Landscape to Portrait

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:21

I was sitting at a funeral with a friend of mine. One who was another pastor. And one that I hadn’t known very long.

“What do you think would happen if I just lit a cigarette right now?”

My eyes turned to saucers. Surely I had heard him wrong.

But he leaned in. Like he wanted to be heard, not overheard.

“Like, if I just started smoking in the middle of this service?”

It was official. I had not heard him wrong.

My mind searched for a response. Before my mouth could form one, he laughed:

“I’m kidding. Sometimes, though, I like think to myself ‘What would be the most inappropriate thing I could do right now?’”

His eyes darted around the room.

“That’s what I came up with.”

In the latter part of his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul is describing to the underground house churches in Rome what their lives should look like now that they have been redeemed by Christ. Chapter twelve begins with the famous, and never-repeated-enough passage:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2).

While volumes could be written on this passage alone, it’s the outpouring or the expression of this inner transformation found in verse 21 that warrants discussion.

In the verses preceding it, Paul writes:

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath…

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:16-21.

The chapter begins “In view of God’s mercy” (1).

Because of the radical forgiveness He has shown you.

Because of the reckless grace with which He has pursued you.

Because of the unwarranted favor He has heaped upon you.

Because the unlimited, eternal, magnificent, omniscient, God of the universe has not abandoned you, but has literally moved heaven and earth to be with you,

Extend that to others.

We are to be people of forgiveness. Agents of reconciliation.


If we truly understood the depths of our depravity, and the heights of our forgiveness,

if we could somehow comprehend the dire nature of what it is that we have been forgiven of,

Christians would be people impossible to offend.


Every loss, every sting, every barb, every insult, every injury,

would be but background noise on the resplendent landscape of God’s great mercy.


Are you struggling with a situation? A hurt? An offense?

Maybe you should ask yourself, like my friend,

“What would be the most inappropriate thing I could do right now?”

In the world’s economy, and by the world’s standards, the answer is probably “Forgive.”

Given what Christ has done for you, the heights from which you had fallen, the depths from which you’ve been raised, and the enormity of what this all cost Him,

Forgiveness may be the most appropriate response.


My phone takes pictures in landscape mode, and also in portrait. It’s amazing how this simple mode can alter a photograph.

Our lives are the same way.

That’s why the chapter begins “In view of God’s mercy” (1).

There’s your orientation.


In the landscape mode of our existences, as you look to the left and to the right to compare and contrast and judge whether you’re right or wrong, let me tell you something:

You’re probably right.

But that’s not what you’ve been called to- to be right all the time.

And that’s not the mode you’ve been called to.


Living under the lordship of Christ, you are in portrait mode now. Up and down.

“In view of God’s mercy…”

Looks a little different now, huh?

You know what you should do.

Die to your need to be right.

And go forgive.

These kinds of acts of inappropriate behavior would appear surprising and irresistible to a world in landscape mode.


And maybe your radical, inappropriate forgiveness will switch someone else’s view.

  • Dewey Holleman
    Posted at 22:38h, 06 November Reply

    i think it is important to remember that while we are called to forgive, and I agree with the devotional above on forgiveness,, we are not called to condone. Through love, we can separate the person from their actions. Through forgiveness we find love, and we can love one another, but we do not have to love or condone actions, words of another person that are hurtful and consistently cause pain.

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