Lectionary Commentaries for September 3, 2017
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 16:21-28

Mitzi J. Smith

How does a revolutionary leader prepare a colonized people for the death of their Messiah?

Jesus bluntly informs his disciples that some of their influential religious or community leaders (the elders, chief priest and scribes) will inflict great violence upon him and kill him (Matthew 16:21). The chief priest and elders will conspire with Caiaphas, the high priest, to surreptitiously arrest and kill Jesus (26:3-5). And Judas, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, together with a sword-and-club-carrying mob, will join the conspiracy (26:47).

“Religion” has never been free of political intrigue and violence. Even religious men and women mesmerized by power and privilege will annihilate persons who in any way threaten to diminish their position and advantage. Perhaps the chief priest, elders, and high priest, despite also being colonized subjects of the Roman Empire, have positioned themselves to partake of the spoils and privileges of empire. Perhaps they have convinced enough of the masses of ordinary poor people to act contrary to their own best interest and to join in a cause that favors only the rich and powerful.

Jesus as the king of the Jews or God’s Christ/Messiah (“anointed one”) is obviously a threat to the status quo. His mere existence as an infant constituted a threat to King Herod, Rome’s client king (Matthew 2), and to the extent that Herod was willing to murder all children under two years old in and around Bethlehem to assure the annihilation of the one who might someday replace him (or his progeny) as Rome’s puppet with privileges. Freedom is sometimes forfeited by even the oppressed for privileges and advantages of empire. Herod could rely on the chief priest and scribes to cooperate with his murderous agenda (2:4). Religion is political (i.e., hierarchical, at least) and the political is religious.

Sometimes even members of the intimate circle of a revolutionary band don’t yet know what it means to be a revolutionary. The colonized Jesus envisions a basileia (often translated kingdom) that prioritizes justice/righteousness (Matthew 6:33; 23:23), promotes neighbor love that is defined and motivated by God-love and self-love (22:34-40), is not charmed by wealth, position and authority (4:1-16), is not dreaming of becoming Rome’s puppet king or of occupying an earthly throne, and is anticipating an imminent disgraceful death.1 The late West-Coast rapper Tupac Shakur, envisioning himself as a revolutionary, declared, “I’m a dead man.” Not able to inhabit that space with Jesus, Peter scolds him. Pulling Jesus aside, Peter chastises him, as if Jesus has lost faith. Many religious folks will not or cannot abide sisters and brothers who demonstrate anything but faith in their talk. Christians sometimes can’t mourn any impending or actual loss without being accused of having lost their faith. Grief and mourning are natural human reactions to loss. God created us to be human and declared our humanness to be good.

Peter has assumed the role of adversary, or Satan, in light of Jesus’ revelation of his fate as a revolutionary. Raquel St. Clair Lettsome argues that Jesus died as a consequence of his life and ministry.2 Jesus accuses Peter of being a stumbling block (not a rock) and of focusing on “human things” rather than “divine things” (Matthew 16:22-23). Returning to addressing all of his disciples, Jesus admonishes them: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” This is a new teaching in light of Jesus’ imminent death. If Jesus’ disciples choose to continue following him, they must be willing to deny themselves (and not Jesus, as Peter will do in Matthew 26) and be able to envision the fate of the cross. Judas had it backwards; he thought he could pursue money and power and then follow in Jesus’ steps. Judas didn’t believe that Jesus would really lead them to the cross (Matthew 26:14-16, 47; 27:3-10). Jesus taught that “the one who wants to save his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit him if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or what will he give in return for his life?” (Matthew 16:25-26). These words are reminiscent of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness: The devil dared Jesus to save his life (by turning stones into bread so that he could eat), lose his life (to cast himself down off the highest point of the Temple mount and God’s angels would save him), and to gain the world while forfeiting his life (to acquire all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping the Satan). Before beginning his public ministry Jesus settled the question of his priorities; he sided with the poor who do not have the power to turn stones into bread; he refused to trivialize life and sided with those who are defenseless from the daily onslaught of violence; and he turned down ill-gotten material prosperity and power predicated on allegiances and partnerships with evil and oppressive forces.

