So this is the second part of our session on sacrificial love, and we’re going to continue through the verses in Romans chapter 12.
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This episode is part two of a short series of two episodes.
We are going to continue walking through the verses in Romans chapter 12 to apply them to marriage.
ROMANS 12:17-18 – Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable and the sight of all. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
This part about repaying no one evil for evil, especially applies to marriage, because marriage is a context in which tit-for-tat can really become a thing, where one person feels hurt by their spouse so they don’t do for them this other thing that they know they need or want. Generally speaking, that means things begin to happen that shouldn’t happen in a Christian marriage: grudges, silent treatment, withholding affection or sex or food or service.
Those types of things have no place in a Christian marriage.
So many divorces begin and eventually end with this kind of a mindset. It grieves us and we believe it grieves the Holy Spirit.
As Christ-followers, we have to remember that we’ve been called out of the culture, the world-system that we live in. Our mindset about things like this is to be entirely different because we have the King of the Universe, Jesus, living inside of us.
But you might talk to a friend and they will tell you all the reasons why they think they should get a divorce, a long lists of evil that’s been done to them. But we don’t consider that when a person divorces another person because of the bad things they’ve done, they’re basically repaying it with evil by saying, “I want a divorce.” Now of course, Jesus made the provision for divorce in the case of adultery, but that’s because of what adultery is… it’s a violation of the marriage convenant, an abandonment of it by the cheating party.
Our God is not one to repay evil with evil, no He wants us to live peacefully in this world, and to be parties to making peace. Our God is all about reconciliation, but He can’t work reconciliation in your marriage if both marriage partners are having the attitude of, “I’m going to get back at you. You treated me this way, and I don’t deserve to be treated that way because I am this worthy person.”
That’s such a worldly mindset and sadly, we hear it a lot these days, even from Christians. Our Christian calling in general, and especially in marriage, is one of sacrificial love. To be like Jesus, we need to learn to wait on the Lord, to be patient in the tribulation, and to be constant in prayer.
Another worldly mindset you might hear is when a person tells their marriage woes to a so-called friend and they say, “You shouldn’t have to put up with that.” That kind of attitude is just fomenting the tit for tat, repay evil for evil mindset.
Instead of this sorry attitude, we should be applying the next phrase in the passage, we should give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
So think about the context here. When evil is done to you, give thought to what is honorable. What should you be doing that’s honorable in this situation?
This reminds us of someone we know who shared about the time in her life when she found out her husband had an affair. It crushed her world. It was devastating. And she went away on a little retreat and cried out, “Lord, what do I do? What do I do?” She had three little ones at the time. The beautiful thing is, God did not lead her away from the marriage even though He’s essentially said “I’ve given permission for you to divorce him because he’s been unfaithful.” Instead, he led her towards reconciliation in spite of her husband’s sin against her. She has a beautiful testimony now. She has a picture of hope to so many marriages that deal with that because God is all about restoration.
How many times did God say that He wanted to restore His people Israel in the Old Testament when they were unfaithful to Him with idols? Over and over again, He took them back even though they were certainly guilty of abandoning Him.
That’s what He wants for marriages. So when evil is done to you, give thought. Ask the Lord, “What do I do with this? What do You want me to do in response?”
In a nutshell, this is telling married people that we are responsible before God to do what is right for our part. We really rethink our attitudes about how we behave in marriage, how we interact with each other, how we relate. We should be doing what’s honorable, not repaying evil for evil.
ROMANS 12:19-20 – Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.
There are going to be times when your spouse truly does you wrong, maybe even betrays your trust in some terrible way, like adultery. It’s never our place as Christ followers to become an avenger. “I’m going to get them back. I’m going to make them pay.” As Paul says it here, “leave it to the wrath of God.”
Think about that. God’s more angry about the sin that’s been done to you than you are, because He’s a holy God. It’s an offense to Him before it’s an offense to you. So God Himself says, “Vengeance is Mine. I will repay” (Romans 12:19-21).
I think what God is telling us is that He is the one who knows best how to repay. He knows what needs to be done to either bring repentance, which will have His wrath covered under the blood of Christ at the cross, or to actually bring judgment, which requires that person to be held responsible for their sin. Either way, God’s the only one who is wise enough to know how to do that.
And again, let’s look at Christ’s example of sacrificial love. He laid down His life for the whole world. He died for sinners who He knew were going to reject Him, and He died for those who killed Him.
That’s to be OUR attitude. Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). That sounds like a HUGE, even impossible task, but we must remember in faith that Christ is living in you, husband and wife, and you have the mind of Christ. So the kind of love God says for us to express, is His love which is in us by virtue of the Holy Spirit.
In verse 20, when it says, “To the contrary, so instead of trying to have vengeance, if your enemy’s hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him something to drink, for by so doing, you’ll keep burning coals on his head,” it’s not teaching us to have a vindictive attitude, where we’re wanting to dump burning coals on someone’s head because of what they did. No, what he’s saying is that when you treat someone better than they deserve, and they know it, the “burning coals on their head” is the fact that they can’t stand it, their conscience is eating them up, there’s something happening that’s getting their attention There’s appropriate shame.
So, friends, we’ve got to act in love by the power of the Holy Spirit. We’ve got to learn how to act in love even when we’re done wrong.
ROMANS 12:21 – Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
So there is a resistance to evil that’s implied in this verse and also an aggression toward evil. But that aggression is not, “I’m going to go attack it and tear it down.” It’s, more along the line of, “I’m going to replace it with good. I’m going to do what is good and that is what will overcome evil.”
If we are following the instructions in God’s word like this, obeying His word in our marriage, then we can go back to the verse that talked about rejoicing in hope, because you’re going to see your marriage grow to be a loving Christ-centered marriage. You’re going to be rejoicing because of the blessing you’re feeling and the love you’re feeling from one another. And you’re going to be hopeful that the years to come are going to be full of joy and full of blessing and peace.
This section of scripture that we’ve looked at is not a whole bunch of rules where you have to just buckle down and say, “Oh, this is going to be hard. I have to trudge through the mud and my whole marriage and what a sacrifice!” You’re going to have to sacrifice here and there and you’re going to have joy here and there. It can get to the point where you experience joy most of the time because you and your spouse have developed good habits of obedience and good habits of sacrifice to where even the sacrifice doesn’t feel sacrificial.
Those good habits are the channels by which the life of Christ in you comes out in practical action in the world. Think of that — Jesus Himself pouring out His love on your spouse day after day after day.
THAT is the privilege and opportunity you have, as their spouse. What an opportunity and what a blessing. What a privilege we have.
Choose a section in Romans 12 that was either in part one or in part two that addresses an area where you feel the Lord is calling you to grow. Begin praying that God will help you to change, to get rid of your bad habits and start the new habits of obedience. And maybe even tell your spouse what you’re working on and you can pray together and for each other. Even enlist your spouse and the two of you share the areas you’re praying for individually and then pray for each other in them. That will help you in your humility too.
LISTEN SEPARATELY then set a weekly appointment to discuss what you’ve heard, pray about what God may want YOU to adjust or implement, then plan how you will do so.
LISTEN TOGETHER: Set a standing weekly date to listen together, pray over what you’ve heard, discuss, and strategize how to implement relevant things into your relationship.
DO THE HOMEWORK: The more you invest, the more you’ll grow and experience God’s blessings!