Romans 12:9-21

<p>We have new life in Christ, and Paul talks today about what that means, to those who first heard his words, and to us today. The message is still the same. Genuine love is that which is practiced wholeheartedly, no hypocrisy. Love is to be the guiding prinicple in our lives. So Paul starts out saying that love is to be genuine. He also says we should abhor or hate what is evil, and cling to what we know is good.</p>

<p>Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is one that has begun with the depravity of man, and he moves through all the sinfulness of man, which then allows him to begin to talk about the Love of God. He talks about the cross of Christ, and in last weeks reading in Romans 12:1-8 he spoke of the transformation that happens when a man or woman comes to know the love of God personally through Jesus Christ. His voice was powerful saying that he urged, begged and implored the Romans to present themselves completely and without reservation to God as living sacrifices, that they might be renewed, transformed by God’s grace that they would learn the good and perfect will of God.</p>

<p>Now we learn of the reality of that transformation. Let love be Genuine that is the overriding thought that permeates this particular passage. It comes from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, it is the Spirit that gives us the gifts that Paul speaks of and it is the Spirit that brings us to knowledge of God’s love for us and for all mankind. Paul is speaking of the love that we have received and that we should allow that love to flow through us to others. He speaks of our being renewed by that love and that we then are to work at bringing others to understand that love.</p>

<p>Paul says that we are to use the that love which permeates our soul, to persevere in prayer, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, ardent in spirit, serving the Lord. Give to the needs of the Saints, extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you, bless them and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who are rejoicing, weep with those who weep. Live with one another in harmony. Then he says don’t be haughty, (blatantly and disdainfully proud).</p>

<p>Live in harmony with others, be humble, associate with those who cannot repay you. It sounds a lot like the teaching of Jesus in the beatitudes. Paul also says that we are hate that which is evil, not the person who is involved in the evil, but rather the evil itself. Again we are asked to stand in the gap, to stand for what we know is right. Evil exists in this world and love demands that we recognize it, and stand against it. To abhor (to loathe, to regard with extreme repugnance) that which is evil.</p>

<p>He goes on to say that we need to live humbly (deferring to others, not being haughty or better than others). The story is told of a church service in the after the War between the States. A black man attended a worship service in an all white church. When the communion was ready to be served, the black man waited his turn, and then got up and walked to the altar rail. No else in the church went with him. Then a stately and well dressed man stood and moved to the side of the black man, kneeling at the rail, they received the elements together they sipped wine from the same cup. Both men stood giving each other the right hand of fellowship, and returned to their seats. The white man who came forward, was Robert E. Lee. A great general and a greater Christian. He loved without hypocrisy, living his faith. He taught that group of people a great lesson on that day.</p>

<p>Hospitality toward strangers is central to the Christian faith. It includes assisting people in need and offering hospitality in one’s home. I remember the stories my folks told of the depression and how their parents would share with neighbors that which they had. My grandfather on my mother’s side was able to work throughout that time, and on my Dad’s side his father was a fireman and worked as well. My mother’s father, used to talk about the “bums” on park row, some of them had been working on wall street, some worked in banks, but all were in the same boat in the depression. They would come to the saloon where my grandfather worked at lunch time to see if they might be able to get a bite to eat. He would feed them when he could, and he would give them money to get something to eat if he couldn’t feed them.</p>

<p>Then Paul talks about blessing those who persecute you. Now we don’t suffer too much in this country, but in Paul’s day there was quite a bit of persecution. We also know of people who are forbidden to practice their faith in many places in the world. They also bless those who persecute them, they offer prayers for their enemies, and try to help them find Jesus for themselves. Many of these Christians suffer beatings, broken bones included, women in some of these countries suffer rapes, and physical abuse and some have been attacked by men carrying machetes, causing them horrible scarring on their bodies, if they even live from such an attack. Yet in the midst of all this mayhem, these folks still practice their faith, and love one another and even their enemies. Praising God that they can suffer as Jesus suffered.</p>

<p>So we are told to respond to evil with love, not with hatred, to allow God to handle the vengeance part, instead we are to offer drink to a thirsty enemy, food to one who is hungry.</p>

<p>I have to admit that the heaping burning coals on the head of those who are hateful, by doing good, is actually hoping that the person to whom you do good will realize their wrong. In Egypt there was a ritual where people would carry a pan of hot coals on their heads as evidence of penitence.</p>

<p>We have all faced personal insults, affronts and some even abuse in our lives. Paul admonishes us to soberly consider how we respond to wrongdoing. We do tend to want to get even, but, Paul reminds us that Vengeance belongs to God, he will repay those who practice evil. There will come a day when all will be judged for their actions, and that is God’s job not ours. We are of course not to suffer abuse needlessly. The point is not to take an action that could lead to a self-serving, vigilante kind of response. We Christians need to act with restraint, exploring practical ways to deal with evil. Instead of paying evil back with more evil, our response must be to show God’s love in our lives.</p>

<p>David & Leah Ortiz left their home in the United States to share the good news of Christ with Jews and Muslims in Israel. They settled on the West Bank, and David has picked up some Arabic in his work with their Palestinian neighbors. They have been there a number of years and have had to deal with many threats. But they faced a painful test of faith on March 20, 2008, when their son Ami, was nearly killed in a bomb attack likely intended for David, his pastor father. That morning Ami opened a gift basket that had been left in front of their apartment by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish nationalist. A bomb hidden in the basket exploded, destroying the apartment and tearing through Ami’s body.</p>

<p>Over three years later, Ami still have over 100 pieces of glass and metal in his body. Yet David and Leah still live in the same place, and practice their faith as they always have. They pray for complete healing for Ami.</p>

<p>David says that, “The Lord forgave David and many people in the Bible,” he said. “My goal and my prayer for the attacker is that he will repent and be saved.” (Voice of the Martyrs, July 2011)</p>

<p>These and many others like them, practice loving their enemies and their friends, they will continue to work for the gospel and the kingdom no matter the persecution, no matter who is against them. Their Church was burned down in October 2010, perhaps by the same group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who live near them. Evil is found in many groups in this world, yet God is present with David, Leah and Ami, and God’s love holds them up. They work to share that love, even with those who hate.</p>

<p>It is our job to not repay evil with more evil, but rather to allow the love of God to flow through us, that others will have a chance to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Vengeance is mine says God, leave the justice and the vengeance to God. Offer instead the love of God to all, deal with Evil as God has for you to do so. Let your love be genuine.</p>

<p>Amen.</p>

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