Transformative justice (Romans 12:9-21)

What does it look like to live the gospel? Romans 12:9-21 translated into life.

I’ve been meditating on Romans 12 as the-gospel-in-practice.

Romans 1–11 explains what the good news is. Romans 12–16 explains what it means to inhabit the world transformed by the gospel under the Messiah as Lord.

Here’s a fresh translation of Romans 12:9-21 from that perspective. The verbs are plural (love, detest, collaborate, etc), so the message is not so much about individual piety as it is about participating in the restoration of the world as the kingdom of God in Christ (the goal of the gospel).

Our sufferings at the hands of evil are transformative for the world, as we participate in the redemption that’s taking place in Christ.

That defines our approach to justice and our response to injustice.

So, see what you think. Any suggestions for a better translation? Any important nuances I’m missing? Any further inspiration you find in this passage? (Comment below.)

Romans 12:9-12 (my translation, compare NIV)

9 Love without pretending. Detesting what’s evil, collaborating in what’s good, 10 expressing heart-felt family-love to each other, promoting each other’s value.

11 When it comes to eagerness, hold nothing back.
With the spirit, stay fired up.
With the Lord, keep serving.
12 With hope, keep rejoicing.
With trouble, stick it out.
With prayer, keep engaged.
13 With the needs of God’s people, keep partnering.
With hospitality, keep chasing people.

14 Respond kindly to those who chase you. Bless; don’t curse them.

15 Rejoice with those who are joyful; cry with those who are crying.
16 Treat each other as equals. Don’t treat yourself as better, but as a simple fellow-traveller. Don’t convince yourself you’re superior.

17 Instead of repaying bad for bad, be proactive in showing good to all people.
18 To the extent that it’s possible from your side, be at peace with everyone.

19 Don’t enforce justice for yourselves, loved ones. Leave space for God’s anger, since it’s written, “It’s for me to enforce justice; I will repay,” says the Lord. [Deut 32:35]

20 But if your enemy is hungry, offer some nibbles; if they’re thirsty, give a drink, for “in doing this you’ll be piling up burning coals of fire on their head.” [Prov 25:22]

21 Don’t be overcome by what’s bad, but overcome what’s bad with good.

[Update 2021-08-10: altered a couple of words in response to feedback. Thanks, friends.]

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

4 thoughts on “Transformative justice (Romans 12:9-21)”

  1. I like the feel and flow. Only one comment which concerns v20. Differences in the references to enemy switched from singular to plural which jarred me briefly. No biggie, though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Comments appreciated, Len.
      As you may have guessed, I’m unsure how to use a gender-inclusive pronoun (he/she, his/her) without fudging it by borrowing the plural one (they, their). Your point is valid: I’m choosing the lesser evil in trading off the limitations of our language, I guess.


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