The Christian’s Duty To His Enemies

By Ronny Milliner

Even Jesus had enemies. And in spite of how good and kind we may be, we too will have enemies. How should we act toward them? Paul answers in Romans 12:17-21.

Suppressing Revenge

Paul begin his instruction by saying, “Repay no one evil for evil” (12:17a). David had the opportunity to take the life of the one who sought his life, but he left the matter in the hands of the Lord (1 Sam. 26:8-11, 17-25). Let us follow his example and heed the advice of the wise man. “Do not say, I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work” (Prov. 24:29).

Studying What Is Good For All

A good principle to follow is, “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men” (12:17b). The word translated “regard” mans “to take thought for, provide” (Vine, p. 227). The word “good” here mans that which is “admirable, becoming . . . fair, right, honorable” (Vine, p. 229). Paul was one wanting to provide “honorable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:21).

Seeking Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus had said (Mt. 5:9). So, Paul encouraged the Roman Christians, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably will all men” (12:18). The Christian should always be willing to take the first step toward peace. There are some who will not want peace. But, “as much as depends on” us, we should strive for peace.

Surrendering Them To God

Verse nineteen reads, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Revenge is not to be a part of the Christian’s vocabulary. “Do not say, I will recompense evil; wait for the Lord, and He will save you” (Prov. 20:22). We dare not usurp the Lord’s right. When our enemies oppress us, let us remember “the Lord is the avenger of all” (1 Thess. 4:6).

Supporting Them

The apostle next quotes from Proverbs 25:21-22. “Therefore if your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (12:20). Jesus taught that we should love our enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them (Lk. 6:27-36). This type of response is how we “heap coals of fire on his head.”

Subduing Evil

The closing exhortation is, “Do not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21). What does it accomplish for us to return evil for evil? We would just be lowering ourselves to the same level as our enemies. Instead, the way of victory over evil is by doing good. Jesus could have called down twelve legion of angels on His enemies (Mt. 26:53). Instead, He prayed for their forgiveness (Lk. 23:34).


How peaceful the world would be if these words were followed by all! How many church fusses and division could be avoided if these words were followed by all of God’s people! Let each of us resolve in our hearts to put these words into practice.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 12, p. 364
June 20, 1985