Perhaps Jesus is also saying that if one thinks she has it all figured out (like Peter), she does not; that when we think our theology and faith is tight, right, and infallible, it just might be oppressive and death-dealing. Peter declares that his loyalty to Jesus will withstand the threat of death; that though the crowds forsake Jesus, he will not. We sometimes prefer to see Peter as weak, rather than as human. Perhaps Peter saw himself as superhuman. I don’t think Jesus calls us to deny our humanity but to commit to following him while fully accepting how vulnerable our humanity will be if we choose to be revolutionaries. Jesus was willing to be God’s revolutionary Messiah knowing the violence that could be done to his body as a consequence of pursuing justice, love and peace instead of the privileges of empire.


1 See Mitzi J. Smith and Lalitha Jayachitra, Teaching All Nations. Interrogating the Matthean Great Commission (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014).

2 Raquel St. Clair, Call and Consequences. A Womanist Reading of Mark (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008).

First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 15:15-21

Alphonetta Wines

The Bible is the world’s #1 bestselling book of all time. Its influence in the West (and in the world for that matter) cannot be overstated.

One of the reasons why the Bible remains an all-time bestseller is its willingness to tell the good, the bad, and the ugly of human endeavor.

Any visions that the Bible is all “peaches and cream” are quickly dispelled when the reader encounters passages such as Jeremiah 15:15-21. The idea of the flawless prophet who can do no wrong are immediately dashed to smithereens when the reader stumbles on this passage. Stunned, the reader might wonder, “Really, Jeremiah, really? Surely my eyes deceive me. This could not be the same Jeremiah that God called from the womb. Surely, this is not the same Jeremiah who fearlessly stood against the externals of temple worship. There is no way this could be the same Jeremiah who declared God’s promise of a new covenant written on the heart.” Resigned to the truth, even as the reader ponders these questions, he/she knows that this is indeed the same Jeremiah.

The writer lets the reader in on what otherwise is a private conversation between God and Jeremiah. After years of living in isolation (God told Jeremiah not to marry, have children, or even socialize at funerals and celebrations), preaching an innovative message of individual (not just communal) responsibility for sins, and having to deal with insults, persecution, and rejection (who wants to hear a message that failure to repent and change its ways means certain destruction?), Jeremiah is weary. He pours out his heart to God.

Jeremiah comes straight to the point in verse 15. He begins by asking God not only to remember him, but also to bring retribution on his persecutors. There is no subtlety here. Jeremiah has had enough. After all, earlier in Jeremiah 7:16, it seemed that even God had enough for God said, “As for you, do not pray for this people, do not raise a cry or prayer on their behalf, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.”

Like the psalmists, including David, who called for God to take action against their enemies, Jeremiah longs for justice on his own behalf. Confident that he has answered God’s call and done what God asked him to do, Jeremiah reminds God that he suffers insult from others on God’s account. Though God’s words were a joy and a delight, he also experienced much hurt because of them. He tells God that his is a life lived alone, not by personal choice, but by God’s command.

Jeremiah’s pain can be characterized by an “unsettled ache … [a] war within.”1 He poignantly describes the ache as “unceasing, incurable, and refusing to be healed.” Portrayed as “a deceitful brook” and as “waters that fail,” even relationship with God provides no relief. With no comfort, divine or human, Jeremiah stands alone. Jeremiah is committed to God and to the task that God has given him. Yet, his struggle with the call to ministry is an ongoing issue; later in Jeremiah 20 the prophet will again express his anguish, denouncing his detractors and protesting God’s role in his life. Though there were times when he would rather not preach, he clearly could not stop. In 20:9, Jeremiah complained, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”

Jeremiah’s petition for God to bring retribution on his persecutors is part of the Bible’s imprecatory corpus — a body of writings that the church would rather overlook and dismiss. While the imprecatory corpus can be hard to stomach, its connection to Jeremiah the prophet is even more difficult to understand. Surely, a man of God would not feel this way, would he?

Jeremiah’s words confirm that ministry is not an easy job. Ministry is not simply one task after another. Rather, the work of ministry touches the core of a minister’s being. While Jeremiah’s words may be surprising to the casual reader, ministers know that Jeremiah’s words are not empty words. Jeremiah’s words speak of the anguish that sometimes accompanies life in church leadership — and not just church life, but many times life in general as well.

