Living Alongside The World
In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul has led us to see the good news of the gospel, how we have all fallen short of the glory of God, how we each owe a debt that Jesus paid on the cross because of that we can never be separated from the love of God. Romans not the easiest or shortest of Paul’s letters is easily the most challenging of the epistles. I avoided and dreaded it, saying I hated it. That is not good so, I decided to wrestle with Romans and share my findings. This should be a good thing for both the reader, and me, yet I am coming to see that this is becoming more and more comforting and troubling; challenging and provoking. Yes, all of them are present sometimes in the same verses. I am torn and sustained. Part of me wants to be done with this study; another part wants to continue to see this to the end. Even if I walk away with a limp, it will be good to finish this study. I will be better for it.
Today, we will look at the section of Romans 12 that N. T. Wright in his marvelous commentary Romans for Everyone calls Living Alongside The World. Here Paul follows up his instructions for everyday life with how we are to respond to our neighbors. Paul began Romans 12 by telling us not to conform to the world but transform and now with this section and the previous shows us what it means to live transformed lives.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 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 (Romans 12:14-19)
Bless not curse others. It doesn’t who they, what they do as Christians, we are to bless not curse others. We are pray for, show kindness, and support to all. This is what makes the Christian life so radical. We don’t or at the very least, we shouldn’t treat others differently. Sympathize with the joys and sorrows of others. Often we have experienced the lows and highs others are feeling, so we can be there for them. There will be times when we need to hold the light for others and times when we will need them to hold the light for us. Each of us has known sadness and joy, before long we will know more of each.
We are not to seek status or to think to highly of ourselves. Jesus wasn’t concerned about his own status. You will not find Jesus on Facebook. Jesus was more concerned about relationships and bringing the good news to those that needed it the most. That is how we are to live our lives. We are to live in peace and harmony as much as possible. Sometimes this will be possible, other times not. Some will enjoy our company. Others will be bent on hurting us. Yet, no matter who we encounter, we are to show love and seek to what is right. There will be times when what is right doesn’t seem like the most loving thing, but we do what is right because we love them. Don’t let wicked behavior induce you to do wrong, but overcome evil by returning good for evil. This sums up how we are to live in the world. How awesome it would be if we could live up to these requirements consistently. The logic of kindness trumps the logic of argument.
We love, forgive, accept and serve all. All means all without exception. As did Christ on the cross, he who can obey this precept is a transformed man. We are transformed by the action we take towards our fellow man.
Living in the world but not of the world means that we will face the best and worst of life, it means we face all of it with the love of Christ knowing that life is in rhythm. The good and bad flow together, without one, we wouldn’t know the other. Yet, there will come a time when every tear will be wiped away and we will have heaven on earth. While, we leave in the broken world we must face the bad with the good and the good with the bad. We trust that all of it will be blessing, because we follow the one who loved us so much to forsake heaven to reconcile the world to God once and for all.
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