14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
This was a hard one because I think what Paul is saying goes against human nature. When someone cuts you off in traffic, the natural response is usually (there are a few zen drivers out there that may not get this) one of anger and of hope that there is a cop around that will pull that yahoo driver over!
But Paul goes beyond saying be nice to the people who do things that inconvenience you, Paul is telling the Romans to BLESS people who actively and deliberately worked to hurt and kill Christians. Can you imagine the strength it would take to bless someone who was so actively against you, they would take your life? How do you do that without the strenght of the holy spirit??
Beyond just blessing the people that persecute you, Paul tells the Romans to do their best to live in harmony. My mom had Judge Judy on a few weeks ago when I was home doing billing. Remembering the cases of mom vs. son over a few hundred dollars, I can’t help but think that Paul’s charge to live in harmony requires a people devoted to Jesus. Families can hardly stand eachother sometimes, much less neighborhoods and communities!
But just like it takes one person to ruin a good time, it just takes a handful of people to buck the trend, to start something new, to change the tone of the conversation. I need to think: how can I wish my enemies well and be kind to my neighbor?