Living as a Christian in a broken world can be hard, join Sarah Landon as we walk through Paul’s instructions to the Romans on how to approach relationships with others.
Have you ever suffered discrimination? Persecution? The personal kind where someone looks into your eyes and hates you? I experienced the tiniest fraction of this one day at a playground in Japan. This is Sarah Landon and I’m so glad you’re joining me in Romans 12:14-18 in the 1% Life.
So there was a little boy, probably only five years old, he was playing on the toys at the same time as my kids. We were typically friendly to everyone and tried to chat with them a little. This particular boy said something I didn’t completely understand, I apologized for not understanding and he glared at me sidelong, scoffed, and said in Japanese, “Stupid foreigner.” I might have laughed if it wasn’t so heartbreaking that someone so small was already embittered against people he didn’t even know. And it made me kind of afraid of what he might do to my kids. It occurred to me that there are people who experience this kind of hatred and discrimination as a part of their everyday lives. I imagine that in the midst of a hostile culture against Christians in Rome, the church was all too familiar with this kind of experience, from full-grown men and women who actually could do damage to their homes, their work situations, even their own bodies.
Verse 14 was definitely a highlight to me. It’s sobering to think that Paul calls the Romans to bless those who persecute them, and then he provides further clarification, just in case you’re confused, “bless and do not curse.” I looked up the words “persecute” and “bless” on my blueletterbible app and found that persecute means to pursue, harass, or cause to flee. So this isn’t just someone being irritating or difficult. This is open hostility. The word for bless is eulogeo in the Greek. It means to praise, celebrate with praise, cause them to be blessed, or entreat God to bless them. This is about as counter-intuitive as it gets. Paul is saying that rather than fear, run away from, or avoid these hostile people, we should wish them well and bless them.
If this is living out your faith and your beliefs, what beliefs are the foundation for these actions? Or in other words, “Why in the world would we DO that?!” Well, when we believe that God loves each of his created people and that he has the power to change any heart, we want even our fiercest enemies to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When we believe that Jesus is what is most important in our life and that not even death will separate us from him, we’re willing to sacrifice it all for Him to be known. Romans 12:1 calls us to be living sacrifices. And do you know what sacrifices do? They die. Jesus took on a shameful death in order to be glorified by God. He’s our example. Are we willing to let our pride die? To let our convenience die? To let our comfort die? Our status die? Do we really believe what Jesus said in Matthew 23:12 that, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Do we believe that God will bring justice so we need not repay evil for evil?
These are some hard words. They challenge what we believe. But they also have the power to transform. This is the kind of work that Jesus does in the lives of people. He shocks people through love, mercy, grace, and kindness. He stops them in their tracks when they receive the unexpected. He gives them a chance to live a new way; he always has hope that they would turn to him. Are we willing to do the hard work of steadfastness? Of being the peacemaker in a room of people who want to stir the pot?
Are we willing to connect with any of God’s beloved created people, regardless of age, gender, status, ethnic identity, sexual identity, and listen long enough to share their joys, their struggles? Laugh with them, cry with them, celebrate with them, empathize with them? Get into the mess with them so they may see God’s love for them, his good, pleasing and perfect will for them.
I am so glad we don’t have to do this alone. I’m grateful that the power of the Holy Spirit enables us to be more like Jesus, if we will yield to his calling in our life and allow ourselves to be transformed from the inside out.
This is not easy, but it is good. It is the deep goodness of God, meant to be lived out by a people set apart, who don’t follow the rules of this world, but live for eternity, something higher. Church, this is Jesus living through us, touching thousands of people through our hands and feet. Will you let him do his work through your life?
Let’s pray to prepare our hearts for this work he’s calling us to.
Oh Lord we repent. We repent of our fear, of our hardness of heart, of our pride, and puffing ourselves up. Take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh that we could reach out to the people in our midst with your love and goodness and leave a wake of blessing, peace, honor, and harmony. Help us abide in you and rely on your power. We cannot do this alone