truly understand what love is. They substitute emotion and sentimentality for love but they don't understand what that is. All of that just feeds a person's own self-aggrandizement, and it feeds their lust patterns.

So love thinks no evil. When you're operating on Biblical love you're not thinking evil about anyone, no matter what they have done to you and no matter how much they might deserve it. Then in Romans 12:18, Paul develops this even more. Not only are we not to repay evil for evil but we are to live peaceably with all men. This is expressing the positive. The negative was "Do not repay evil with evil." The positive is, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." Now the point here is developed from the conditional clause. The Bible is realistic. There are some people who just will never want to have a relationship with us. There are some people that because you're a Christian won't have anything to do with you. There are some people who, because of your personality, won't have anything to do with you. There are some people who for any variety of reasons don't want to have anything to do with you and you can't change that and I can't change that.

Paul qualifies his statement with a first class condition by saying, "If it is possible…" Now a first class condition indicates that the assumption is of truth for the sake of argument. It indicates the idea that something is possible. It doesn't always mean "if, and it's true" but instead it means "if and it's likely." In fact, though each of the conditional clauses have certain primary meanings they can all express more or less a condition of uncertainty. But here he's says, "if and it's possible." In some sense it can be possible if we are trusting in the Lord. It may not be possible right away but we have to remember that with God all things are possible. He's the One who makes it possible.

It may take years to solve some personal conflicts that have occurred. This is especially true within certain situations within families. It may take years to resolve some of those conflicts because they're so deep-seated and so personal and so emotional. The word here is DUNATOS which is translated possible and emphasizes volition. It's up to our volition to try to make it possible, to try to resolve conflicts; but some people won't resolve conflicts. Some people are unwilling to admit failure. Some people are unwilling to admit fault. Some people are unwilling to admit they have a problem.

See this is the whole principle underlying 1 John 1:9. "If we confess our sins…" In the resolution of a break that occurs in a rapport with God, God didn't do anything wrong. We did. So what do we have to do in order to resolve the conflict and restore peace with God? We have to admit our wrongdoing. There can't be a resolution without that. God isn't just going to say, "Well, you're really a nice person. I know you're just a baby believer. You're really a stupid believer but that's not your fault so I'm just going to overlook it this time." God doesn't do that. God says there's a basis for resolution and that is that the sin has to be dealt with. The sin isn't dealt with by overlooking it.

Now a lot of people like to live in a world of fantasy where they don't really have to deal with the difficult conflict issues. They don't want to talk about it. It's messy and it's emotional and it's hard to do. Sometimes people just don't want to admit their own failure. So, okay, let's just go on and act like it never happened. But that is merely putting a band-aid on the problem. Sooner or later it won't heal and that scab that grows over the wound is just going to be pulled loose and you're just going to have the problem all over again. So there's a recognition here that sometimes it's not possible because some people just don't want to do what's necessary to live in peace because they don't want to deal with the sin that's the cause of the problem.

Paul recognizes that. He says, "If it's possible, as much as depends on you…" Don't let it be your fault that there's a breach here. Let it clearly be the other person's fault. You've done everything you can but they're the ones who have to take the next step and make the admission of guilt. The word for "peaceable" in this verse is the verb EIRENEUO which means to have peace. It's a present active participle again. As we've seen in the Greek grammar in these verses Paul is using adjectives with an imperatival force and he's using participles with an imperatival force. So there is a command here that we are to live peaceable with all men.

 The word there for men is ANTHROPOS, not ANER. ANER is the word that can mean mankind, it usually means just males and ANTHROPOS means mankind, humanity, with everyone. So live peaceably with everyone. Now how do we do that? This is what's difficult. I'm going to review this a few times. I've had a couple of questions on this because I was covering this in the 1 Thessalonians series when I'm absent. We have to understand that God has given us certain problem solving devices.

That term "problem-solving devices" grew out of a military background and a military idiom. When you go on an FTX (a field training exercise) as a commander, whether an officer or a non-commissioned officer, you'll be presented with a problem. That problem will mean you are faced with some sort of challenge or difficulty that you have to resolve using the tools you've been given in your training. So in the Christian life we're going to face certain situations. It may be some guy that cuts us off in traffic. It may be a family member that rejects us. It might be a financial problem. It might be unemployment. It could be any number of different situations but we must face it on the basis of the Word of God. So it's a test in terms of what we've learned in Bible class.

