After a long letter in which Paul has admonished the Romans to love one another and to live at peace with one another; to repay evil with good and to tend the needs of your enemies, he makes this startling statement:
Watch out for troublemakers (paraphrased according to Judith)But just who are these troublemakers? They are members of the congregation. Were they pagans, the congregation would not be deceived by them. These are people to whom being a Christian is socially and politically advantageous.
And every congregation has them.
They are the people who ask what they can pray for you about and then spread your need in the form of gossip - under the guise of praying.
They are the people who offer to see to the treasury so that they can help determine how the monies are spent - coincidentally advantaging their own pet projects at the expense of others equally worthy.
They are the people who push the beliefs of their conscience onto others in areas where that belief is not critical to the life in Christ.
So what does Paul mean when he says: "Keep away from them"?
I think he means keep away from their influence. He has already said do good to those who do evil toward you. He has already said live at peace with all men. I think he means disregard their conversation and do not make their opinions part of your own.
Paul wants the Romans to be "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." I believe the Amplified says it best.
If you are well-versed and wise about what is good, you will recognize evil without having to participate in it, either to find out if it is evil or to see how far you can go in deceiving people. This is one place where you do not want to push the envelope.
Put hedges around our hearts that we may not be led astray by silver-tongued self-promoters. Help us to remember that anyone whose speaking does not point to You and reflect exactly what You have said is probably a troublemaker for us. Give us the grace to deal with them kindly, but firmly.
In Jesus' most precious name.