The New Testament calls us to live the Christian life with excellence. Romans 12:9 — 21 is one passage that describes this excellence. Here I set segments from it in bold italics and add collected comments from various commentators and translations of the Bible. One or two of these might provide for deep reflection each day of this week.
Love must be sincere. “Let not your love wear a mask” (The Message). “Let us have no imitation Christian love” (J.B Phillips). Let each expression of warmth or concern be genuine. Never different faces for different circumstances.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. “Hate sin as you would the hell to which it leads. Be cemented or glued to that which is good” (Adam Clarke). Under all circumstances, keep your moral compass in sync with Jesus and the Father’s timeless standards for living.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. “Love a brother/ sister Christian with the affection of a natural sibling.” “Consider all your brethren as more worthy than yourself” (Adam Clarke).
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fuelled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant” (The Message). Real love for Jesus will keep you going strong.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Keep clearly before you that your long term future is heaven. This will help you to take the sufferings and ills of the present with patience. Keep the fires of prayer stoked daily. Never slack off from daily private prayer in the secret place.
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Keep alert to fellow believers who have material needs — whether next door or across the seas. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat …. I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35). Real faith in the Lord quickens us to human need.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and don’t curse. “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath” (The Message) “Give good words; or pray for them that give you bad words …. Have the loving, forgiving mind that was in your Lord” (Adam Clarke).
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Have empathy in both of these directions in the family of God. However, “To weep with those that weep is easier than to rejoice with those who rejoice” (The Expositor’s Greek Testament). Those who have cause to rejoice don’t feel the need for support in the way those who weep do. But we are to keep our awareness balanced in both directions.
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but associate with people of low position. (That is, those who do menial work or are unemployed or even disabled.) Do not be conceited. “Do not pass by the poor man to pay your court to the great man …. Do not suppose that wisdom and discernment dwell alone with you” (Adam Clarke). “Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody” (The Message).
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. Don’t let yourself get into the “tit for tat” mode. And, it is not enough to do what is legally right; we must do what appears to others to be right — that is, do what meets the generally accepted standards drawn from the written law. Paul: “For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21).
If it is possible as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Living at peace with everyone is sometimes not possible, but the burden is on us to try, and never to be the responsible party in the breaking of the peace or living in alienation from others.
Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. The evil actions of others can cause deep hurt often seemingly beyond repair. In our fallenness, personal revenge may appeal. But knowing that God is the judge of all the earth restrains our impulse to seek revenge. We can say “God’s righteousness will prevail.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Do not become of the same character as the wrong doer you are complaining of. “However frequently he/she may grieve and infuriate you, always repay him/her with kindness; your goodwill in the end may overcome his/her evil” (Adam Clarke). “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good” (The Message).
Each of these admonitions is a tall order; together they are impossible to attain by human effort alone. Still, the grace extended by the Spirit allows us to pursue life on this high ground. And, we find that these words lead us along the least stressful and most productive path in the long run — a life of minimal regrets. Grace and peace to us all as we travel on high ground.
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