Archive for March 1st, 2010

*This article is the second in a three part series. You can find the first part here: Transforming Faith.

Being a student and minister, there are times when I am required to speak or write about a subject or passage of scripture that I don’t feel particularly inspired about. This is especially difficult as my heart for others increases because I want to have tremendous passion, empathy, sympathy, conviction, creativity, etc. about the things that can and should matter in their lives. I know that all scripture is useful to the community of believers in a variety of ways, but it doesn’t always connect with me strongly (or I don’t connect with it) all the time or for every passage. In my own process of growth I have come to the understanding that those strong and loving responses come during the periods I am spending more time reading, praying, and listening and when I am spending more time with others. Despite my efforts to do both, I am experiencing what many would call a dry spell. So I asked for something to write about. Romans 12:15 was offered up and I accepted. Partly because I needed direction, partly because I love God’s Word even when I don’t feel great feelings, partly because I’m looking to regain some discipline, some passion, something, and partly because it sounded like something I might actually be able to connect to right now. It wasn’t… at first.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. 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 God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 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 everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:9-21 (Emphasis mine.)

Why did I keep coming back to it?
I wrestle with God’s word to keep from wrestling with others. I actively engage the word to keep from ignoring the world around me. It is through struggling to understand, struggling to connect, struggling to apply that I find deep meaning… not just in understanding intellectually, but in understanding deep inside the heart. Understanding better who I am and how I live. Understanding better who other people are and what steps I need to take to love them the way Christ has loved me. Sometimes that means days of reflection, other times weeks. Usually it means mulling over the thoughts and convictions for months until I am able to digest and internalize the truth.

What have I learned?
I’ve always been kind of an emotionally detached person when it comes to sympathy for others. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep is hard work for me. That doesn’t mean I am not happy for others when they are happy, or that I am not sorry for others when they hurt. It means that for me, those responses are more intellectual than they are a feeling or emotion. I’m terrible at empathy, and sympathy is often hard work for me. The reason I know this about myself is because I really do care. I don’t care so much about whether or not a person gets what they want. In fact, I’m a little harsh when it comes to that. But I do care about the needs and growth of others and because I care about those things, I care about how my interactions and relationships with other people impacts their lives.

What causes three adults, whose job it is to look out for the well being of others, to stand around and watch as a young teenage girl is beaten, robbed, and has her head stomped on repeatedly? Their employer said that they are just there to observe and report illegal activity and that they are now revising their employee guidelines/instructions. Are we any better when somebody tells us about a problem or need and we wish them well but do not take action? Is Paul telling us to respond emotionally to the events in the lives of others? If you only act because you respond emotionally, your life will be tossed about by whomever and whatever can make those emotions surface in you. Is Paul being literal, or do you think that he wants us to take time to share in other’s lives? Wedding and funeral customs of the time period were often week long events. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

How have I grown?
Come back Wednesday and read part three to see how this passage connected with me.

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