Repeatedly throughout the Bible, imprecatory words help the utterer work through and find healing even in the most difficult situations. Suppression and denial of such feelings allows feelings of bitterness, even actions that harm others, to take root. Acknowledging these types of feelings in front of God allows God to step in and heal the woundedness and release the giftedness that lies beneath the hurt.

Unlike those who may try and  talk others out of their feelings, God neither silences Jeremiah nor attempts to convince him otherwise. Instead God’s response is a call to repentance. Just as Jeremiah warned of destruction and called on the nation to repent, God instructs Jeremiah to repent. With the commandment for Jeremiah to repent comes the promise that God will restore him to his work as a prophet, to his work as God’s mouthpiece. Moreover, God assures Jeremiah that God will strengthen him to be able to withstand any and everything people do to oppose him. God promises to uphold Jeremiah and redeem him from any hostility that he might face.

The Bible does not record Jeremiah’s repentance, but his 40-year ministry implies it. While this complaint appears in chapter 15, the biblical record of his ministry does not end until chapter 52. The story of his life and message speak as powerfully today as in his day. The ability to acknowledge and repent of one’s feelings is part of the journey of faith. We, as ministers, would do well to follow Jeremiah’s example.


1.  Tony Evans, The Power of God’s Names (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2014), 101.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Exodus 3:1-15

Karla Suomala

I never thought very much about shoes — especially about when to take them off or put them on — until I spent time in Japan.

As my husband and I traveled throughout the country we discovered that there is a very specific shoe etiquette that is unfamiliar to most North Americans.

Every time we entered our room, we took off our shoes. Every time we visited a museum, we took off our shoes. Every time we entered a shrine or temple, we took our shoes off. And in most instances, we replaced our shoes with slippers.

Sometimes we exchanged one pair of slippers for another in the same building—changing from house slippers to bathroom slippers, for example.

In the Exodus passage, the first-ever encounter between God and Moses, God tells Moses — really commands him — to take his shoes off. God doesn’t make this demand very often in the biblical text. In the Book of Joshua (5:15), the mysterious commander of the army of God tells Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” In the Book of Ruth (4:7), there is a scene in which a shoe is taken off to seal a deal between Boaz and Ruth’s next-of-kin who has the first right of refusal to take her as a wife.

There is something significant about removing shoes, especially on holy ground. Is this about reverence or respect? Something like, “Moses, take off your shoes for goodness sake, you’re in the presence of the creator of the universe!”

This is how I’ve understood the passage in the past. I’ve assumed that it had something to do with making sure Moses understood how to behave in God’s presence.

And I think that this is certainly part of what is happening. But if you read the rest of Exodus 3, you’ll notice that Moses doesn’t sound or act like a reverential or awestruck man, even when he takes his shoes off.

In the verses that follow, God lays out a plan for Moses: “Moses, I’ve seen my people and how miserable they are down in Egypt. I’ve heard their cry at the hands of their taskmasters. I know how much they are suffering, and I’ve decided that it’s time for me to do something about it. I want to get them out of Egypt and bring them into a much better land, a land that I promised their ancestors. So here’s the deal, I’m going to send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Instead of bowing in awe and humility, as a shoeless man before the deity ought to do, and saying, “Yes, with your help, I will,” Moses says, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m not ready to sign on.” He then goes on to provide a list of reasons why he is not the right man for the job.

Does this sound like a man who knows how to behave properly in God’s presence? Moses sounds more like a regular guy, a real person, a little too much like me, and maybe you too.

Upon my return from Japan I decided to investigate this “shoe business.” Why do the Japanese take their shoes off, especially when they enter their homes or temples? I discovered that taking off one’s shoes is a fairly ancient custom in Japan, going back at least to the 7th or 8th century, that it’s widespread — 98 percent of all Japanese do it — and that people have specific reasons for doing so.

In one survey I read, 81 percent of the people identified not one, but two equally important reasons for taking their shoes off when they enter their homes: 1) to keep their houses and floors clean; and 2) to be able to relax and be themselves.

