If you look at the Romans passage, you have all you need. That is how you do it. That is what you need to know to be a good Christian. Simple enough. End of story.
It looks so easy on paper, doesn’t it. Well at least the first part. “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.” That is not too bad. But look at what happens in the second part of the passage:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Bless those who persecute you? Live in harmony with one another? Do not repay evil with evil? Feed my enemies? You mean I can not call for the assassination of them?
The first thing that struck me was the line, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Wow, let me bring up the political realm here. For 12 years prior to our recent invasion of Iraq the United Nations had sanctions against Iraq. We currently have an embargo against Cuba. North Korea is sanctioned. Burma, Iran, Libera, Balkans, Lybia, Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe…all sanctioned. We are starving our enemies. We are breeding hatred toward our country because we are avenging for ourselves. We are missing the last part of the above quote: for by doing this [feeding] you are heaping coals upon their heads. The heaping of coals is purification. Cleaning. We are breeding hatred by imposing such draconian means of punishment. People hate us because we are not helping to feed them. Imagine this…A country , say North Korea which is in famine, is doing something we do not like, but instead of inhibiting trade and supplies, we increase it. Imagine what could happen to the people inthe country. Joy, happiness, looking at us as people who care.
This goes for me, too. On a smaller scale. I am selfish. Rude, and arrogant. I think that is human nature. I work at trying not to be, but when approached by someone asking for help, I tend to be a priest crossinng to the other side, instead of a Samaritan helping a Jew. I am aware of this and working on it.
This goes into what the Gospel reading says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done.”
Christ tells us to follow him with all we can. The image I have is of the traditional Mexican Cross. The cross is covered with items. Items from what represent life before Christ. Vices. When we take up our cross we are putting all of the junk on it. When we loose our lives to Christ, only the, can we begin to do the things Paul states in the Romans passage. There are still things that I want to keep in my pockets instead of putting on the cross. I am working on listening to the call.
This is where I totally understand Moses, Who am I that I should go to Pharoh? Who am I that I should love my enemy. But God’s response is a response I need to trust. I, being a 21st Century American, a cynical, broken person have a problem believing it. I do, but I alway say but…God says, “I will be with you”…I just need to accept that.
God will be with us. We need not worry about what others think. God was with Moses when he confronted Pharoah. God was with Christ when Christ was nailed to the tree. God was with the apostles when they were beset with grief. God was with Paul in prison. God is with us when we act counter culturally and do the thinks expressed in the letter to the Romans.
May the Lord Give you Peace!
Please leave comments. Let me know where you sit with these readings.