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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 28, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Romans 12:9–21

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
Here is one of the richest summaries of the Christian life in the entire New Testament. The whole of it is amazing, inspiring, a super-natural quality of living that lifts us up like wind beneath the wings. It is a vision of what our lives can be when filled with Christ because it describes Christ’s life. It is a life, first and foremost, filled with love overflowing. It describes not only what must be embraced, but also what must be renounced. It may strike one as odd to be commanded to “hate” in the same sentence as we are commanded to “love.” But unless we hate what is evil, we will lack the resolve, energy, and holy anger required to cast it out of our lives and behaviors.

Living the “super-natural” life, the “Christ life,” is always a counter-culture experience. The Apostle Paul here, in this road map for Christian living, takes on an often-accepted evil at which we tend to wink: our desire to get even when cheated, our rage at slights that come to us through insults or simple disregard. In the face of these things, do we not have a right to hate back, or at least in our passive aggressive ways to avoid, ignore, or disregard the offender? C’mon, Paul, at least can’t we roll our eyes a little when the person’s name is mentioned in a group?

Egad! Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them? Do not repay anyone evil for evil? Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God (i.e., let God be the judge)? Enough, enough Paul! But wait, wait; there’s still more: No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good! Has the apostle gone off his rocker? This is not natural!

Right. It’s “super-natural.” And this is the life we can live, however imperfectly and inconsistently, when we allow ourselves to be captivated by the One who was nailed to a cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Prayer
Lord Jesus, who can love as genuinelyas you? When I have ignored you, when I have walked away from you, you have been patient in suffering, you have persevered in prayerfor me! Help me, Lord, to turn around now, and fill me with your life, so I can love you genuinely and love others even when ignore me or disregard me! And may they see something of your “super-natural” life being lived through me—and believe. Amen.

Written by David Handley, Interim Minister for Pastoral Care

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church


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