If we ever had any doubts about the Word of God being a living and active word, working through the Holy Spirit to speak to us today, we’re not paying attention. Our reading from Romans 12 hits right to the core of what we are experiencing in our country these days. It’s as if St. Paul is watching our country and offering his understanding of what is going on.
Again this week we have had to deal with violence building up and boiling over in cities across the country. Do we know what is going on? Do we have the answers? We can sit around and think we have it all figured out, but do we? Is the issue of race and justice for the oppressed the only issue, or is there something more sinister lurking beneath the surface?
After six months, we are still dealing with a pandemic that is very real and profoundly serious and is affecting the lives of basically everyone on the planet. We are struggling with what to do; with what is the right thing for all of us. Our congregation’s leaders and our Covid Team are trying to work things out so that in-person worship can safely be brought indoors. We are trying to make decisions without having muchto fall back on, no clear understanding of how this virus works. It seems to affect people in different ways.
These aren’t issues that are just going to pack up and go away one day. They are hard, personal, emotional things that need to be dealt with constructively. Maybe God is tired of our sin, our bickering, our blaming others, and is waiting for us to come together to work toward finding answers to the injustice and illness that is plaguing our country.
The core points in our Romans text are first in verse 9— “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”
We are called by our Lord Jesus Christ to love one another. What does genuine love look like? If you want help think about 1 Corinthians 13, commonly known as the ‘love chapter.’ The Bible says, ‘genuine love casts out fear.’ Genuine love brings us together, to work with and for one another. To cast out fear of reprisal; to hold one another as equal and loved by God in Christ; to care deeply about the life of our neighbors who may be next door or a long ways away.
The other core point in Romans 12 for me is verse 18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.”
Peace does depend on us. As much as things are in our control, concerning the ways we interact with others, and however it is that we can reach out in Christian love and concern, live in peace with others.
It may not always be possible to live in peace. We are part of a broken and sinful world and many things are out of our control. But as far as it depends on us…it’s up to us to live in peace with one another.
It can start with us and the way we deal with one another. It can be about the way we talk about one another, the respect we show others. Living in peace may mean listening to someone else’s ideas, asking questions that are meant to encourage understanding, or even just realizing that we come from differing backgrounds and have ideas or beliefs that may be new or different from our own. Living peaceably doesn’t mean that we must agree on everything. It does mean that we treat one another’s beliefs and opinions with the respect we expect.
Living peaceably with all can mean that we take care of one another and look out for one another. It might mean getting groceries or dropping off the mail for someone who is in quarantine. It could be checking in on someone who is sick, calling or sending a card. It could mean wearing a mask for the good of others even if you don’t believe it helps. For some it involves sewing masks for others, even sewing masks and bell covers so band students will be able to practice and play their instruments.
How do or how will you show genuine love? How will you do all that’s in your power to live peaceably with all? Where can we all grow in the ways we love and care for others?
St. Paul finished this passage by writing, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”