Monday Reverb – 04September2023

WELCOME and THANKS for joining us.



  • This week’s theme is God’s concern and care for us.
  • In the gospels, Matthew records Jesus telling Peter that the concerns of God are far above Peter’s own concerns, and
  • in Romans, Paul admonishes the Roman church to be concerned for one another after the pattern of Christ’s concern for us.






Small Group Discussion Questions

From Speaking of Life

  • What are some of the ways that we attempt being the masters of our own fates or captains of our souls?
  • What does it mean to take up your cross and follow Jesus?  (What are the alternatives?)
  • What does daily discipleship in Jesus look like to you?


Overcoming Evil With Good

Romans 12:9-21 (NIV)

Over the past 15 years, we have witnessed a significant rise in the amount of superhero movies that have been released.  These often feature some of the most well-known actors in the world.  Superhero movies are also among the highest grossing of any genre.  In 2019 alone, these movies brought in more than three billion dollars.

A common thread found in these movies is that the superhero will encounter obstacles, dangers, and setbacks.  And no superhero movie is complete without an opposing force.  A force of evil that must be overcome with good.  Sounds a lot like church, doesn’t it?  What do we do when the church is in a battle with evil?  Do we even know what evil looks like?  And how do we overcome it?

In our pericope today, Paul admonishes the Roman church to overcome evil with good.  We are going to look at what was going on in the Roman church, how Paul chose to address it, and in the process, we will also learn how to overcome evil in our world today.

Read Romans 12:9-13,14-16,17-21

Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil.  Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient[a] in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given[b] to hospitality.  

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  16 Be of the same mind toward one another.  Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble.  Do not be wise in your own opinion.

17 Repay no one evil for evil.  Have[c] regard for good things in the sight of all men.  18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.  19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; 
If he is thirsty, give him a drink; 
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  



The letter to the Romans was written by Paul, in large part, to address the division that was occurring between Gentile and Jewish believers in that diverse church.  Those of Jewish ancestry were claiming the blessings passed down from Abraham, while the Gentile’s were boasting of being grafted into Christ as the new family of God.  Neither were wrong, yet neither were acting graciously about it.

Up until the twelfth chapter of Romans, Paul had been busily demolishing the arguments that the church was dividing over.  He starts off chapter 12 with a “therefore,” and goes on to describe how we should live with Christ in us.  Beginning with verse nine, he starts giving his final instructions on how to remedy this “evil” that had infected the church.

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)


In this first section, we are told how to primarily deal with the evil in our inner circle.  This includes those we are closest to, and those with whom we are already in fellowship.  Someone once said that the only army that shoots its wounded is the Christian army.  Unfortunately, there is much truth in that statement.

A world of weary Christian soldiers needs a place of peace, a place of safety, where they can lay down their weapons and join an army of other believers skilled in the spirit of peacemaking.  If the church cannot be the place where there is support, encouragement, respect, and hospitality, then where else are we supposed to turn?

Churches need to be sanctuaries of healing, not places where we must hide our wounds.  The charge we have been given in these scriptures is to root out evil by caring for one another.  It’s not about how well we can pass one another’s theological test, but rather about the love we have in Christ, a love shared with each other.

In the Working Preacher Commentary, Israel Kamudzandu wrote the following:

The harmony of the Trinity is none other than the practice of love, because love is the essence of God.  Love drives and builds a fellowship of believers.  Love is the radiating orbit on which the cross of Jesus Christ is centered and calls on everyone to accept and share the same love.1  

The church, then, can be thought of as an incubator for the formation of love amongst believers, so that we might live a life of love and service to a much larger worldFor it is in the church that we are surrounded and upheld by the undeserved and steadfast love of God, and where the community of Christ practices the love we receive and experience in the Trinity.  Let’s continue:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.  Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited. (Romans12:14-16 NIV)


While these words can apply to relationships inside the body of Christ, they are meant to move us further into our communities.  It is here where we will naturally encounter opposition to our faith.  This might include those who might be very different from us as well as those who live in very different circumstances from us.

It is one thing to honor and care for those who care for us, to show love to those who are just like us.  It is a whole new level to be able to love and serve those who may not care for us at all.

Remember, when Christ performed the self-emptying act of washing his disciples’ feet, he also washed the feet of his betrayer.  Judas received the love and service of Christ just as much as the other disciples did.

