Peace in Community

Romans 12:14-17

 

The Carnegie Technological Institute has stated that 90% of all people who fail in their life’s career fail because they cannot get along with people.  The harsh truth of life is that you can’t please everybody. But since people are social creatures and most careers involve some form of interpersonal interaction, you have to learn how to get along. This becomes essential for the Christian on two fronts: first, we need to understand that everyone is made in God’s image and deserves respect; second, the good news of the gospel is shared through relationships. As we continue in our series on peace, today will focus on being agents of peace in our community.

Imagine if you will someone you work with or in your family that is difficult to get Modern along with or makes your life difficult. Now hold that image in your mind and listen to Paul from Romans 12:14-17 (New Living Translation). Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such Peace a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

Are you kidding? You don’t know the person I am imagining! They would make the pope curse. You want me to bless them? To pray that God will bless them? You want me to live in harmony with them? Well, yes – that is precisely what God is wholesale nfl jerseys asking us to do.

It is easy to curse those who oppose us or who seem to want to make life difficult. Bitterness can easily set in when we feel our value is threatened when people oppose us. It becomes even more subtle when we know they misunderstand or are being directly malicious. Violence has a way of sucking its victims into cycles of violence and making its own disciples. It can be hard keeping one’s spirituality sufficiently centered not to drift into such actions or attitudes. To bless our enemies is not to condone their actions, but it is never to lose sight of their humanity and dignity as persons (12:14).

Living this way is not easy and it is not an easy resolution to keep. It includes recognizing what is not love, namely evil and then resisting its influence. The good we are to hold close to is defined by love, not by a set of rules. It is not about not doing anything wrong, but about living from compassion.

There are vast differences between Christianity and other religions. The uniqueness of Christianity stands out most boldly in the way we treat our enemies. After the death Stalin in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the leader of the Communist Party in Russia from 1954-1964. He understood this and graphically illustrated the difference between Communism and Christianity with this paraphrased remark: “The difference between Christianity and Communism is great. When someone strikes you (Christians) on the face, you turn the other cheek. If you strike me on the face, I’ll hit you so hard your head will fall off.”

Sadly, even in the church, this attitude of revenge or violence is alive and well. Christians attempt to justify their anger or behavior by calling it righteous indignation, but in reality we are being tempted to “get even” against those who mistreat us or whose behavior we don’t like. This is not a new or unique problem for people seeking to follow God. These precepts are found in the very first guidelines for living given by God called the Ten Commandments.

The last six of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17), state our duty to ourselves and to one another, and explain the great commandment, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, Lu 10:27.

The fifth commandment concerns the duties we owe to our relations. Honor your father and your mother, includes esteem of them, shown in our conduct. The sixth commandment requires that we regard the life and the safety of others as we do our own. Passions, stirred up by anger or by drunkenness, are no excuse: This command forbids all envy, malice, hatred, or anger, all provoking or insulting language. This commandment Ideas requires a spirit of kindness, longsuffering, and forgiveness.

The seventh commandment offers respect concerning personhood, that people are more than just sex objects. It respects the sanctity of marriage, sexuality, faithfulness in relationships and family. It is a call to self-control in relationships.

The eighth commandment is the law of love as it respects the property of others. It says that things which we own through our own efforts are what we are to be grateful for and content with. We are called to trust God for our future.

The ninth commandment concerns our own and our neighbor’s good name. This forbids speaking falsely on any matter, and in any way devising or designing to deceive our neighbor. Speaking unjustly against our neighbor, to hurt his reputation. Bearing false witness against him, or in common conversation slandering, backbiting, and gossiping, and in any way attempting to raise our reputation by ruining our neighbor’s.

As clear, consistent, Family and emphatic as the teaching of scripture may be, it is not popular for it runs opposite to the desires of our flesh. We are tempted to try to find a way to excuse ourselves from simple obedience to the commands of the Word of God. We need to be on guard against this temptation

In 1996, former President Jimmy Carter wrote a book called Living Faith. Known for his deep religious convictions, and in some places mocked during his presidency for his declaration that he was a born-again Christian, he was something of a curiosity as President. In the opening pages, he writes: “To me faith is not only a noun, but also a verb.” He went on to say, “In Christian tradition, the concept of faith has two interrelated meanings: confidence in God and action based on firm belief.”

I suppose being a Christian would be a lot easier if it only involved that solitary relationship with God and did not involve an engagement with the world and its needs and its evils or involvement with others in all their imperfections. On the other hand, I’ve met some Christians who seem more comfortable with the engagement of the world, but find little time to spend with God.

As we imagined that person who was creating conflict in our life, it was hard to hear the scripture in Romans and imagine doing things for that person or persons. It challenged me to not repay evil for evil–living in harmony with one another and doing good to one’s enemies. I mean, “Come on–doing good to one’s enemies. I’m Christian, but….” In that simple exercise we find that President Carter is correct. Faith is not just a noun but a verb as well. It is what you do as well as who you are. It is who cheap jerseys online you are as well as what you do.

