(It’s nice to see that at least 20 of you looked at this sad little place yesterday. Thanks! Anyway this post is late, but it’s my day off from my day job…and I don’t care. Ha.)
The book of Romans is an awesome part of the Bible. The Apostle Paul is writing to the Church at Rome, which, at the time of writing the letter, he had never visited. When I took a course on the book, my professor called it a “missions letter turned treatise”; he wrote it with the purpose of raising money for a trip to Spain, but since he hadn’t been to Rome at this point, he had to lay out his beliefs as a man of God, and he does so well, speaking to both Jewish and Gentile readers. Paul was one of the first apostles to really articulate the synthesis of Jew and Gentile and the true fulfillment of the law of Moses. He showed everyone that God didn’t just favor one people group anymore, but that all were free to receive Christ as Lord and Savior.
Hopefully, that sums up the first eleven chapters well enough for you, because we’re going to focus in on chapter twelve.
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This is pure and simple, here. Paul’s layin’ it out after eleven chapters of theological development and encouragement to say this: here’s how you’re supposed to act. Love each other. Serve God passionately. Help each other out. Bless your enemies without cursing them under your breath. Get over yourself and hang out with the not-so-cool. Don’t repay evil for evil (The Message translates this as “don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone). Make sure you’re living in peace with everyone, at least on your end. Vengeance isn’t yours to take, let God do that. Instead, take care of your enemy when they need it. Overcome evil with good.
Paul’s not asking for anything hard here; he’s just echoing everything Christ told us to do when we encounter others. The Christian is a bringer of peace and harmony wherever they go, and evil cannot overcome them because they won’t let it. Because of the grace and peace residing in us, we cannot help but bring it to those around us.
In our communities, we love one another genuinely and live in harmony with one another, laughing together and crying together, taking care of those who have need.
When people oppose us and persecute us, we bless them instead of cursing them. We’ll always see our enemies as beautiful and love them instead of hitting back (because when we were once enemies with Christ, he loved US back), and we’ll be peaceful on our part no matter what.
We won’t take revenge, because God has told us that revenge is His to pay, not ours, and he also taught us that “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Our God is not vindictive, but will right all things at the end of time. Until then, if you hate us, we’ll love you, feed you, and take care of you when you need it the most. In doing so, we’ll ransom your soul, and it will be very, very hard for you to continue acting as you do. By “heaping burning coals on your head,” we’ll burn you so thoroughly with love you won’t be able to stay as you are.
This is how Christ changes people. This is how they act after encountering His forgiveness.
What about you? How can you live like Christ today, in your job, your family, your world?