Sometimes we confuse emotionality with love.  The kind of love that we have been called to show to others does not depend on whether we feel like it or notThis love comes from the transformational power of the new life we have received in Christ.  This love seeks the best in others, the forgiveness of others, as well as peace and reconciliation with others.

Loving someone is not appealing to a person’s likes and preferences, rather, it is displaying actions towards them in ways that will help move them to experience God’s goodness.

Let’s finish the passage:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.  On the contrary: “If your 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. (Romans 12:17-21 NIV)


These verses bring us to the people who have done us the most harm.   The ones that have brought us to the point where we want revenge or are tempted to want to see their destruction.

This is the place where we might want to justify our participation with evil, where we want to be granted the right to take matters into our own hands.  But even here, you will notice that Paul ends this section with nearly the identical words that he started out saying in verse nine.  Overcome evil with good.

The spirit that is in the world is one of dividing and conquering.  We see nation against nation, political parties in violent confrontation, men against women, the old against the young, all the way to the breakdown of the family unit.  We, the church, can be overcome by this evil when we allow ourselves to be drawn into the ways and the thinking of the world.  But we cannot lose out on the opportunities to display God’s love even to those who might despise us.  In verse 20, Paul gives us what many find a confusing statement.

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on their heads. (Romans 12:20 NIV)

While theologians have differing opinions of an exact illustration of this phrase that Paul uses, it is clear it is referring to repaying hostility with kindness and forgiveness.  This might lead to an enemy feeling shame.  A modern-day metaphor might be your enemy having egg on his face.

We are to overcome evil with good in our churches, in our communities, and towards those who would do us harm.

  • This might seem like a feat only for those who possess the strength and abilities of a superhero.
  • Fortunately, for us, we have someone who provides far more than anything that could come out of DC or Marvel Comics.
  • We depend on the all-powerful love of God in Christ Jesus who is always with us.  A love that conquers all and enables us to serve others.  A love that has no kryptonite.  A love from a God who truly overcomes evil with good.


From William Barclay’s commentary on the Book of ROMANS

In Romans 12:9-13Paul presents his people with ten telegraphic rules for ordinary, everyday life.  Let us look at them one by one.

(i) Love must be completely sincere. There must be no hypocrisy, no play-acting, no ulterior motive. There is such a thing as cupboard love, which gives affection with one eye on the gain which may result.  There is such a thing as a selfish love, whose aim is to get far more than it is to give.  Christian love is cleansed of self; it is a pure outgoing of the heart to others.

(ii) We must hate that which is evil and cling to that which is good.  It has been said that our one security against sin lies in our being shocked by it.  It was Carlyle who said that what we need is to see the infinite beauty of holiness and the infinite damnability of sin.  The words Paul uses are strong.  It has been said that no virtue is safe which is not passionate. He must hate evil and love good.  Regarding one thing we must be clear — what many people hate is not evil, but the consequences of evilNo man is really a good man when he is good simply because he fears the consequences of being bad.  As Burns had it:

“The fear o’ Hell’s a hangman’s whip To haud the wretch in order; But where ye feel your honour grip, Let that ay be your border.”

Not to fear the consequences of dishonour, but to love honour passionately is the way to real goodness.

(iii) We must be affectionate to one another in brotherly love.  The word Paul uses for affectionate is philostorgos, and storge is the Greek for family love.  We must love each other, because we are members of one family.  We are not strangers to each other within the Christian Church; much less are we isolated units; we are brothers and sisters, because we have the one father, God.

(iv) We must give each other priority in honour.  More than half the trouble that arises in Churches concerns rights and privileges and prestige.  Someone has not been given his or her place; someone has been neglected or unthanked.  The mark of the truly Christian man has always been humility.  One of the humblest of men was that great saint and scholar Principal Cairns.  Someone recollects an incident which showed Cairns as he was.  He was a member of a platform party at a great gathering.  As he appeared there was a tremendous burst of applause.  Cairns stood back to let the man next him pass, and began to applaud himself; he never dreamed that the applause was for him.  It is not easy to give each other priority in honour.  There is enough of the natural man in most of us to like to get our rights; but the Christian man has no rights — he has only duties.

(v) We must not be sluggish in zeal.  There is a certain intensity in the Christian life; there is no room for lethargy in it.  The Christian cannot take things in an easy-going way, for the world is always a battleground between good and evil, the time is short, and life is a preparation for eternity.  The Christian may burn out, but he must not rust out.

