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Wingfield: Authentic love is tough to get right

Wingfield: Authentic love is tough to get right

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Have you ever read Romans 12:9-21?

It says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 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. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

If only we could get this one right. If we could get this passage of Scripture right, there would be no adultery, no racism, no suicide, no fighting, no drug abuse. We wouldn’t need all the pills we take to be happy, the vacations we take that we can’t afford or the hours upon hours of Netflix we watch. We wouldn’t worry or fret or be anxious.

If we could just get this short list right, there would be no reason to protest or boycott or shame. There wouldn’t be such a thing as “white privilege” or “virtue signaling” or “racial injustice.” There would be no fighting over masks or no masks, this church or that church, this approach or that approach.

This passage, of course, is from the Bible. It was written by God specifically for the purpose of instructing his people how to live lives that honor him, but it is the standard rule for holy living for all people.

In other words, even those who scoff at God’s words or flat out deny His existence will still be held accountable for how well they kept each of these commands when they are judged by God. They hold special significance for Christians, though, as we Christians are not only told to live by this code, we are expected to live by it. Even better, we are empowered by God to live by it — we can actually do it.

Well, we can sort of actually do it. The Scripture tells us that before we were God’s children, we were bound to sin- it was just part of our nature. Now that we are temples of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, however, we don’t ever have to sin again. All we have to do to never sin again is to continually submit to the leading of God, over and over.

Of course, I don’t know anyone who always does what it is that he or she is supposed to. Even the most obedient, most compliant Christian fails to do things he or she ought to and fails to refrain from doing or thinking things he or she ought not to do.

Even so, this is a good list. I challenge anyone to find fault with “hating what is evil,” or “outdoing one another in showing honor.” I wonder who would disagree that it is a good thing to “be patient in tribulation” and to “weep with those who weep.”

You don’t have to be a Christian to see the value of these commands, to recognize how much better a world we would be living in if we could all just keep them.

Thankfully, while we were still committing acts of wickedness, while we were ignoring the parts of this list that we didn’t like, God showed his love for us anyway, sending his son to put on human flesh and die a horrible death in our place. He became the substitute for all who would call on him for salvation when he took upon himself every awful thing we’d done and gave us His obedience.

In other words, he kept this list perfectly, even when we couldn’t, and God sees his obedience as ours, if we only believe. What a deal!

Mark Wingfield, pastor of First Baptist Church in Grottoes, is a columnist for The News Virginian.

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