Now the Apostle John in 1 John uses three different terms to refer to different stages in spiritual growth. The first is spiritual childhood, TEKNON and I relate these to five basic spiritual skills we have to learn and become adept at in order to get past spiritual childhood. It starts with confession because if we're out of fellowship, then we're just going to be doing everything in the power of the sin nature. So the first thing we have to do is make sure we're walking by the Spirit, we're in fellowship with God, and so we confess our sins.

The next thing we have to do is that we have to start "walking by the Spirit". The filling of the Spirit is a passive concept. We're to be filled by the Spirit. It's a passive verb in Ephesians 5:18. The positive active command is given in Galatians 5:16 that we are to walk by means of the Spirit. It's active. The instant we're restored to fellowship we have to start walking by the Spirit. The trouble is a lot of people trip right away and they're back out of fellowship and all they do is they bounce in and out of fellowship. We have to stay in fellowship. That's the whole concept of abiding in Christ that the Scripture uses. So we have to learn to walk in dependence on the Spirit at which time He fills us with His word.

We then have to learn to trust God and we depend on His Word. We claim those promises. We mix our faith with promises of God, 2 Peter 1:3-4. This is combined with grace orientation. We understand the grace of God As we learn promises we usually learn something about God's grace and we have to learn that God protects us not on the basis of who we are or what we've done but on the basis of His unconditional love for us. And that is grace.

And then the last is doctrinal orientation. We have to align our thinking to the Word of God. Now the faith-rest drill, grace orientation, and doctrinal orientation all work together in tandem. The faith-rest drill focuses our attention upon God's Word. Doctrinal orientation focuses our attention upon God's Word. Grace orientation focuses our attention of upon God's provision of every resource we need to face any and every problem in life. These are foundational to all of the advanced spiritual skills.

If you don't master grace orientation, you can never learn to love. If you don't master doctrinal orientation, you can never learn to love. This is foundational. So in spiritual adolescence as we develop in the first five skills we begin to realize we are living for another reason other than personal pleasure. We are living for the destiny God has for us. That is an eternal destiny to rule and reign with Christ so that we're living today in the light of eternity. That's our personal sense of our eternal destiny.

When teenagers get out of adolescence, they begin to postpone gratification and that's called maturity. They're beginning to postpone things and not live just in light of what I'm going to do today but what's going to come a year or two or ten or fifteen or twenty down the road. So this is where you start making that transition into maturity, and this is where a lot of Christians fail and fall out.

Then we get into the advanced spiritual skills. Personal love for God is where we learn to love God because we're oriented to His word. You can't really love someone you don't know. Now that doesn't mean we can't love Him the way a child loves a parent, but in terms of a mature love that only comes as we grow to a certain point in our spiritual growth.

Then we have an impersonal love for all mankind which doesn't mean it's distant. It doesn't mean it's not passionate. It doesn't mean it's not personal. It means we don't necessarily have a relationship with the person you're loving. It can be the person at the check-out stand. It can be the other person driving down the highway. It can be just anyone we're talking to on the telephone. We don't have to have a personal relationship with them in order to love them.

Then the next is our occupation with Christ and these three go together and they feed off of each other and they interact with each other. When we're truly occupied with Christ and have personal love for God then the result of that is going to be a sharing of the happiness of God which we find in James 1:2. 

I'm going to wrap up in just a minute but I wanted to discuss our positional truth, our position in Christ. This is an absolute truth. We're filled by the Spirit, we walk by the Spirit but we can sin which are temporal realities when we go out of fellowship. When we go out of fellowship the only way to have restored fellowship is to confess our sin and then we're back in fellowship. But the question comes, "how do we stay in fellowship?" Well that's the purpose of those spiritual skills.

Remember these are dynamic. You don't learn them one at a time in this order. You learn them in a messy, dynamic sequence in life but if you put them in a circle, you can see the connection. How do you stay in that circle? By using these spiritual skills. When you don't use them, you're going to go out of fellowship. You stay in fellowship, you continue to abide in Christ by using the spiritual skills. When you fail, you have to confess your sin and you're back in fellowship. You're back inside the circle. You're continuing to walk in the light. So what we're focusing on in this passage in Romans in terms of learning how to live peaceably with all men is learning how to function by utilizing personal love for God, impersonal love for all mankind, and occupation with Christ. So next time we're going to come back and we're going to develop the doctrine of what it means to live at peace with all mankind.