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.
— Romans 12. 9-18 NRSV
This passage from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Rome is among my very favorite. In some Bibles you will see a heading above it that reads, “The Marks of the True Christian.” As I read through these words again it strikes me that so often we want to find answers for our lives—past, present and future—outside of us. We try to find answers to the problems we face in our families, churches, schools, cities, nation and in the world by pointing at others and blaming them or calling on them to be super-humans and fix everything.
The Apostle Paul had a very different idea of where we find answers for the challenges and problems we face. He gives specific instructions to the people he was pastoring in Rome and also to us. Notice how the passage is filled with action verbs: hold fast, do not lag, rejoice, be patient, bless, and so on. Paul is clear that we, you and I, are to take responsibility, participating with God, in creating a better world.
As I look at the current political landscape in the United States, these words of the Apostle Paul ring in my ears. I believe people of faith are called upon to look for these qualities and characteristics Paul lists for us, as we go to the polls. Are the people we are voting for loving genuinely, holding fast to what is good, showing honor, extending hospitality to strangers, associating with the lowly, and so far as it depends on them living peaceably with all? Those who at least try to do this will be people I will vote for come November.
In the meantime, and it does seem like we are living in mean times, I will turn the microscope on my own living and see where and how I am doing the things Paul admonishes us to do, and where I have failed. So, I wonder if you would join me in this journey of seeking to become a true Christian. Perhaps then we might receive the blessing that the Apostle Paul offers later in his letter, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” May it be so.