Romans 12:9-18

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Prize #2 We must continue to choose between Good and Evil

Hate what is evil and hold fast to what is good. Do not be deceived. Practicing genuine love and living in God’s will means you will have to make a choice. We are faced with this choice at all times. But we are not left alone here; the Spirit intercedes for us and helps us, saints. There is a prize in choosing Good and not choosing Evil. The prize is not in receiving a reward because we chose the good. The prize is in the choice itself.

…Genuine love forces us to practice love in reality. We cannot make our love an abstract principle divorced from our everyday.

I’m not here to tell you every little detail of what is good and what is evil. What I can tell you is this. Evil injures. Evil kills. Evil destroys meaning. I will say this again. Evil intends to injure us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Evil intends to murder us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And evil intends to destroy our sense of meaning and purpose in the world. The good sustains and heals. The good gives life. And the good builds up purpose and places us in right relationship with the world around us. I will say it again as basically as I can. The good seeks to sustain and heal us emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The Good seeks to give and create life. The good seeks to give our lives meaning and purpose. We must choose the good, my brothers and sisters. This is the prize.

But what do we choose? Will we choose good or evil?

Brothers and sisters, we have to make a choice and then we will have to make more choices. We have already made this choice and we are making this choice. Genuine love calls us to make this choice. Will we choose good or evil, life or death, salvation or destruction? Don’t let anyone fool you; some Christians have done a disservice to this question by casting it in the mold of fire and brimstone. This question is open-ended and must be lived and answered every day. While our acceptance of Christ grants us access to God’s salvation, accepting Christ does not let us out of the everyday demands of this choice. You can accept Christ and still do evil. You can accept Christ and still kill. Folks who believe in God injure and kill all the time. This is why love must be genuine. Because genuine love forces us to practice love in reality. We cannot make our love an abstract principle divorced from our everyday. This is why scripture says it’s impossible to love God and hate your brother or sister.

Instead of overcoming evil by doing good, we often justify evil by making it good and necessary.

No, we must love God and our brothers and sisters. And we must love this world of ours. This is the prize, saints. This is the prize! We cannot have it both ways here. Life is indeed muddy and our decisions are not easy, but I want to be real here. The gospel demands me to be real here. There are things in this world that injure and kill and destroy purpose and hope. We cannot escape this. I cannot lie to you. There are people and systems and demonic forces that seek to injure and kill us and take away our hope. I need you, God needs you to understand that.

Hypocritical love makes an easy ally with evil. When our love is hypocritical, we rationalize the injury and the murder away. When our love is hypocritical, we try to give meaning to the meaningless. Let me say it another way: some might have seen the video of a teenage black girl in a swimsuit being thrown to the ground by her hair and sat on by law enforcement in McKinney TX. But there is a hypocrisy that allows those who have daughters to say, “she got what she deserved” even though they would never stand by and be cool with that happening to their daughters. This is what I mean when I say that we rationalize the injury away. When Native Americans were killed and their land was taken by European settlers, this genocide was justified by claiming that God was on the side of the victorious European settlers. This is what I mean when I say that we rationalize death away. In other words, we make the unreasonable, reasonable. We try to give absolute meaning to the meaningless. We try to give ultimate purpose to the purposeless. We try to make the very events of evil, good. Instead of overcoming evil by doing good, we often  justify evil by making it good and necessary. Some of us even do this out of love–love of country, love of group, love of family, etc– even though genuine love calls us to be truthful with reality.

…We are confused. We think that which injures and kills us is what gives us life. And sometimes we think that the good is what harms us and kills us.

Whether intentional or unintentional, we live in a world where evil lurks. (Brothers and sisters, don’t believe people when they tell you that the gospel cannot speak to today’s issues.) We must choose. This choice is the prize! How can choosing to resist evil and clinging to what is good be a prize? Because, saints, in choosing to resist evil and holding to what is good, we are placing ourselves in line with the will of God and saints who have walked before us. This is the prize, saints! Don’t you know that if we instilled this choice in our children then the world would be a better place?

But today, we are confused. We think that which injures and kills us is what gives us life. And sometimes we think that the good is what harms us and kills us. Don’t believe me? There are some folk who are still taking 15 minute showers everyday because it feels good even though we are in an epic drought. Can I get a witness? There are those who spend their hard-earned money and time chasing after what companies deem as beautiful and good, meanwhile they neglect those things that are meaningful and life-giving.

The best of our Scripture teaches us that God’s will is for us to live abundantly and in loving relationship with one another. But Scripture makes it clear that this is a choice. The book of Joshua narrates this choice in well-known fashion: “choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” But this choice was offered to us by Jesus when he declared what we still declare today: “The kingdom of God is at hand! Repent! And believe in the Good News!” There is a choice. Will we repent? Will we believe that the Kingdom of God is truly here? Will we turn away from all that injures and kills us? Will we turn away from those things that destroy our hope? Will we, do we believe, do we genuinely believe, trust, and hope that God’s kingdom is among us right here and now? Right now, God is offering us life and love. Choose!!! This is the prize, saints! This is the Prize!

© 2015 M. J. Sales

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