Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody … Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
There is a balance that must be struck in our hearts first and then in our outward relations with others - the balance between knowing what is wrong, avoiding what is wrong, even hating what is evil, and responding in grace to those who engage in it anyway.
There is a theory about this section of Romans 12, that Paul was giving specific instructions for those spiritual gifts he mentioned in verses 6-8. If so, verse 14 above lines up with the gift of leadership, and anyone in Christian leadership must understand that he will undergo criticisms and even attacks. “Persecute you” are strong words, and though the idea is declared elsewhere in relation to the unbelieving world (Matt 5:11-12), here the words are used within the context of Christian fellowship. Can Christians persecute one another? Of course they can, and have.
The requirement of anyone who would take up the mantle of leadership in things spiritual is a disposition that does not retaliate against those who attack him. The Christian leader must continue to fight along the principles of God’s Word and God’s grace, which values people’s lives and their souls. The Christian leader himself can never become more important than the goals of Christ in the church, which is to lead people to Himself. Rather even to the one who is the harshest critic he must be willing to be gracious, just as Christ washed Judas’s feet right along with the others.
Do you get ruffled and irritable when people do not do what you want? Are you easily annoyed when people question your decisions, recommendations, and even your motives? Do you want to snipe back at them some how? Are you a vengeful person? Then you do not measure up to the biblical standard for Christian leadership. Determine now to be gracious to your harshest critic, to seek to understand those who oppose you, to be kind to your detractors. You and I, as Christian leaders, do not matter so much as the work of Christ in people’s lives.
When there is the time and place for a rebuke, it should be delivered in the kindest and most gracious of words, with encouragement attached, as Paul wrote, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2). Rebuke others as you would want someone to rebuke your dearest and most loved child - to turn him from the wrong way to the right way and not to destroy him.
Lord, teach us graciousness in all things. Forgive those of us who lead for ever thinking that we are important in and of ourselves. Let us never get in the way of You! Amen.