Loving and Just Behavior
Lesson and Read: Romans 12.9-21
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.
Romans 12.20-21 (NRSV)
In Romans Chapter 12, we have another of the Apostle Paul’s famous lists. In verses 3-8 we have a recitation of Spiritual Gifts (see also First Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 5). Then in Romans 12.9-21 we have a detailed list of behaviors. These behaviors (the way we treat one another) should be manifest in any Christian community that claims those Spiritual gifts.
No matter how long Paul’s lists may be, they are never exhaustive. Often his lists are appropriate for, even specific to, the congregation he is writing to. There are perhaps as many as 25 individual behaviors described in Romans 12. They are detailed and specific, addressing the needs of the church in Rome but also are open to a wider interpretation. However, that wider interpretation was not intended for the world. Just as the Ten Commandments were given to Israel, these instructions are for the church. The Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day had its own codes of conduct; sometimes they are honorable and sometimes cruel. Paul expected the believers in Rome (who had come out of that world) to adopt a new ethic, a new behavior. Let love be genuine, . . . outdo one another in showing honor, . . . be ardent in spirit, . . . patient in suffering, . . . bless those who persecute you, . . . do not repay evil for evil, . . . live peaceably with all (12.9-18). If the followers of Christ could live in that new way and hold up that example to the world, the world would take note. Soon, the world would ask, “How can you show such love for each other? You are Jews and Greeks, circumcised and uncircumcised slaves and free born, barbarians and civilized, male and female.” And the Church could reply, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord. And you’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
When we practice loving and just behavior, we can overcome evil with good.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence