Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. (Romans 12:17)
We have been studying how we can live the life of grace toward others as described in Romans 12:14-21. This is especially challenging when facing opposition from others. Paul tells us how to do this, beginning with verse 17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”
That would be our natural tendency. But it would fly in the face of the focus of this chapter stated in verse 21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
First, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to repay evil done to you with an equal amount of evil. We don’t understand what motivates or prompts another person’s actions. They might be attacking you because they can’t attack someone else that they’re really mad at. You might just be in the wrong place at the right time.
On the other hand, what you represent might expose something in them that is embarrassing or hurtful. I remember a relative of mine saying that she doesn’t enjoy it when I share about my family, because it is in contrast to what she is experiencing in her family. If that would cause her to say something hurtful to me, how could I respond justly in kind? And if I overreacted, would that not compound the problem?
It is far wiser to do what Paul goes on to encourage: “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” The idea he is presenting in the words, “be careful,” is to give forethought before responding. Think of what has been said or done and try to understand the motive or intent behind it. Think also of how your natural response might be perceived.
When faced with hurtful attacks it is always wise to stop and think about grace before reacting.