Peace, lots of things come to mind with that word. As a child of the 70’s that word was quite popular as was the sign that goes with it. What does this word mean to you? The best definition I found was the word, Harmony. However, one word definitions beg for more definition. I have no doubt that we all want peace, but on what or whose terms? …….Generally ours and ours.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church he begins with a customary greeting. At face value it might seem like nothing of importance; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ ~ 1 Corinthians 1:3. Notice the order of the two greetings, Grace then Peace. Paul uses this greeting 35 times in his writings. While seemingly insignificant it makes a huge statement. Grace must always come before Peace. If we are to live in peace with ourselves we must first accept the Grace that is offered by Christ. If we are to live in peace with others we must extend grace to them. Linski said, “without Grace there can and be no Peace”. Like so many other things in life, when we seek peace on our terms it rarely happens. However, when we surrender and seek peace through God’s grace, it is always granted! Amen!
As Paul concluded his letter to the Romans he mentions by name those in Rome that have been an integral part of the Church there. He thanks them for their service and sacrifice to spread the gospel, asking that these people are given the respect their contributions deserve. However there was one name he mentions in a different vein. Romans 16:10b- Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. Why doesn’t it read, “Greet Aristobulus and his family”? The thought here is that Aristobulus was not a believer but his family was. Since he was the head of the house he is named but only for the purpose of identification, not in the reverence that the other names were mentioned.
Unfortunately this is a scenario that we see far too often in the church today. Mothers and children attend church while fathers choose not to. We wonder why the church, nay this country, isn’t as strong as it once was and it’s staring us right in the face. Men are not leading their families in the way that God has called us to.
Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Every once in a while men need a good gut check, so here goes. Are you leading your family as you have been called to? Do you stay at home while the rest of your family is seeking a relationship with Christ. Regardless of how you see it each and everyday you are setting an example for your family. Don’t be a “do as I say, not as I do” leader. Be a man that sets the bar for your family to follow.
1 Peter 5:3 – Not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
At our core we are selfish minded people. There’s not a day that goes by where we don’t think and/or act on the “what about me” principal. I was listening to Dennis Prager the other day who was speaking on this very subject. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Prager he is one of the most clear thinkers of our time, a modern day philosopher. He was discussing Happiness and how we make a choice to be happy. When challenged by a caller about this being relevant or even possible, he pointed to the example of going to work every day. There are many who love their job, myself included but given a choice we would prefer not to get up early and go to work, but for the most part we all do. We choose to go to work, we choose to be happy.
It comes down to the question of what’s best for us? Paul brilliantly makes this argument in Romans 15. When we invest in acts of selfishness we see two things, a fast payoff and what I’ll call “buyers remorse”. In other words, satisfaction gained through selfish acts is short lived and rarely meaningful. Paul urges us to invest in others and points to the cumulative affect of doing so.
Romans 15:4 – For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. David Guzik sums this up very well in his commentary; This goes against the whole tenor of our times, which counsels people to “look out for number 1” and despises those who live lives of real sacrifice for the sake of others. Yet, undeniably Paul points the way to true happiness and fulfillment in life – get your eyes off of yourself, start building up others and you will find yourself built up.
We truly must choose to die to our selfish desires and put others needs before our own. It’s tough, but meaningful things are rarely uninvolved. Are you looking for more meaning in your life? Is happiness a struggle for you? If so, take Paul’s instruction to heart and a meaningful life isn’t far behind. Romans 15:2 – Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.
Over the last year we have seen our country divided by the political process. I can’t remember a time when it was this vociferous. Friendships have been broken, harsh words spoken to people we don’t even know. I’ve been guilty of this. Social media provides a platform for things we probably wouldn’t say in person. We all become a little more brave hiding behind a keyboard.
Not to ignore such differences but don’t we still have much more in common than where we differ? I choose to believe this and the hope that I have in Christ tells me it is so.
In Romans 14 Paul speaks of the petty differences in religious eating practices that were used to defame one another in his day. He also infers that this led to further judgement of other religious practices. The context of these words is based on religious differences but I believe Jesus would have us extend this to all people and circumstance. Regardless of what side of any issue you’re on we’re called to rise above. We must consciously choose to extend the branch of acceptance and peace. Romans 14:19 – So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Today you have choices to make. Some will be fairly mundane, like which shoes you picked out; others will carry a little more weight. In other words, some choices are solely preferential others are motivated by what we know to be right and wrong. I can tell you with a high degree of certainty that I will exceed the posted speed limit today. There’s a possibility that that decision could lead to consequences. From a very early age we are taught what is right and wrong. This is enhanced by the gift of conscience God bestows on us all. So while we may be taught that something like theft is wrong, we innately know it to be so. That “still small voice” thing is God’s love steering us away from ruin. We live in a world full of man made rules and laws and we are subject to abide by them. Know and be comforted by the fact that there is no authority or byproduct there of, that God has not set in place for our good. Romans 13:5 – Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
I love God’s perfect timing. Like many people, the end of the year brings a time of reflection for me. In the same breath we look to what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I’m not much for Resolutions but last year one of my goals was to learn the Spanish language. In my ignorance I looked at it like someone saying I want to learn to drive. I have since found that learning to speak Spanish isn’t that cut and dried. I’ve made a lot of progress but I still can’t hold much of a conversation.
So what’s in store for 2017? I’ll definitely be continuing my journey into the Spanish language but what about the bigger picture? What are some things I could do that would work to shape my entire life? In God’s perfect timing I opened up Romans 12 this morning. In this chapter, Paul has laid out everything I need to do to be the best I can be in 2017 and beyond.
Romans 12:9-21 – 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.
What are your goals for the coming year? No doubt you have things that you’d like to accomplish and that’s a good thing. As believers in God’s word we should hold fast to what Paul has given us to consider. In doing so remembering and rejoicing in what God has promised, And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God. ~ Deuteronomy 28:2
Note: I began reading Romans in Sept. Like everyone my schedule ebs and flows and I have learned not to force my Bible study. God always has a plan and aligning this chapter for this time period is a wonderful example of such.