Over the past couple of months, I have been slowly making my way through Paul’s epistle to the Romans and studying its history. The Epistle to the Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament and is the longest of all of the epistles written by Paul. One of the things that struck me about Paul’s letter is what he details regarding the action of individuals. Paul makes it a point to tell those in Rome that salvation comes from faith rather than action. Godly action is a result of faith. Actions alone do not ensure salvation. It is by faith that we are saved.
After he had evangelized to the territories around the Aegean Sea, Paul wrote the epistle somewhere around fifty-seven to fifty-eight AD, depending on the biblical scholar. In this letter, Paul covers all of the parts of a Christian’s life. He talks about hypocrites as well as the transformation of believers. In short, Paul, you could say, writes, what I would call, “The Simple Guide to Christianity”.
When you read this book, which I highly encourage everyone to do and, if you have, read it again, Paul provides wonderful words of wisdom that sum up the points he is making.
For example, in chapter twelve, Paul ends the chapter with a simple statement that sums up the entire chapter and wraps it up very neatly into something that all of us can remember.
Paul writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
When you look at today’s world, you see nothing but shootings, vandalism and destruction. Our society seems to revel in watching the world tear itself apart. Wars, pestilence, famine and death seem to fill our newsfeeds daily with stories that rival the most macabre stories of fiction. At times, it seems that some enjoy it. They love to watch the world burn down.
In the 2008 movie, “The Dark Knight”, Michael Caine, playing the role of Alfred Pennyworth, said, “Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
It is a sad state of affairs when individuals just enjoy seeing the world burn. In fact, they don’t see the beauty of the world that was created by God. They only see things to destroy or deface. Nothing matters to them. That mentality is horrible and frightens me. I am not afraid of what they could do to me, but, rather, I am afraid that they will stand before God on that Day of Judgment and be told to part from Him. I fear for their damnation and pray for them daily to come to enjoy the peace that surpasses all understanding.
Going back to chapter twelve, Paul provides us with several life lessons regarding how we should treat one another. Having a strong relationship with God is one thing, but having a loving, caring relationship with those around us is quite another. It is very easy for us to discount others who aren’t in our group of friends. We can easily turn our heads away and look elsewhere when we see those in need. But, Paul tells us that we must care even for those who would persecute or curse us.
Paul writes, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.”
The only thing we should hate is evil. We should love with all of our heart the things that are higher and nobler and only cling to good. Our love for one another should bind us together. Hatred only separates us. It is so easy to hate and devote ourselves to destruction and evil. Our lives should be filled with joy, hope and love.
Paul, in chapter thirteen of his first epistle to the Corinthians, reminds us of these wonderful virtues, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
Love for one another allows us to come together regardless of race, ethnicity or ideology. By living a life devoted to loving one another, we live our lives how God intended. Love draws us together like no other emotion. When we face problems in life, love and prayers are there to support us during the darkest of times.
By keeping hope, patience and faith at the forefront of our minds and hearts, it is easier to keep our spiritual fire burning bright for the Lord. Our lives are filled with purpose and with the desire to share and show hospitality with those in need.
In order for a world full of love to come about, we must learn to live in harmony with one another. This is nothing new, but it does seem very alien to some.
Paul further writes, “Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”
There will always be those who want discontent and evil to fill the world. But, over time, we can learn to “live in harmony with each other”. We should never be so arrogant as to look down on one another. When we do that, that introduces evil. We should humble ourselves to one another just as Jesus humbled himself to die a criminal’s death on a cross for each of us to give us eternal life by being our atonement sacrifice.
As you start another week, I ask you to take the steps to live in harmony and show love to family, friends and enemies alike. You will be surprised when they see you showing hospitality and humility in the face of ill and evil. Be the example to them and they will soon see God alive and well in your heart. When evil seems to be getting the upper hand, God will give you all that you need to be able to stand firm in His grace.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.