Ilya Repin. A Fisher-Girl. 1874. Oil on canvas. The Irkutsk Art Museum, Irkutsk, Russia.
For Sunday, August 28, 2011
Romans 12:9-21 is not the way the world lives. The world lives by the world’s rules which might be summarized like this:
- Look out for #1
- Enhance your own standing
- Leverage personal power
This passage, which lays out imperatives in view of the indicatives of the gospel of grace, suggests an alternative lifestyle:
- Cultivate love
- Extend love
- Watch the world be redeemed
Firstly, in this alternative lifestyle we cultivate love. Verses 9-13 speak about cultivating love in our own thinking. Rather than looking out for #1 we’re supposed to look out for #’s 2 thru 12 and beyond. Cultivating love means a sincere commitment to hating evil, devoting ourselves to one another, and practicing hospitality. When we first moved to Russia, the fact that people could show up at our door unannounced at any time of day or night and expect hospitality was . . . difficult. Yet once we let go of control, and let love flow, it was actually great fun. As the Doobie Brothers put it, “Love the ones you’re with.”
Secondly, in this alternative lifestyle we also extend love to others (vv. 14-16). We extend love by blessing those who persecute us, empathizing with both the happy and sad around us, and by looking down the pecking order rather than up. It’s liberating and empowering, as I can attest from my albeit woefully inadequate experience.
Lastly, in this alternative lifestyle we watch love redeem the world (vv. 17-21). Suddenly, there are fewer eye for an eye kerfuffles; self awareness break out all over place; and enemies are killed with kindness.
That the world will be redeemed is made certain by the gospel of which this passage is a part. The only question is this: will we be counted among those who have been overcome, or among those who overcome? Let us not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.