“For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” (Romans 16:19, ESV)
We live in a world where the battle lines have been drawn between good and evil. As a Christian, we often find it challenging to live a godly life while surrounded by so much that is resistant to the Word of God. God’s values and the values of the world are completely opposite. How do we live victoriously when our culture scorns what is good and embraces what is evil?
Romans 16 is an interesting chapter in the Bible. The first sixteen verses seem to be random greetings from apostle Paul to various ones he had minister to and with. We know, however, that nothing is random about God’s Word. Each name mentioned is a testimony to a dedicated life. As Paul goes from one name to the next, he commends each for their service within the body of Christ. It is a beautiful picture of the value of each of us working together within the body. The church is made up of a diverse mix of ordinary people serving the same God.
In verse 19 Paul commends their obedience and goes on to say he desires them “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.” He did not want them misled by those who “by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve” (verse18).
The early church faced many of the same challenges we face today. They also lived in a society filled with wickedness. They were scorned, persecuted, and even imprisoned for their faith. Yet their endurance demonstrates that one can live for God in a godless society. Philippians 2:15 describes our mandate from God this way:
- “That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Philippians 2:15 ESV)
I have personally met many shining lights in this dark world. These are people who maintain their integrity and hold fast to the Word of God, even when their faith is disparaged. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus says He is sending us out “as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” He let us know we will face trials for our faith, but we can face them wisely and virtuously.
We must always be on guard, filled with the Spirit, and wise as to what is good and what is evil. As the world grows darker with its evil, our opportunity to shine brightly increases. Our light will make a difference. Yes, it is definitely possible to live a victorious Christian life in today’s culture.
(Other Scripture portions to study: Psalm 1; Proverbs 1:7; Ephesians 5:15-18; II Timothy 3:12-14.)