J. Gordon Duncan

Culture, Business, Fitness, Etc.

Love Your Enemies Part 1 Romans 12:14-21

When I was a kid, I loved the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  If you don’t remember it or aren’t familiar with it, the show centered around Rocky the flying squirrel and his friend, Bullwinkle the dimwitted moose.  Most weeks, Rocky and Bullwinkle would battle Boris and Natasha in protection of their town, Frostbite Falls.  The show was a cartoon serial which meant that it would end with a cliffhanger to be concluded in the next episode.

One of the fun things about those cliffhangers was that the narrator would say, “Tune in next week” and then give you two options for what the next show could be called.  A couple of my favorites were:

  • Below Zero Heroes or I Only Have Ice for You
  • Bullwinkle Makes a Hit or I Get a Bang Out of You
  • Axe Me Another or Heads You Lose!

The reason I bring Rocky and Bullwinkle up is because the multiple options for the next episode is how I feel about this week’s Big Picture Question.  When I was doing sermon prep a month or so ago, I decided on this week’s Big Picture Question, but then upon revisiting the passage, I came up with another one.   You see this week, the passage from Romans 12 is going to emphasize two things:  what a life of sympathy and forgiveness looks like as well as the upside down nature of the Gospel.   So in true Rocky and Bullwinkle style, we’re going to try to answer both.

Big Picture Question:   What is the prescription for a life that is both sympathetic and forgiving? or What does the upside down nature of the Gospel look like?

Last week, Paul talked about how the believer in Christ is to offer themselves as a living sacrifice in two ways:  We are to outdo each other in honor by meeting each others needs, and we are to outdo each other in honor by showing hospitality to those who are in need.  In doing this, the church shows that they have been transformed by knowing Jesus Christ.  Jesus has met our need for forgiveness and our need for righteousness.  He has given us both, so we demonstrate that we have been with Jesus by meeting the needs of people within the church and showing hospitality to those outside of the church.  We saw that last week by Paul exhorting each and every believer to show genuine love as an expression of knowing Christ.

We looked briefly at Jesus’ example of genuine love.

  • He gave the widow her whole world back by raising her son.
  • He defended a scandalously sinful woman in front of a bunch of pious, arrogant jerks.
  • He hung with women of poor reputation.
  • He taught the real obedience was helping those in need.
  • He healed lepers.

In the big picture, this is how Jesus expresses genuine love:  Jesus genuinely shows love to those who have sinned.  He hates their sin.  He reverses the repercussions of people’s sin even if those repercussions are those people’s fault.  This kind of radical love is rare these days.

  • It is seen when one spouse refuses to ever bring up something another spouse has done wrong.
  • It is seen when you forgive a parent for their faults.
  • It is seen when you love people even when the mess that is their lives, is their own fault.

With that in mind, Paul continues to explain what this life of sacrificial living looks like.

Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another.

Now, we are going to read some verses this week that so many believers will say they believe are true because they believe the Bible is true, but in terms of actually living these verses out, very few of us believe they are true.  You ask people to give some money and they can do that.  Ask people to give of their time and talents, people can do that too.  Ask them to hold their tongue and speak kinds works, and people can do that too.  However, ask them to love their enemies and, bless the people who persecute them, and turn the other cheek, and you get a bunch of faces that look like people have been sucking on lemons.

Paul offers three commands here that promote harmony with one another.  Bless the people who persecute you and don’t curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice.  Weep with those who weep.  And then you can live in harmony with one another.

Now, if I tell you that you should be rejoicing with people who rejoice, you get that completely.  Weeping with people who weep challenges us a bit more.  I mean, if someone is throwing a party, hanging and having fun is pretty nice unless you are a boorish dullard.  Weeping with people who weep however takes two things:  Compassion and Sympathy.   Those are challenging qualities.  Life is hard enough dealing with your own problems.  Being able to actively show compassion and feel the pain of others is tough.  But nothing speaks more to expressing love and care than weeping when someone weeps.

Let me give you an example.  Last week, Emma fell down the stairs.  I mean she fell down every single one of them and landed on the floor like a ragdoll.  Aside from being scared, she was fine.  She’s a tough kid.  Amy held her a minute or two and the crying stopped.  I on the other was holding Landry.  In seeing Emma fall down and considering that her sister might be hurt, Landry burst into tears.  She did not want to see her sister hurt or cry.  She wept when Emma wept.  She hurt because she feared her sister hurt.  Have you ever wept with someone when it could be said that your tears were equal to the tears of the person who was suffering?

Who loves this way?  Listen to Jesus’ reaction when He returned to hear Mary tell Him that His friend Lazarus was dead.  John 11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” Even though Jesus had the power over death, and even though Jesus knew that He could and would raise Lazarus from the dead, He cried alongside of Mary because He and she were saddened to their very being.

So weeping with those who weep and showing compassion with those who need compassion, we get.  We might even want to be like that.  But blessing those who persecute us?  Blessing them and not cursing them?  That is crazy.  Practically, Paul is telling us that it is in the character of those who know Jesus to not retaliate against attacks (which if obeyed would immediately shut down half the world’s blogs and all the world’s political commentary).  In fact, Paul is commanding believers to not only resist retaliation but to bless those who persecute you.  The person who attacks you should walk away feeling blessed by you.  How in the world is that possible?

Well remember, what we are being commanded to do here is offer a living sacrifice.  You no longer have to offer a physical death as payment for sin.  But you do have to offer a sacrifice.  A living sacrifice is a physical act that represents and actual death.  Because Christ died for you, you can die to self and not only resist retaliation, not only forgive, but actually bless those who persecute you.  You can offer genuine love even to those whom have done you evil.

Again, we say, “How in the world can anyone do that?  You don’t know what so and so has done to me.”  And I don’t.  I know what having to forgive someone who has hurt me to the very fiber of my being looks like, but I don’t know what you’ve been through.  So where is the hope?

I Peter 4:1-2,8 Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.  8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins

Since Christ physically suffered as a human being as we do, and since He did it effectually for you, you can now grow in obedience and sin will begin to decrease in your life so that you don’t serve your own passions of revenge and anger, but actually serve the will of God.  Through that, you can now earnestly show genuine love and that will cover the multitude of sins that a person afflicts on you.  You will bless those who curse you.  Then, your anger and desire for revenge become sympathy.  Instead of hating and cursing some one, you bless them.  You weep with them.  You show them compassion.  You meet their need because Jesus has met yours.  As we always try to do, what practically does this look like?

It means if you have been wronged in a relationship, whether you have been wronged by your spouse, or by your parents, or by your boss, or by a member of your homeowners association, or by a teacher, you can now through the power and example of Jesus Christ, bless those who hurt you instead of cursing them.  As I told someone this week, “The degree to which you understand how you have sinned against Christ and understand that Jesus gladly suffers on your behalf, will be the degree to which you are willing to forgive and restore someone who has offended you.  We would be the most attractive of all communities in Garner and the surrounding areas if we lived this way.


January 24, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,


  1. This is really good. Thank you. May the good Lord bless you and your family.

    Comment by Donna | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. I love your analogies and your compassion for everyone. However, how would you explain Romans where it says to:: mark those who cause divisions among you and avoid them?::

    Comment by Lin | June 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Thx, for the comment. I’ll try to respond soon.

      Comment by jgordonduncan | June 22, 2011 | Reply

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