“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ” Romans 12:9-18
Our scripture lesson this Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost is from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and might simply be entitled, Love in Action. Because in these few short sentences, Paul is reminding us of what it is to be truly followers of Christ. All to often, we believe ourselves to be Christian but in reflection~ are we?
Sadly, I find myself the victim of this litmus test. Recent events surrounding a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri have me questioning my beliefs. As priestly as I try to keep myself, I cannot repress those thirty years of being a police officer. I look at the situation not with compassion, but with a critical eye. Was the shooting justified? Was the police response excessive? Were the actions of the protestors reserved? Can the looting and the violence be any means to an end?
It is indeed a difficult test. Nevertheless, it is a test we all must undergo. Not just because of this incident in Missouri, but with the escalation of violence throughout the world. We find ourselves, our belief in the fact that we are followers of Christ; challenged by the very concept that developments in the world today do not make being truly Christian, easy. But nothing truly worth while ever is.
Christ tasks us in today’s Gospel to, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. ” [ Matthew 16:24 ] This not only implies worldly tangibles but also our opinions and judgments. We must look at people and their conditions in life with a new perspective. To seek to understand and appreciate that which influences their reactions and beliefs. ” Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay not attention to the beam in your own? You hypocrite, first remove the beam from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. ” [ Mathew 7:3-5 ]
As difficult as we find the situations that present themselves to us, we must pray to resolve them as Christians. In doing so, we provide examples to others as to the compassion and charity of Christ. We can condemn that which is wrong and unjust, as long as we serve up solutions and answers which are fair and just. ” If you love only those who love you, what is your reward? “; Christ ask us. [ Matthew 5:46 ]
For the most part, these are personal opinions that must be overcome. We need to look at the world through the eyes of Christ. So that not only our actions are compassionate and charitable, but that we are truly as well. Easily, not easy but if we put on love and put love into action, surely this can be done.
“Therefore, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility and patience. Forgive one another, as Christ forgave you. For of all virtues, put on love. It is love that binds us together. Let the peace of Christ be in your hearts.” [Colossians 3:12-15]