So why did God tell Moses to take his shoes off? There has to be more to this story than attitude and etiquette. If I look for connections between the Japanese and Moses, the cleanliness response doesn’t go very far. Moses is in the desert after all, and tracking dirt from one area to another probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.

But let’s imagine the second possibility for a moment… Is it possible that God tells Moses to take his shoes off because he wants Moses to be himself? To remove all pretense? To be vulnerable and open to what God has to say? The closest analogy I can think of is walking into the CEO’s office for an important meeting with my shoes off –something I can hardly imagine doing because I would feel too exposed.

Here in this text, God lays out the single largest rescue operation in the entire Bible. God could have done it alone or God could have chosen anyone on earth for the job. But God specifically selected Moses. In doing so, there must have been something about Moses, with all of his flaws, gifts, and unique qualities, that God was interested in using.

Is it possible that in calling out to Moses, God wanted Moses to be Moses, to be himself, rather than pretending to be someone else?

An old Hasidic story shows awareness of the importance of being one’s self:

Rabbi Zusya, when he was an old man, said,

“In the world to come, they will not ask me

‘Why were you not more like Moses?’ 

Rather, they will ask me:

‘Why were you not more like Zusya?’”

Parker Palmer, in his book Let Your Life Speak, suggests that being one’s self isn’t always easy or automatic. “We arrive in the world with birthright gifts,” he says, “then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others” persuade us that they aren’t worthwhile.

We often read this text and hear God’s command to Moses to take his shoes off as one about submission or respect.

But maybe we can also hear God’s voice, to Moses and to each of us, more like this: “Moses, take your shoes off! I need you, not Abraham, Isaac or Jacob, not someone with an MBA or medal of honor. Let’s talk, you and me, honestly, about this plan.”

And so Moses, being truly himself, said, “But God…are you sure this is a good idea?”


Commentary on Psalm 26:1-8

Eric Mathis

Psalm 26 is a sturdy prayer that can be prayed by any individual at any time.1

The morally upright citizen can echo the psalm’s claims of integrity with confidence. The hopelessly accused sinner can voice the psalm’s willingness to be probed by Yahweh and found innocent. The words of this psalm can be spoken aloud before worship, yet they are equally valid when whispered in the marketplace. No matter who prays this psalm, how they pray it, or where they pray it, its words convey an immensely active desire to act with integrity and enjoy a covenantal relationship with Yahweh.

Psalm 26

Psalm 26 begins with themes of integrity, trust, and a request for vindication. These themes are not unlike the opening and closing of Psalm 25 (verses 1, 21). After the initial request for Yahweh to act on the individual’s behalf (verses 1-2), Psalm 26 makes bold assertions about the moral integrity (verses 3-5) and religious integrity (verses 6-8) of the individual. A confident statement of faith and a commitment to worship Yahweh (verse 12) follows a second request for Yahweh to act on the individual’s behalf (verses 9-11).2

The whole psalm can be divided into the five movements outlined above.  However, this week’s lection (26:1-8) focuses on the first three: the opening plea, evidence of moral integrity, and assurance of religious integrity.

An Opening Plea (verses 1-2)

The opening words of Psalm 26, “Vindicate me, O Lord,” petition Yahweh to act on behalf of the suppliant. Confident in personal integrity and unwavering trust in God, the suppliant anticipates Yahweh will render a verdict of innocence rather than guilt (verse 1). The suppliant’s appeal to integrity does not presume a perfect life. Rather, “it means a life of committed relationship of dependence on God alone and full participation in all the accepted means of restoration God offers.”3

The opening plea is substantiated by the suppliant’s willingness for Yahweh to search everywhere for integrity — inside and out (verse 2). Even the suppliant recognizes that some people can appear righteous yet be involved in evil activity. Instead of fearing contamination, the suppliant expresses confidence that Yahweh will find integrity in both outward actions and inward disposition. The suppliant hopes Yahweh will grant the plea for vindication once Yahweh accepts the invitation for examination and finds the individual above reproach.

Evidence of Moral Integrity (verses 3-5)

Using human actions of looking, walking, sitting, and consorting the suppliant presents evidence of moral integrity. First, the suppliant sees the love of Yahweh continually, not occasionally (verse 3a). Yahweh’s love is present no matter what happens, and Yahweh’s commitment becomes the impetus for the suppliant to craft a journey around faithfulness to Yahweh (verse 3b).

