Thursday, November 17, 2016
Love in Action
On this beautiful sunny Thursday morning I started my day with a huge cup of coffee and by reading three chapters in the book of Romans. I wanted to share one of my favorite passages in chapter 12 called "Love in Action".
"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 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."
Romans 12: 9-18 (NIV)
These are beautiful words to live by, and every time I read this passage I become aware of how none of these things come naturally for me. I naturally want to hate those who persecute me, I don't want to bless them. When someone does something evil to me I naturally want to repay them with evil. "Live in harmony with each other", isn't that what we all say we want? We say we want peace on Earth but I don't think we rally mean what we say, because we don't want to honor other people above ourselves and give up "the right" to repay evil with evil. I think we all want peace on Earth, but do we ever think about what that really means?
I think most of us want others to do what is right, while we ourselves get to pick and choose and mix it up by doing a few things right and a few things wrong. I don't know about you but if I'm totally honest I do not want peace on Earth most days of my life. I like the idea of "peace on Earth", but I don't like what that will require out of me. A couple of weeks ago somebody hurt me deeply, do you think I wanted to forgive this person? The answer would be NO! What I wanted to do was kick this person in the stomach, and if I was 4-years-old that's probably what I would have done, but I knew the right thing to do was to forgive and move on. I've worked with kids for many years and we all know what happens when one child hits the other, the child will hit back. What happens next is that the fight continues until an adult gets involved. The question is: Do we ever really grow out of this behavior? We might stop hitting each other with our fists but we continue to act the same way with our words.
As a new Christian I had this idea that Jesus obviously had many wise things to say but that there was no need for me to follow everything that The Bible teaches. I liked the idea of picking out the parts that I liked and leaving the rest, like a nice buffet. I think most new Christians will start out like this, but what I realized over time was that the only way my life was going to flourish was if I applied the whole teaching to my life. Picking to follow only the parts of The Bible that I personally preferred ended up not producing much change in my life. I hear many pastors say: "Knowing The Bible won't change your life, the change comes when you apply it to your life."
It would be awesome if we could continue to repay evil with evil and then get peace on Earth as a result of that, think about how much easier it would be to live like that! The truth is that peace requires us to give up what produces the opposite of peace, here's a few of those things: trying to get your own way all the time, cutthroat competition, all consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants, a brutal temper, an impotence to love or be loved, the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival etc. I love how the book of Galatians describes what happens when we choose to live life according to God's way instead:
"But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."
Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)
As I read Galatians 5:22-23 all I can think is "I want to live like that!" We don't have to teach our children to hit each other, they will do it naturally. I don't have to teach myself to be selfish, to hate or envy, these things come naturally, but I can choose another way to live. I want to choose the life of the Spirit.
"Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original."
Galatians 5:25-26 (The Message)