Drivers on the road frustrate me. They are either too fast or too slow. They are either in my way or are in the process of doing so. I get aggravated even when I’m in the passenger seat. At times like these, I am very tempted to get back at them somehow even though I know it is wrong… perhaps flashing the high-beam headlights, doing a long press of the car horn, or even muttering a few choice words. Sometimes I succumb, but many times, my long-suffering wife is there to stop me.
Today’s sermon passage (Romans 12:14-21) serves as a reminder to me on good and acceptable Christian conduct when dealing with others. In particular, Romans 12:17-18 read “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” The Christians whom Paul wrote to during that period faced severe persecution, and yet Paul delivered that exhortation, plus “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (v14), and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v21).
If good and acceptable Christian conduct applies in the face of unjust suffering and death, why not also to bad driving habits, or more generally, the real or perceived negative actions of others?
The real challenge to me is in internalizing what this passage says. It is certainly not good enough to grudgingly mumble, “Go in peace, dear reckless driver. May your driving habits improve for your own sake and for the sake of others”. Instead, Paul says in Romans 12:2,”And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Put differently, Paul tells us that the attitudes and behaviours written in Romans 12:14-21 are the result of a transformed and renewed mind. They are genuine and reflect Jesus Christ in our lives, who reminds us in John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
As I struggle with living out Romans 12:14-21 while on the road and on my discipleship journey, I am helped by a few guiding principles:
- Let it go. It is not our place to get back at others when we have been wronged. Romans 12:19 says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” If the Almighty God can forgive our sins, who are we to be judge, jury and executioner of others?
- Let it out. As in, confess to the Lord when you fail in your dealings with others. We are imperfect beings but we take comfort in 1 John 1:9, which reminds us “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
- Let God. That is, we submit ourselves to God, presenting our lives to Him, letting Him transform us and mould us according to His will. It is however not a passive act, but one which requires dedication and active service to Him (Romans 12:1-2).
By Dion Goh (YCKC Bulletin – 9&10 September 2017)