I grabbed the back of a rolling chair and pulled it into the group of high school seniors that were already seated in a circle. Looking around, I observed the twenty or thirty kind faces around me, all glistening with sweat from the Georgia summer heat. This weekend was reserved for us to learn Scripture and worship together at one of my favorite places, Camp Highland. So, there we sat, waiting for our leader to say the first word and begin her lesson.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them,” she read.
My mind immediately began to wander. I assumed this was the lesson that I had already heard so many times before. Vengeance is the Lord’s, love your enemies, do not repay evil for evil, and so on. However, sandwiched between these familiar verses was a statement that caught my attention.
“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil.”
It seemed to me that some random verses about humility had been misplaced in a passage about revenge. I know that every word of the Bible is placed to serve a valuable purpose, so why does Romans 12:16-21 tell us to be humble and lowly in a message about revenge?
Here began a lesson that the Lord has continued to teach me ever since that hot day in August. Haughtiness and pride create an attitude that anyone who has hurt us should be punished. Haughtiness sneers, “Wow dare they hurt me!” The truth is, none of us deserve to be treated fairly. In sin we deserve death. Still Christ ensured that we would not have to endure God’s revenge when he died on our behalf. When we realize our lowliness, our own capability to be terribly evil, we stop condemning others for their offenses.
If everyone were to take revenge on evil people, someone would have to take revenge on me. Throughout the past months, the Lord has been teaching me lowliness, and therefore my inability to judge other people. I was undeservedly forgiven. From this truth God reminds me frequently that I am in no place to withhold forgiveness from others.
I now see why God decided to put those verses in Romans 12.