I was reading a blog Smartphones by Wess Daniels, pastor of Camas Friends in Washington, this week and found a great video. (view video)

This is a video of what is known as a flash mob. “A flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief cheap mlb jerseys time, and then quickly disband. It’s a picture of a group of people working together towards a common goal; in this instance it’s having fun with a dance in a large public area. They are not hierarchical but rather everyone works on equal ground, coming together to do certain functions or to fulfill a goal and to often make a statement. And in another way, it’s pretty obvious that someone put time and practice into this dance, choreography was essential to make this a beautiful display of art.

There were 200 dancers involved who rehearsed twice, as a part of a role call for the lead role in the musical “The Sound of Music.” They had a goal: to perform well, get the word out, find a lead, and obviously to have some fun!

This dance group is completely visible; it’s out in the open and easily seen and heard. This public part of the group is the physical demonstration of their community, it’s the result of them working together, practicing, and planning. When they finally get together you get to see just what it means to be a part of that group.

It is as Paul says at the beginning of Romans 12 – “present your bodies as living sacrifices” not simply to this or that cause, but to the way of Jesus. This “present your bodies” is the physical aspect of the Gospel. Paul is saying that your convictions will get lived out in the material physical world.

I am amazed by the number of people I meet both within and outside the church who tell me that faith is a private matter. If Christianity is just about spiritual things, things that only affect the inside, then we can keep living and doing as we are in a way that doesn’t rub against this world or cost us anything. And yet, as we saw in this video, when the church lives out its calling, what it has gathered to do, it will be noticed. It will be in done as much in private as it is in the open.

I love what happened in the central station in Antwerp. You can see the travelers going from one place to another and everything looks normal. Our dancers even blend in (which is significant to the act), you can’t see where there are or even who they are until they join together to do the work for which they assembled. An important parallel I see here is that their dance, their choreography exhibits itself in a way that is a stark contrast. They are not just travelers passing in a station anymore, they are uniting in a purpose.

Again, in Romans 12 Paul writes “do not be conformed to the pattern of this world,” that is, don’t be caught trying to blend into the world too much because the task to which you’re called is going to require an entire transformation of how you think, how you see, how you act, how you live, and who you interact with. You can’t “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” or follow Paul’s command to “Not repay anyone evil for evil” while still trying to blend into the world. These contrasts may actually inspire others, cause laughter, prompt people to take videos, pictures, etc. because they are astounded.

Paul is offering something similar to create our own flash mob. “When you join together, do these things.” It seems to me that Paul is outlining the choreography for how the church lives out its purposes in our community. When I read it this way I feel inspired. I want to live this way. I want to live with people living this way. This is the kind of Christianity I believe in. This is the choreography of our community. It’s the shape, the form, it’s what we’re working for (even if we don’t always get it right – one of the dance steps is mercy, and another forgiveness).

I like what Wess Daniels said on his blog about this video: “Trust Jesus on this – a light cannot be hidden. Once we are in touch with giving glory to God, it automatically turns on a light – kind of like one of those light-sensitive switches that automatically turns on the lamp as the sun goes down.

What if you took a spiritual risk and brought your little light out from under a basket one night and the wind blew it out (meaning it didn’t go well)? It counts. Why? Because you had the intention of bringing glory to God for the sake of others. In so doing you were cooperating with God’s intention for you.” I like that.

When we cooperate with God, we take steps down the right path, the practice of praising God in a way that others experience as for their own good. We connect with God’s light, which gives our life light. Like a city on a hill our light cannot – and will not – be hid. The focus here is on what kind of person I am becoming in Christ.

Todd Hunter relates a story in his book Giving Church Another Chance, about the power of being a light.

“While ministering at the Vineyard Church in Anaheim, California, we had a blackout during one of our services. An automobile accident knocked out a power line to our building. There were Jimmy! approximately three thousand people in the room and close to a thousand children in the area behind the sanctuary. For a reason I cannot remember, the emergency lights failed too.

Sitting in the front row of the church, I was only a dozen steps from the hallway leading to the children, but the darkness was so overwhelming and disorienting that it was difficult groping my way there.

When I finally reached the door that led to a long hallway, I saw a mother who had a small wholesale jerseys flashlight on her key chain had beat me to the door and was making her way to her children. Her small light didn’t illumine the whole hallway, but it reoriented the whole scary moment for me. Soon others found emergency flashlights in the classrooms, and still others shined their car headlights through the classroom windows. We got all the kids out to safety.

After about five or ten minutes I made my way back to the sanctuary. It looked like a 1960’s rock concert, as all the baby boomers had gotten out their Bic lighters and were Greatest waving them around as if “Hey Jude” was being performed by the Beatles. As funny as that was, what I still remember twenty years later is the enormous power of that mom’s flashlight to bring hope and orientation to a seriously unnerving moment. The light of Christ in a worshiping human being cannot be hid.”

When we begin to live peacefully and be agents of peace to our community, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces we become places of light that can help reorient people in their relationship with others. The church becomes like the flash mob, we move and look like all the travelers around us until we began to act together following the commands of God and then we stand out in a graceful dance. A dance not designed to entertain or amuse but show God’s love and purpose for all mankind and present an invitation for others to join us in this dance. May we dance gracefully this week for God’s glory and others good.