(vi) We must keep our spirit at boiling point.  The one man whom the Risen Christ could not stand was the man who was neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:15-16).  Today people are apt to look askance upon enthusiasm: the modern battle-cry is “I couldn’t care less.”  But the Christian is a man desperately in earnest; he is aflame for Christ.

(vii) Paul’s seventh injunction may be one of two things.  The ancient manuscripts vary between two readings. Some read, “Serve the Lord” and some read, “Serve the time.” that is, “Grasp your opportunities.”  The reason for the double reading is this. A ll the ancient scribes used contractions in their writing.  In particular the commoner words were always abbreviated.  One of the commonest ways of abbreviating was to miss out the vowels — as shorthand does — and to place a stroke along the top of the remaining letters.  Now the word for Lord is kurios and the word for time is kairos, and the abbreviation for both of these words is krsIn a section so filled with practical advice it is more likely that Paul was saying to his people, “Seize your opportunities as they come.”  Life presents us with all kinds of opportunities — the opportunity to learn something new or to cut out something wrong; the opportunity to speak a word of encouragement or of warning; the opportunity to help or to comfort.  One of the tragedies of life is that we so often fall to grasp these opportunities when they come“There are three things which come not back — the spent arrow, the spoken word, and the lost opportunity.”

(viii) We are to rejoice in hope.  When Alexander the Great was setting out upon one of his eastern campaigns, he was distributing all kinds of gifts to his friends.  In his generosity he had given away nearly all his possessions.  “Sir,” said one of his friends, “you will have nothing left for yourself.”  “Oh, yes, I have,” said Alexander, “I have still my hopes.”  The Christian must be essentially an optimist.  Just because God is God, the Christian is always certain that “the best is yet to be.”  Just because he knows of the grace that is sufficient for all things and the strength that is made perfect in weakness, the Christian knows that no task is too much for him.  “There are no hopeless situations in life; there are only men who have grown hopeless about them.”  There can never be any such thing as a hopeless Christian.

(ix) We are to meet tribulation with triumphant fortitude.  Someone once said to a gallant sufferer: “Suffering colours all life, doesn’t it?”  “Yes,” said the gallant one, “it does, but I propose to choose the colour.”  When the dreadful affliction of complete deafness began to descend on Beethoven and life seemed to be one unbroken disaster, he said: “I will take life by the throat.” As William Cowper had it:

“Set free from present sorrow, We cheerfully can say. `Even let the unknown tomorrow Bring with it what it may, It can bring with it nothing But he will bear us through.'”

When Nebuchadnezzar cast Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the burning fiery furnace he was amazed that they took no harm.  He asked if three men had not been cast into the flames.  They told him it was so.  He said, “But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Dn.3:24-25).  A man can meet anything when he meets it with Christ.

(x) We are to persevere in prayer.  Is it not the case that there are times in life when we let day add itself to day and week to week, and we never speak to God?  When a man ceases to pray, he despoils himself of the strength of Almighty God.  No man should be surprised when life collapses if he insists on living it alone.

(xi) We are to share with those in need.  In a world bent on getting, the Christian is bent on giving, because he knows that “what we keep we lose, and what we give we have.”

(xii) The Christian is to be given to hospitality.  Over and over again, the New Testament insists on this duty of the open door (Heb. 13:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:8; 1 Pet. 4:9).  Tyndale used a magnificent word when he translated it that the Christian should have a harborous disposition.  A home can never be happy when it is selfish.  Christianity is the religion of the open hand, the open heart, and the open door.


In Romans 12:14-21 … Paul offers a series of rules and principles wherewith to govern our relationships with our fellow men.

(i) The Christian must meet persecution with a prayer for those who persecute him.  Long ago Plato had said that the good man will choose rather to suffer evil than to do evil; and it is always evil to hate.  When the Christian is hurt, and insulted, and maltreated, he has the example of his Master before him, for be, upon his Cross, prayed for forgiveness for those who were killing him.

There has been no greater force to move men into Christianity than this serene forgiveness which the martyrs in every age have showed.  Stephen died praying for forgiveness for those who stoned him to death (Acts 7:60).  Among those who killed him was a young man named Saul, who afterwards became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles and the slave of Christ.  There can be no doubt that the death scene of Stephen was one of the things that turned Paul to Christ.  As Augustine said: “The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.  Many a persecutor has become a follower of the faith he once sought to destroy, because he has seen how a Christian can forgive.

