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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading |  Romans 13:8–14

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (NRSV)

There’s a note for verses 11–14 in my Bible that says, “These verses provide the motivation for the love that is encouraged in verses 8–10” (New American Bible). On first reading I rolled my eyes (internally if not actually) and thought, “Well, loving people because you’re going to die someday—not because it’s the right thing to do—is pretty low on Kohlberg’s hierarchy of moral development.”

It’s time to get off my moral-development high horse.

Verses 8–10 are beautiful and describe the person I want to be. But the person I am fails to love often, can rationalize breaking the commandments with the best of them, and when faced with a choice between self-interest and the common good will pick “Me, me, me” plenty.

Enter the gift of middle age. At fifty-four my mortality feels more real to me than it has previously. Gratefully no serious illness is the impetus for this dawning realization, but there are enough changes—physical certainly, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual—that position me to understand my own transience much more vividly. Indeed my “salvation is nearer now than when [I] first believed.” Ouch.

I don’t have time to waste. That person I want to be isn’t going to just appear. Perhaps I don’t need to worry too much about orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, or licentiousness (today, at least), but I do need to strive to make what I do match what I believe. I want to “conduct [myself] properly as in the day,” like everyone can see me. Because, bottom line, they can.

Eternal God, thank you for the gift of time, even with its limits. Help me to use it as you did, to love. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator,
Center for Life and Learning

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