Because the suppliant is walking in faithfulness to Yahweh, the suppliant is not sitting with the worthless (verse 4a) or the wicked (verse 5b). The verb for sitting found in the outer phrases of verses 4-5’s chiastic form means “long-term, settled residence — the kind of dwelling in which one becomes a citizen and adopts the customs and language of the land.”4 This infers that while the suppliant does not have lasting and potentially harmful relationships with the wicked, cursory or redemptive relationships are not negated. Relationships the suppliant kept with liars and deceivers may have imitated those Christ maintained with sinners in his epoch.

Just as the suppliant rejects sitting with the worthless and wicked, so does the suppliant reject consorting with hypocrites (verse 4b) and the company of evildoers (verse 5a). The double rejection of the wicked in verses 4-5 creates a strong statement that the suppliant not only walks with Yahweh, but “runs in the opposite direction rather than sitting down with them.”5

Assurance of Religious Integrity (verses 6-8)

Verses 6-8 shift this psalm’s focus from moral integrity to religious integrity.  In verses 3-5, the suppliant created distance from the evildoers. In verses 6-8, the suppliant creates further distance from the outside world — this time through worship. “We have moved from the everyday world with its moral challenges to the religious world, the world of altar, proclamation, and Yahweh’s dwelling.”6 The former was construed negatively, but the latter is now construed positively.

Washing hands with water was a rite of purification that symbolized innocence (verse 6). It prepared the worshiper to enter the presence of Yahweh and join the assembly in worship. In worship the suppliant did what was right before Yahweh: sing a song of thanksgiving and tell of Yahweh’s wondrous deeds (verse 7). Presumably, this included thanksgiving for Yahweh’s involvement in the suppliant’s personal life as well as recounting Yahweh’s deliverance of Israel. 

Before returning to pleas that close Psalm 26, the suppliant makes one final statement of love and dedication to the place where Yahweh and Yahweh’s glory reside. Surely Yahweh’s abode is more pleasant than the abode of the wicked.

Preaching the Psalm

This week’s Old Testament, Gospel, and Epistle readings hold the everyday world in tension with God’s world. Exodus 3 is the narrative of the Israelites under oppression in Egypt, and Jeremiah 15 requests Yahweh’s retribution on persecutors (verse 15). Romans 12 contrasts the lifestyle of the world with Christian principles, and Matthew 16 foreshadows the suffering of Christ wrought by a corrupt government. In each of these passages, however, we are reminded that vengeance belongs to God (Romans 12:19) and the Son of Man will repay everyone (Matthew 16:27). 

Psalm 26 focuses attention away from the everyday world and on our covenant relationship with God. Through this prayer, we are confronted with the reality that we bear responsibility for our moral and religious integrity, and we are challenged to extend God an invitation to test that integrity. Although anyone can pray to God, this Psalm gently cautions that trusting God is an easier exercise when one can claim integrity. 

This week’s lectionary texts call us extend God’s love to the faithless while simultaneously walking, sitting, and acting differently. The tension already stated is that we cannot follow the ways of humanity and claim to serve God fully. However, Psalm 26 reminds us that we can follow the ways of God and serve humanity confidently, with moral and religious integrity. May this be our prayer, and may we learn to pray it with the humility and conviction it requires.


1 Commentary first published on this site on Aug. 28, 2011.
2 See John Goldingay, “Psalm 26,” in Psalms, Volume 1: 1-41, ed. Tremper Longman, III, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 379-388.
3 Gerald H. Wilson, “Psalm 26,” in Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary, ed. Roger E. Van Harn and Brent A. Strawn (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 113.
4 Wilson, 114.
5 Goldingay, 383.
6 Goldingay, 384.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 12:9-21

Frank L. Crouch

It can be challenging to preach from this lectionary passage.

