Updated: Mar 6, 2022
And the saddest thing is when it is believers attacking fellow believers. Honestly, the whole thing can be pretty depressing. By the time I finish scrolling through my Facebook feed, I’m just about ready to dig my backyard bomb shelter and hide inside with chocolate and pillows and a good book to await the end of the world.
But as believers, hiding isn’t really our calling. So how then are we supposed to deal with times like these?
Times when hatred seems to be a pile of dry wood, awaiting only the slightest spark to set it off; when divisions seem to be chasms, yawning wider, deeper, and more impassable by the moment; when suffering tears through our streets, our towns, our cities, and around the world; when hurts fester deep within age old wounds that have never truly healed.
How are we to respond?
I happened across a passage in Romans 12 today that really struck home. Actually, considering that the political climate in Rome during the time when Paul was writing (AD 56-57—Nero was emperor at the time) was even worse than what we are seeing in our nation today, there is a lot in the book of Romans that is applicable. But this passage stood out to me enough that I wanted to share it with you today.
“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. 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. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” – Romans 12:9-16a
How do we respond to difficult times? By continuing to live our lives worthy of the calling we have received (Eph 4:1-3), and allowing that calling to bleed out into every aspect of our lives. There isn’t time for a full sermon here, which is what these verses deserve, but I think there are some important principles that we can apply to our lives.
Love must be sincere. Genuine. Without hypocrisy or exaggeration. It is easy to say that you love your fellowman (or fellow-woman), but in the midst of a heated discussion or in response to offensive or insulting remarks, what attitude do you really display?
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. There is a reason, I think, that we’re told to not just hate evil but to cling to good. Because one without the other is not enough. Only hating evil may lead us to become angry, bitter, judgmental, and self-righteous. Only clinging to what is good may lead us to become weak in our stance on our convictions and unable to speak against the evil in the world.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Unfortunately, these are not always the words that best describe my responses to the situations and circumstances that unfold before me. Our world is so evidently broken, and yet we can have joy because of the eternal hope that we have. Our response to affliction should be one of patience, because we know that it is but a light and momentary thing in comparison to the glory to come (2 Cor 4:17-18). And faithfulness in prayer denotes a habit, rather than just falling desperately to our knees when circumstances get tough.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. One of the greatest witnesses that we as followers of Christ can have in this dark world is to love our enemies as Christ did. Around the world, Christ-followers are living and dying in this calling and actually praying for and witnessing to their persecutors. That is a truly supernatural love. It leaves me saddened when I then consider how many times I have been frustrated in simple disagreements—a far cry from persecution—and responded in a way that was not a great witness for Christ’s love.
Live in harmony with one another. Harmony signifies an internal calm. No discord. It doesn’t mean we will all look and sound alike. In fact, you can’t have harmony between the same notes. A rich symphony blends many different instruments and complementary melodies and harmonic notes to create a beautiful sound. A cohesive whole. Out of all the things that Jesus could have prayed for His disciples and for all believers on the night before He was crucified, He prayed for unity. That we would be one, like He and the Father and the Holy Spirit are one (John 17:20-23)
I’ll leave you with one final verse:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21
Too often, we live as if evil has triumphed and isn’t just thrashing about in its death throes. Evil was struck a fatal blow two thousand years ago, by the God-Man bleeding out on a cross. Today, we are able to withstand evil and overcome it with good, because Good in the form of Christ has already triumphed.
So we are empowered to respond to a broken world in love, grace, and humility, overcoming evil with good, to the glory of God in heaven.