(ii) We are to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep.  There are few bonds like that of a common sorrow. A writer tells of the saying of an American negro woman.  A lady in Charleston met the negro servant of a neighbour.  “I’m sorry to hear of your Aunt Lucy’s death,” she said.  “You must miss her greatly.  You were such friends.”  “Yes’m,” said the servant, “I is sorry she died.  But we wasn’t no friends.”  “Why,” said the lady, “I thought you were.  I’ve seen you laughing and talking together lots of times.”  “Yes’m. That’s so,” came the reply. “We’ve laughed together, and we’ve talked together, but we is just ‘quaintances.  You see, Miss Ruth, we ain’t never shed no tears.  Folks got to cry together before dey is friends.”

The bond of tears is the strongest of all.  And yet it is much easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice.  Long ago Chrysostom wrote on this passage: “It requires more of a high Christian temper to rejoice with them that do rejoice than to weep with them that weep.  For this nature itself fulfils perfectly; and thee is none so hard-hearted as not to weep over him that is in calamity; but the other requires a very noble soul, so as not only to keep from envying, but even to feel pleasure with the person who is in esteem.”  It is, indeed, more difficult to congratulate another on his success, especially if his success involves disappointment to us, than it is to sympathize with his sorrow and his loss.  It is only when self is dead that we can take as much joy in the success of others as in our own.

(iii) We are to live in harmony with one another. It was Nelson who, after one of his great victories, sent back a despatch in which he gave us the reason for it: “I had the happiness to command a band of brothers.”  It is a band of brothers that any Christian Church should be.  Leighton once wrote: “The mode of Church government is unconstrained; but peace and concord, kindness and good will are indispensable.”  When strife enters into any Christian society, the hope of doing any good work is gone.

(iv) We are to avoid all pride and snobbishness.  We have always to remember that the standards by which the world judges a man are not necessarily the standards by which God judges him.  Saintliness has nothing to do with rank, or wealth, or birth.  Dr James Black in his own vivid way described a scene in an early Christian congregation.  A notable convert has been made. and the great man comes to his first Church service.  He enters the room where the service is being held.  The Christian leader points to a place. “Will you sit there please?”  “But,” says the man, “I cannot sit there, for that would be to sit beside my slave.”  “Will you sit there please?” repeats the leader.  “But,” says the man, “surely not beside my slave.”  “Will you sit there please?” repeats the leader once again.  And the man at last crosses the room, sits beside his slave, and gives him the kiss of peace.  That is what Christianity did; and that is what it alone could do in the Roman Empire.  The Christian Church was the only place where master and slave sat side by side.  It is still the place where all earthly distinctions are gone, for with God there is no respect of persons.

(v) We are to make our conduct fair for all to see.  Paul was well aware that Christian conduct must not only be good; it must also look good.  So-called Christianity can be presented in the hardest and most unlovely way; but real Christianity is something which is fair for all to see.

(vi) We are to live at peace with all men.  But Paul adds two qualifications.  (a) He says, “if it be possible“.  There may come a time when the claims of courtesy have to submit to the claims of principle.  Christianity is not an easy-going tolerance which will accept anything and shut its eyes to everything.  There may come a time when some battle has to be fought, and when it does, the Christian will not shirk it.  (b) He says, as far as you can.  Paul knew very well that it is easier for some to live at peace than for others.  He knew that one man can be compelled to control as much temper in an hour as another man in a lifetime.  We would do well to remember that goodness is a great deal easier for some than for others; that will keep us alike from criticism and from discouragement.

(vii) We are to keep ourselves from all thought of taking revenge.  Paul gives three reasons for that.

  • (a) Vengeance does not belong to us but to God.  In the last analysis no human being has a right to judge any other; only God can do that.
  • (b) To treat a man with kindness rather than vengeance is the way to move him.  Vengeance may break his spirit; but kindness will break his heart.  “If we are kind to our enemies,” says Paul, “it will heap coals of fire on their heads.”  That means, not that it will store up further punishment for them, but that it will move them to burning shame.
  • (c)  To stoop to vengeance is to be ourselves conquered by evil.  Evil can never be conquered by evil.  If hatred is met with more hatred it is only increased; but if it is met with love, an antidote for the poison is found.  As Booker Washington said: “I will not allow any man to make me lower myself by hating him.”  The only real way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.


Small Group Discussion Questions

From the Sermon

  • How can our churches be “sanctuaries for healing”?
  • What are some practical ways of washing someone’s feet or heaping coals upon their heads?
  • Share a time when either you or someone you know was able to overcome evil with good?



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