13th Sunday After Pentecost (September 3, 2017)
- First reading and Psalm
- Alternate First reading and Psalm
- Second reading
Romans 12:9-21 | New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 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!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
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.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
I really don’t know that I can add much to this scripture. This is a continuation of the thought that Paul started last week. Because of God’s mercy, we are to be a living sacrifice – not conformed to this world – letting God transform us into a new person.
Today’s scripture really reminds me more of what Jesus would say rather than Paul, but it reminds us that Paul really did echo the teachings of Jesus. I love what Paul says here…”Really love people…don’t pretend.” As we minister to Generation Next, this is important to remember. Young people can spot a phony a mile a way. Yes, there are times when it is hard to love others, but this is commanded by Jesus and now we hear it again from Paul. Look what else Paul says…
Hate what is wrong – hold tightly to what is good. Deep down in our hearts we all know what is truly good. We have a great example in our God. God loved us with a sacrificial love. Jesus came to save us from our sins – and that is great love. We are being called to love with the same kind of love that Jesus loved us with. Jesus did not come to save us when we were good, but when we were enemies – he came to save us and make us friends with God.
What if we treated others – even those we disagree with – with the love that God showed us? This is what Paul is getting at. What are the things that break God’s heart? What are the things that cause God pain? That’s what it means to hate what is wrong.
Most of all, Paul writes, is love each other with genuine affection – not a put on affection – but a real love – real genuine love. Not only that Paul says, but honor each other – serve each other – build each other up. He says we should take delight in that. In doing that, we serve the Lord. In light of the week’s events, Christians and the body of Christ should be the first to show hospitality to those affected by Harvey.
All of these words are such good words. Bless those who persecute those – don’t even curse them. Be happy with those who are happy and weep with those who weep. These echo the words found in James. Like I said, these words show that Paul was quite aware of the teachings of Jesus and the church in Jerusalem. We like to think that they are different, but there not. They are one and the same teaching.
These are words that we need to hear in our culture today – a culture that has been divided and divided sharply. Live in harmony with one another AND don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. I like that – don’t place yourself on a pedestal. I like what Paul adds, “Don’t think you know it all.” Paul is really talking about humility again. He mentions humility in Philippians 2.
Paul really wants to drive the point home – don’t repay evil with evil. God will take care of it. Paul says instead of repaying evil with evil – we should behave that everyone knows we are honorable AND do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
In a world of evil – don’t let it conquer you. How do we do that, by conquering evil with good. Good is always the antidote to evil. Love is always a way to get to good.
We are reminded that Paul says the greatest thing is love. The greatest commandment is love. We are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Paul’s instructions here in Chapter 12 of Romans echo the greatest commandment.