So often today it seems that as soon as an elected government comes to power they are immediately lionized as being the worst government ever or being the source and reason for all the ills and evils that exist in that country.
Governing authorities are not a terror to good conduct but to bad conduct
This is especially noticeable on social media. The rants against governments and government leaders are frequent and often full of vitriole. The expressions of distaste, disgust and downright hate are beyond belief. And often I see this on the Christian sites and chat sessions too.
As Christians it is important that we stop and think about what is happening and if we are standing against the government of the day for the wrong reasons, we need to think very carefully about our position, as these scriptures tell us.
Over the last few posts we have looked at the attitudes and behaviours of life in Jesus Christ. Most specifically there have been a few posts considering the issue of revenge and retaliation when we are hurt or wronged by other people.
Vengeance belongs to God so love your enemies
The bible is very clear about this subject and the whole issue of taking the law into our own hands. Don’t! That is the message. Don’t put yourself into the position of judge, jury and executioner for this is not what we have been called to.
Here in these last few verses of Romans 12 we see this spelled out very clearly and what we should do when it comes to those who oppose us and oppose the will of God.
One of the primary and fundamental tenets of the Christian life is to live in peace. We have the promise of peace being left with us through Jesus Christ and we seek peace as we walk with Him.
Live peaceably with all
God the Father is referred to in various places as the God of peace and so it stands to reason that as He is the God of peace then His prime message to mankind would be a message of peace. For example,
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep… (Hebrews 13:20)
And as the message of the new covenant is meant to lead us in transformation to become like Jesus Christ, who bears the very stamp of the nature of God the Father, then we too need to be transformed into the way of peace which is the way of God.
The challenge for us Christians though is that the way of God and the way of peace are NOT the ways of this world. The ruler of this world is the devil and his desire is for disruption, war, hate, fighting and corruption…not peace. So let us examine what this scripture means for us today.
The Lord God said in various places that vengeance belongs to Him. It is not for us to seek to avenge ourselves but rather to leave vengeance to the wrath of God.
Seek honour, not evil
If you are a Christian and have been for any length of time, you will certainly have suffered at the hands of someone who stands opposed to what you believe in. We are told that all those who choose to live a godly life will be persecuted. So if you have not been persecuted yet, be assured that the time is coming when you will.
The challenge for us though, is to live our lives appropriately to the call of Jesus Christ. He gave us the perfect example of how we should live and the attitudes we should take in all situations, especially when we are being persecuted or suffering at the hands of someone else.
In these verses we see another important instruction regarding this part of our life in Christ Jesus as we walk the Christian way.
In this world there is terrible conflict. It is the way of the world that one person or one group stands opposed to others.
Live in harmony
The nature of this world is competition to compete for what is best for the individual. In this day and age in particular the fundamental philosophy of the world is “What's in it for me” and the need to be “taking care of number one”.
But that is not what the Lord seeks. That is not the way of the kingdom of God. It is His desire for mankind to live in harmony with one another as this verse in Romans 12:16 tells us. So this is the lesson to be learned today…how to live in harmony with one another.
If ever there was a verse in the bible that represented or summed up the attitude of Christians, it is this one.
Bless those who persecute. Don’t turn and attack with droppings of hatred and vengeance
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Romans 12:14)
As Christians we have not been called to be a people of violence, hatred and anger who are seekers of revenge. All over the New Testament we see examples of people of faith who demonstrated this attitude when they were in times of persecution, not to mention the actions of Jesus Christ himself who modeled the behaviours and taught such truths as part of the gospel.
So how should we deal with persecution and what does this scripture mean for us today?
Living in the Family of God
This scripture truly lays the basis for living in the family of God. It epitomizes the brotherly love that exists in the family of God and one of the many ways that love shoud be manifested within the family.
The verse reads as follows.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:13)
When we break this down we see a significant difference from the way this world treats extended family and what we should do as members of the family of God, especially in this day and age.
There is an old saying that has been attributed to many different people which says,
A threefold cord is not easily broken for the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
In essence it means that the individual components of something when put together make something greater or better than the individual components themselves could ever be. For example, in Ecclesisates 4:12 we see the verse that says,
“…a threefold cord is not easily broken.”
Rope is generally made up of two or three strands that are twisted and bound together and each piece adds additional strength to the rope that is greater than a single strand can hold. So too when we are bound together with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we are much stronger than we would ever be individually and we can stand in the face of all adversity.
As I read this verse in Romans 12:12 this observation of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts occurred to me, for I have often looked at and read this verse in terms of its individual parts but never considered it as a whole. So let us look at it with new eyes again.
Persevere and never flag in zeal
This section of Romans 12 covers many different aspects of living in Christ. In this whole paragraph we see many exhortations to the people of Rome to stand firm and remain faithful, to live lives befitting those who call themselves Christians.
Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. (Romans 12:11)
Here in this verse I see a call to persevere in the Lord for it is by perseverance that we will see the work of the Lord completed in us.
There are many obstacles that stand in the way and there are and will be many persecutions that will come our way as the scripture tells us. Thus the need for perseverance is even more important and so these words need to be taken to heart and to encourage us.
It is interesting that some of the terminology used by writers in the bible would lead us to think that Christianity is a competition. It sounds in some places as if we are all competing in some way.
It's not a competition
This is especially true when Paul says in places about “running the race set before us” and it is “only those who run according to the rules will receive the prize” and similar messages.
But in truth it isn't a competition. I say this because if you mis-read this particular verse it could make you think it is a competition. The verse reads as follows and it is the last section that could mislead.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)