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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 22, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Romans 12:1–21           

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 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. 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. (NRSV)

Reflection
I have a problem here. I can really get behind the “hate what is evil” thing, especially these days. I’m thinking of something along the punching-Nazis vein. That is a really satisfying concept, especially the loud-and-proud versions that seem to be so newly comfortable, popping up to vent their bile.

“Hate what is evil.” Yeah, let’s do it.

But then I hit all this “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. . . . If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. . . . Overcome evil with good” stuff, and that just complicates everything. Now the scripture says I have to evaluate. All the acceptable punching scenarios start to become so restricted it seems like, darn it, you just can’t get away with it anymore.

So is hating evil just a conceptual moral construct then, an idea without application?

Well, no. Of course not. All that is required is a reframing of what it means to fight evil and what will ultimately prevail. “Punch in the face” becomes “Hold to the good. . . . Extend hospitality to strangers. . . . Associate with the lowly. . . . Weep with those who weep.” The way of Christ is never on the side of the oppressor, though the oppressor may claim otherwise. It is the way of protection, advocacy, and honor for the oppressed. Hating evil? That’s just recognizing the oppressor and standing between them and the oppressed. Love is in being the defender, not in being the aggressor.

Protection, advocacy, honor, and love for the outcast, the stranger, the rejected—these are the ways to fight evil. The best way to punch a Nazi? Show the love that makes their hate irrelevant in the world.

Prayer
Lord, remind us that the marks of a true Christian are not found in how we declare what we hate, but in how we show love. Help us to use the light to drive out the darkness. Amen.

Written by Rob Koon, Coordinator of Fine Arts


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