BEING A GOOD CITIZEN

(Romans 13:1-7 MSG) Be a good citizen. All governments are under God. Insofar as there is peace and order, it is God’s order. So live responsively as a citizen. If you’re irresponsible to the state, then you’re irresponsible with God, and God will hold you responsible. Duly constituted authorities are only a threat if you’re trying to get by with something. Decent citizens should have nothing to fear.

The Apostle Paul’s admonition to the first century Roman citizens has stirred many debates among Christians. We Americans have a sense of being autonomous, but the government is always intruding. Protesting is allowed, but only if it’s peaceful. Currently the Government is interfering in our lives, and we don’t like it.

Governments are established for the protection and prosperity of its citizens. During our covid 19 crisis, some say the government is not doing enough, while others say it is doing too much. We all have our opinions. The question is, “Is the government doing its job?” Considering that the government is run by humans I’d answer, “They’re trying.”

As a Christian I ask myself, “In my frustrations, am I considering others, or am I just focused on me?

FACING EVIL WITH LOVE

(1 Peter 3:8-9) Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

Continuing last week’s subject of overcoming evil with good, the above quoted Scripture expands on this theme, and includes loving and caring for one another. The Apostle Peter asks us to return evil with blessing. Blessing inspires an active giving in the face of evil, a kindness, an encouragement. This is facing evil with love.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies, pray for them that persecute you (Matthew 5:44).” As I put together these thoughts, the words “God so loved the world” come to mind. When we become his children, these words become a clarion call for us. As his children, we should also love the world. Consciously putting aside hatred, prejudice, and revenge is part of the new life he has given us.

I never want to present topics of this nature without inserting Jesus’ reminder to us, “Without me you can do nothing.” Only in fellowship with Jesus can we ever hope to love the world, and love enough to overcome evil.

OVERCOMING EVIL WITH GOOD

“The only way evil ever wins victories is by making a man retort by evil, reflect it, pay it back, and thus afford it a new lease on life. Over one who persistently absorbs it and refuses to give it out, it is powerless.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Traveling Light, p.188)

I am truly challenged by the words of this quote from the book Traveling Light. Everything in my cultural training and my human nature tells me to get back at someone who does me wrong. Yet, I see in my retaliation, the propagating of evil. How can I change my natural tendencies?

I find in Jesus’ death and resurrection a definitive example of overcoming evil with good. By not returning evil for evil, he brought forth the ultimate victory over evil. I, as his follower, am challenged to carry on his example of good over evil in my daily life. When I think of the suffering and humiliation that Jesus went through, I realize that this is not going to be easy. Perhaps, I can simply trust God and do as the Apostle Paul exhorts in Romans 12:17, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”

Paul expands on this exhortation in the next few verses then concludes in verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Evil perpetuates evil. When I repay with evil, I will be overcome by evil. The only way to break the chain of evil is to avoid responding with evil. Now there’s an encouragement. Who wants to be overcome by evil?

Jesus gave an example of how I can overcome evil in Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other also.” So if I hit them back the situation escalates, and I perpetuate evil.

I know that these words challenge our basic nature. Yet, if we are to have victory over evil as Jesus did, we must avoid returning evil for evil, and overcome evil with good.

EQUALITY IN CHRIST JESUS

(Galatians 3:26-29) So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In the family of God we are all equal. Regardless of our current status, as a child of God we have complete equality. This is important because in this fallen world, we are not treated equally. We are evaluated by our ethnicity, social status, economic status, and even our gender, but this is not how God sees us.

God sees us as his children. And like the perfect father that he is, he loves us completely. He has made us heirs to all that is his. We are recipients of Abraham’s blessing as recorded in Genesis chapter 12. We have immense blessing as God’s children. We all receive eternal life, none are separated out, and all are equal.

Help me to see my fellow believers through your eyes Father, loving them, and treating them as equals.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – CONCLUSION

Romans 12:20-21(MSG) Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

 

Feeding the poor and hungry takes a new slant when applied to “my enemy”. Personally, I can’t think of anyone I’d call my enemy. There are obviously unnamed enemies looking to do harm generally, but they’re not people I know. I think this is more than about feeding and providing drink for my enemy. This is about perspective on a person who is against me, and it correlates directly to the concluding sentence of our scripture.

The last sentence of Romans chapter 12 concludes all the challenges I’ve talked about in my writings on living the Christian life. “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Unfortunately, the way I respond to evil is often with evil. When I respond to evil with evil, I obviously indulge evil. I often wind up doing greater evil than the evil that was done to me. When it is all over, I am often horrified by what I’ve done. Evil has gotten the best of me.

When I look over my past sins, I can see where doing something different would have been the better choice, yet in that moment my response was to lash out. As with all my attempts to live the Christian life, the reality is that I can’t do it without Jesus. I constantly need Jesus to guide me. Only with Jesus’ help can I get the best of evil by doing good.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 8

Romans 12: 17-19 (MSG) Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

In a church I used to attend, a strong willed lady came to our congregation. She immediately had the ear of the pastor, and she seemed to be taking over the church. I was concerned and found her ways offensive. At an evening prayer service, which it seemed that she had taken over, I was speaking to the Lord about her, and the Lord gave me a vision. He showed her to me as a little girl, and he said, “This is how I see her.”

With that vision, the Lord completely change my perspective on this lady. Every time I saw her, I saw that little girl. My concerns were allayed, and I was even able to receive some very helpful prayer from her.

I tell this story because only with Jesus was I able to see the beauty in this person. Personal relationships are best when they include Jesus. Isn’t it true that living the Christian Life can only be accomplished with Jesus? In John chapter 15, he tells us exactly that. Without him we can accomplish no good thing.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 7

Romans 12:14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great some-body.

As I think about the first sentence of this scripture I realize I have momentary enemies. These enemies are people in traffic who do rude and thoughtless things to my student drivers. They do things like lay on their horn while the new driver is trying think through a situation.

When these things happen the big brother in me rises up, and I want to jump out of the car and strangle them. I never act on this impulse, but I’m a long way from blessing them. Fortunately my anger quickly subsides as I’m reminded that this individual has probably had a rough day. I can then say a prayer for them. I’m still trying to get to the bless them part.

These three verses provide stimulation for us to look beyond ourselves and see the needs of those around us. Good relationships develop when we realize it’s not all about us. I’m very thankful that God’s Spirit is always there to help me get beyond myself. I always need his help.