Repay No One Evil For Evil

The father’s reaction to the prodigal son and his elder son mirrors the answer Abraham Lincoln gave to a question he was asked about how he would treat all the Confederate soldiers once the Civil War was over. Expecting vengeance and even thoughts of execution because of treason, … More


These verses in this passage summarize the core of Christian living. In this day of constant lawsuits and demands for legal rights , Paul’s command sounds almost impossible. When someone hurts you deeply, instead of giving him what he deserves, Paul says to befriend him (vv. 17-21). We are given four Biblical principles on how to treat our fellow men, no matter how they may treat us.

  1. Recompense to no man evil for evil” (v. 17a). This is the way Joseph treated his brothers. Even though they persecuted him and sold him into slavery he protected, pardoned, promoted and provided for them.
  2. Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (v. 17b). We are not to say one thing and practice another. Our word must be trustworthy no matter how inconvenient it may be to make it good.
  3. Live peaceably with all men” (v. 18). This does not mean that it is always possible to live peaceably with all men, but as Christians we should never initiate a disturbing of the peace.
  4. Avenge not yourselves” (v. 19). (1) The prerogative of vengeance is the Lord’s. If you defend yourself, then the Lord can’t defend you. God has promised to take care of us. (2) The principle of vengeance is the Lord’s. Our job is not to protect ourselves, but to obey the Lord and leave the results up to Him.

In the last three verses of this chapter Paul gives three reasons we are to keep from taking revenge:

  1. Vengeance belongs to God and not to us (v. 19). He will settle all accounts in His time.
  2. We are to treat men with kindness (v. 20). Vengeance may break his spirit, but kindness will break his heart.
  3. Evil can never be conquered by evil (v. 21). If hatred is met with hatred it only increases.


Which one of the above is my weakest area? What am I doing to make this a positive area of my life?

Romans 12:17-21 (English Standard Version)

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

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