The previous verses in Romans 12 focus on how we are to treat those within the Christian community. But now, Paul’s attention shifts to those who would attack, belittle, and harm the church in Rome. In the face of hostility, Paul instructs us that we are to respond with blessing, not cursing. This is contrary to our human nature, but it stands firmly in the tradition of Jesus. Hostility is to be met with prayer and violence with blessing. In this context, verses 15-16 are not to be read as how we are to treat those within the church, although it certainly applies, but how we are to live alongside those who are not following Jesus. When we talk about the art of neighboring, these commands are central to how we are to show the great love of Jesus toward those around us. We are to rejoice and celebrate with our neighbors when things go well. We are to weep and be prepared to sympathize with our neighbors when things go poorly. Just because society is potentially or actually hostile toward us does not mean we are to adopt an antagonistic attitude toward our neighbor. Instead, we are to establish common ground and find ways to love and serve our neighbors.
Living in harmony with our neighbor is the opposite of walling ourselves off and only associating with those within the church. The final sentence of verse 16 to “never be wise in your own sight” is Paul heading off any attitude of superiority we may develop. So let us be the people of God who choose to humbly draw near to our neighbors instead of withdraw from them.