Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves… Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink…” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans in order to clearly lay out the gospel of grace through Christ alone to a fledgling church he had never met; but hoped to meet soon. In this particular case Paul was not writing to correct bad doctrine or false teaching, instead he wanted to provide apostolic instruction and a sound doctrinal foundation for the Gospel of Christ to new believers. This set of passages from chapter twelve help to begin a section of the Roman epistle which outlines the practical application of Christian teaching in the life of the individual believer. This was especially applicable when living side by side with non-believers in the secular culture of Roman society, and they are still applicable in our world today. The Old Testament principles of justice included teaching retribution, and we see that in the “eye for an eye code.”
However, Paul is reminding them this is not so for the believer. Rather, we are not to seek revenge; but regard what is good, noble and honoring toward God, especially in the sight of others. This means we are to shine the light of Christ through every aspect of our lives. Moreover, this is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Therefore, through our submission to the Holy Spirit’s guidance we are to as much as possible live in harmony with those around us. Knowing there will be times when this is not possible. As believers, we are not to seek revenge when wronged or mistreated. Instead, we are to seek the well being of others, including those who hate us. By doing so we can not only overcome evil with good, but also spread the Gospel of Christ through our actions. Possibly winning others to Jesus who, unbeknownst to us may be watching our reactions to see if our faith is real, having been proved by the trials we go through. We must never forget, the Holy Spirit can use our perseverance during trials, as a tool to witness the power of Jesus in our lives to others.