Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Instructions for Life -- Part Trois

Romans 12

I am reluctant to call this "The Laundry List," but Paul touches on so many important points in these next few verses.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 13 is commonly known as the "Love Chapter," and poetically it looks better on wedding invites and unity candles, but if there was a contest for that moniker, I'm guessing this chapter came in a close Second.  Paul's language is so simple a child can understand it, but so difficult to execute in our sin-affected society.

Verse 9:  "Let love be genuine."  What is love?  The Bible teaches us over and over: 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John 4:8, Proverbs 10:12, 13:24, John 15:13, 1 John 3:16-18 and on and on.  As for "genuine?" Honestly felt and experienced, literal, free from hypocrisy or dishonesty, sincere, true.  Paul doesn't distinguish between love for family or what is commonly known as "true love."  According to God, all love must be true; maybe not romantic, but true.  And familial love?  Well blood, biology and "family" are concepts that define us here on earth, but God's family is Heavenly.  Remember Mark 12:31?  "Love your neighbor as yourself."  That's the neighbor that mows his lawn at 7AM, or parties LOUDLY until 11PM.  The guy who loads up his cart with high dollar snacks and prime cuts of meat and pays with an ACCESS card.  The woman that has everything she needs while her children look like rag-a-muffins.  The Deadbeat Dad.  The alcoholic.  Love 'em!  Genuinely.

What about the second part of verse 9?  "Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good."  Turn on the TV, look at a newspaper.  We are a society that thrives on gory, shocking, despicable stories.  People who commit heinous acts get front page coverage; their deeds set the standard for our behavior -- panic instantaneously pays a visit when one child is abducted or one woman is raped.  We live in fear and bury our courage to stand up for the truth, or do the right thing, or minister to "the wrong kinds of people," or feed those in the "wrong side of town."  Are there low-lifes and scheisters in this world?  Absolutely.  We've all been one at some time or another.  Maybe our deeds weren't raunchy enough by the world's standards, to make headlines, but we've all done things for which we need to be ashamed.  And those "Boy Scout Saves Senior Citizen" or "Philanthropist Donates Thousands" stories?  Hidden on page six or scattered on the cutting room floor, unless the Boy Scout turns out to be a pervert, or the philanthropist gives to an organization that bilked half the population out of their retirement.

Verse 10: "Outdo one another in showing honor."  Years ago, a counselor told me that part of the fun in a relationship was "outdoing," in a playful way, one another in showing how much we loved and appreciated the other person.  Scott and I do it all the time.  He buys me a soda, I cook him breakfast; I write a note in lipstick on the bathroom mirror, he tapes a note to my dashboard.  And so it goes.  But what of those people outside our front door?  Do we honor them above ourselves?  Do we treat them better than we treat ourselves?  Do we even think that at any point in time we would want to?  I don't know how to spell that sound my husband and his mother make when they are completely repulsed, but if I could, it would be in this space right here.  Can you imagine saying, "Good morning" to the crossing guard who never says it back?  Would you ever want to smile and say "thank you" to the cashier who pointed to your total on the register and gave you your change like it was coming out of his pocket?  Can you fathom giving up your only child to someone whose hate for you is so strong they curse your name and defile what you have given them? (John 3:16)

I'm feeling pretty convicted at this point.  I think I'll let that sit for a while.
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