“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.” (Romans 12:9 – 11)
No one, I think, would mistake Paul for being a warm-fuzzy mushy-centered person. Love does not have to mushy and floppy. Love can be strong and resilient. The person who is expressing and espousing the love my be an “old softy” but love can stand up to and overcome anything and everything. Now, granted, human love may need to be infused with the Holy Presence to be that resilient. I think it is safe to say that Paul assumes this to be the case for those he is exhorting.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Verse 12)
I wish you could see the visual image I see when I read this verse; standing up strong and tall, arms reached up to praise the Lord. Next, head bowed and arms down clasped together. And then, falling to your knees in prayer. Portrait of a Christian who knows what it means to be called to and live out the Christian life.
“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.” (Verses 13 – 17)
Paul may have moved on in his discourse, but what he is saying circles back to showing love. Love motivates us to be the best we can; the love of the Divine – that both comes from the Divine and is shown to the Divine. And love that we express and offer to others.
“If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Verse 18)
It is not enough, beloved reader, to love your fellow human. That love needs to be made manifest in the way we treat each other. I would go farther, in fact, than Paul does and say live peaceably with all. No conditions, no caveats – just live in peace with all creation. NO exceptions, NO excuses!
“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.” (Verses 19 – 21)
We live in a day and time where a great many things, and a great many people, bring unrest and turmoil into our lives. It would be easy, and it has been very easy, to think poorly and negatively of them. I am guilty of this myself. My darker self would deny them the kindness that Paul encourages his readers to show. But when I stop myself short (or maybe more precisely the Holy Presence stops me short) I would really rather heap the burning coals on their heads. Yes, maybe literally!
You and I, beloved reader, are called to the Christian life. We have chosen it, and if it has chosen us we have accepted that. Now, with the help and guidance of the Divine, may we live it out! Shalom & Selah!