Man, the gospel life is tough. God has such great expectations of his people. We are called to behave in ways that are far above how we probably would prefer to live. If we were left to our natural inclinations, we would be a sorry lot indeed. Living a life focused on righteousness has its rewards in both the short term and the long run….but the principles are high.
For example, God calls us to love others…as in ALL others. Have you ever really tried to do that? How can you possibly love everyone including your obnoxious neighbor, the mean girl undermining your work, and your unrepentant ex?
And how about this…we should bless those who persecute us. And be patient. And work hard, and don’t seek revenge, and….
Romans 12 (New Living Translation)
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
I love how the New Living Translation translates the first sentence: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them!” I can almost hear Paul saying this.
What do you suppose he is up to in this passage?
14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
I think these timeless words were his attempt to create something new out of the old things. He was carving out a distinct identity for this new thing that Jesus had started and wanted those who followed Jesus to be unique and noticeably different from all the other people. He set the bar high because Jesus set the bar high. And just in the same way that a fence protects the children who play inside it, these high bars protect our hearts and our souls from corruption, self-indulgence, and vapidity.
17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Christ-followers are people of peace. Christ-followers are generous, loving, patient, humble, and honorable; and would never repay evil with evil. Christ-followers are DIFFERENT.
19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,
“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”
I remember once hearing a speaker at a youth retreat ask the audience if people could tell if we are Christian or not. It is a question worth revisiting. Look again at how Paul describes the way God wants you to live. How are you doing? Can people tell that you are a Christ-follower by your choices?
Today is a good day to raise your own bar. It’s never too late. Go out and find a way to feed an enemy in the name of the Lord. And don’t just pretend to love people…..really LOVE them. After all, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.