What does Romans 12:17-20 really mean?

Romans 12:17-20 is about advocating for a life of integrity and peace, refraining from vengeance and leaving judgment to God.

17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
19 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.”
20 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.”


Setting the Scene for Romans 12:17-20

In Romans chapter 12, we find a group of early Christians gathered in a small house in Rome. The room is dimly lit by oil lamps, casting a warm glow on the faces of those present. The air is filled with the scent of incense burning in a corner, creating a sense of peace and reverence. The group is made up of men and women from various backgrounds, all coming together to study and discuss the teachings of Jesus.

Among them is Paul, the author of the letter to the Romans, who is leading the discussion. He sits at the head of the room, his weathered face illuminated by the flickering light. The other members of the group listen intently as he speaks about the importance of living in harmony with one another and repaying evil with kindness. They nod in agreement, their faces reflecting a mixture of determination and humility.

As the discussion continues, the group shares stories of their own struggles and triumphs in following the ways of Jesus. They offer support and encouragement to one another, forming a bond of fellowship and love. In this small room in Rome, amidst the challenges and persecutions they face as early Christians, they find strength in their shared faith and commitment to living out the teachings of Jesus.

What is Romans 12:17-20 about?

This verse from Romans is a powerful reminder of the importance of responding to negativity and harm with positivity and goodness. It teaches us that instead of seeking revenge or returning harm when someone treats us poorly, we should strive to respond with kindness and love. This notion challenges our natural instinct for retaliation and pushes us to rise above it.

Think about it – when someone treats you poorly, wouldn’t responding in a similar manner only perpetuate a cycle of negativity and hurt? We break the cycle by choosing to respond with good and have the opportunity to make a positive impact on others. It’s about showing grace, forgiveness, and compassion in the face of difficulty.

So, the next time you’re faced with a situation where you feel like repaying evil for evil, remember this verse. Choose to be the bigger person, choose love over hate, and watch how your actions can bring about change and transformation in your relationships and in the world around you.

Understanding what Romans 12:17-20 really means

In the book of Romans, specifically in verses 17 to 20 of chapter 12, the Apostle Paul addresses the Christian community in Rome, emphasizing the importance of ethical conduct in the face of wrongdoing and conflict. These verses delve into the heart of Christian living, challenging believers to respond to mistreatment and disputes in a manner that reflects the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil” – This directive underscores the principle of non-retaliation, echoing Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:38-39 about turning the other cheek. It calls for a radical approach to conflict resolution, rooted in forgiveness and grace rather than seeking vengeance.

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” – This phrase urges believers to uphold integrity and moral uprightness in all their interactions, aligning with 1 Peter 2:12’s call to live lives that glorify God even in the eyes of non-believers.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” – Here, Paul stresses the importance of actively pursuing peace and reconciliation, resonating with Hebrews 12:14’s exhortation to seek peace with all people. This challenges Christians to take personal responsibility in fostering harmony in a world often marked by discord.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath” – Paul advises against seeking personal vengeance, entrusting justice to God. This aligns with Deuteronomy 32:35, where God asserts His role as the ultimate arbiter of justice.

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” – This call to kindness towards enemies reflects the wisdom of Proverbs 25:21-22, which speaks of overcoming evil with good. It challenges believers to respond to hostility with compassion, embodying the transformative power of love.

In today’s world, characterized by conflict and division, these teachings offer a counter-cultural approach to handling disagreements and injustices. They emphasize the importance of personal responsibility in fostering peace and reconciliation, highlighting the need for trust in divine justice rather than seeking retribution, which can lead to healing and restoration.

Consider a story of someone who chose to respond to an offense with kindness rather than retaliation. This individual’s decision led to unexpected positive outcomes, such as reconciliation or personal growth, illustrating the transformative power of living out these principles in real-life situations.

In conclusion, Romans 12:17-20 encapsulates profound truths about Christian conduct, urging believers to embody forgiveness, pursue peace, and trust in God’s justice. Let us apply these principles in our daily lives, striving for reconciliation and harmony with others, knowing that such actions align with the broader biblical narrative of love and grace.

How can we overcome evil with good?

One way we can overcome evil with good is by not seeking revenge when someone wrongs us. Instead of taking matters into our own hands, we can choose to bless those who persecute us and do good to them. We can break the cycle of evil and promote peace by responding with kindness and love instead of retaliation.

Another way to overcome evil with good is by leaving room for God’s judgment. It is not our responsibility to seek vengeance, but rather to trust that God will ultimately bring justice. We can demonstrate our faith and reliance on God by letting go of our desire for payback and allowing Him to handle the situation. We can show the transformative power of love and kindness by responding to evil with good ultimately. Our actions can have a profound impact on those around us, potentially leading to a change of heart in our enemies. We can be a light in a dark world and bring about reconciliation and healing by embodying the teachings of Jesus and choosing to respond with goodness in the face of evil.


Dear friends, let us live by Romans 12:17-20. When faced with adversity, let us respond with kindness and peace. Leave vengeance to a Higher Power. Let’s conquer darkness with light, spreading Christ’s love. Will you embrace this calling with me?