It’s not that it lacks substance. It’s that it touches on so many aspects of life in Christ that it’s not possible to cover them all in one sermon. The passage — or portions of it — might work best for retreats or as a devotional source for a year of monthly meetings. If one seeks to cover this in one sermon, it might help ahead of time to survey a worship committee, board, or whole congregation to see what people most want or need to hear about.1

Romans 12:9-10

Paul starts off with love. He uses different words to describe this love, either agape or several Greek words based on the root philia that convey the idea of friendship. Although agape and the other words have somewhat different senses, one can overdo the distinctions between them. Many expositors of biblical texts speak of agape as if it refers to something far higher and deeper than friendship, something one finds only from God or Christ or from the highest levels of Christian care, compassion, and commitment.

It’s worth noting, however, that John 3:16-21 — an essential discussion of love, salvation, and judgment — describes judgment in this way: “this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light” (John 3:19). This love people have for darkness is signified with the word agape. One can aim a deep, enduring love in the wrong direction — agape distorted into the deepest throes of addiction, as commitment to destruction, as despising what is life-giving and good. Of course, agape is overwhelmingly used in its positive sense throughout the New Testament, but any love can go wrong, even agape.

Most importantly, in John, Jesus defines the agape that he has for his disciples and that he wants them to have for one another (John 15:12-17). He defines agape in terms of philia: “greater love (agape) has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). On that basis, he declares that they are in fact his friends (John 15:14-15), and as such, they are to agape one another (John 15:17). These words for love and friendship in John are practically synonyms, describing each one in terms of the other.

Similarly, in today’s passage from Romans, the different words for love amplify and clarify each other. “Let agape be genuine,” recognizing that it can be faked. Let your agape be sincere, like love for brothers or sisters (philadelphia) or like love you have for your best friends (philostorgos). Love them warmly, with devotion, with sincere concern for their well-being. If asked if members of their church are their friends, these Romans are not expected to say, “Well, not ‘friend friends,’ more like just ‘Facebook friends.’”

Verses 16-18 could enhance the exposition of what Romans 12:9-10 call on us to put into action.

Romans 12:11

The community is also urged to take their lives and ministry seriously, with deep commitment. “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.” This encourages members of the body of Christ to throw themselves fully into their calling, without reluctance or hesitation. Serving the Lord cannot happen only on Sundays. As Alice Walker said, “Anybody can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy surely takes the rest of the week.”2

Romans 12:12

This verse could be described as framing a classic three point sermon — rejoicing in hope, being patient in suffering, and persevering in prayer. Although these are translated as simple, unadorned imperatives, they are probably most effectively presented in a linked series of narratives that illustrate — maybe out of the life of one’s congregation — how one might actually go about doing any or all of those three things.

This verse could also serve as the framework for a retreat. Regardless of the context in which one speaks to this verse, the spiritual practices it invokes do not come easily to anyone. One might assume that any of these imperatives are best followed with the guidance of mature, seasoned believers.

Romans 12:14-15 similarly invoke practices not easily adopted by either beginning or longtime believers.

Romans 12:13, 19-20

Unlike our natural tendencies, these verses call on us not only to address the cares, concerns, and challenges of people like us, who we already know and love, and who already know and love us. Nor do they limit the horizon of our concern to our extended family, to existing members of our community, or to people who actively support us and never threaten us. The verses challenge us to care for people in need, regardless of how they fit into various religious, social, or political categories.

We all already know that scripture calls on us to love God and neighbor, even love our enemies. We often ignore the biblical admonition to love the stranger (Deuteronomy 10:19). Further, current television shows, movies, and video games (each of which constitute multi-billion dollar industries), as well as the United States’ political and foreign policy tendencies, consistently promote the myth of redemptive violence. Even in our churches, we have few models for turning away from vengeance or for helping either our enemies or the strangers in our midst.

Again, incorporating these perspectives and practices calls for guidance from mature, experienced believers who have suffered and emerged as whole, loving, resilient people of God.

Romans 12:21

Putting all these verses into practice, empowered by grace and God’s living presence, enables any individual or community of faith to live into a closing admonition and prayer: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”


1. This commentary, especially when focusing on particular words, utilizes the biblical software Accordance, which provides electronic access to Greek-English lexicons for New Testament studies, particularly:

Bauer, Walter, Frederick W. Danker, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene A. Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. 2 vols. New York: United Bible Societies, 1989.

2. Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens. Mariner Books; Reprint edition (May 19, 2003), p. 351. (Accessed from Amazon on June 25, 2017)