Thursday of Advent 1 – Romans 13:8-14

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

We danced around the subject for a few moments with niceties, but eventually we had to get the matter. Several of us were rather nervous about this. In real terms, the fellow we were talking to had been wronged. He had put forward some really good ideas that had been ignored. Now, pressured by the very things which he had warned us about, we were implementing many of his ideas, but he was not going to get credit for them. He truly had a reason to be upset about this. We had not listened to his wise counsel. To our immense relief, he was not upset. He was just glad that things were moving ahead. He did not need credit or applause; he wanted what was best for our project.

Did you read that little zinger Paul put into verse 13? He likes to pull this little rhetorical device on us and if you are aware of it, you will find it other places in his letters. When he starts a list of sinful things we should not be doing, he always starts off with some dramatic things. Here it is orgies and drunkenness. My guess is that if you are reading these devotions, you are not engaging in too many orgies. But now Paul has us all nodding our heads and saying to ourselves, “Yes, do not do these things!” It is at the end of the list that he catches us. For as we are all nodding in agreement, he puts quarreling and jealousy there. I know a lot of people who sit in pews on a weekly basis who struggle with this. I struggle with this. If you nodded your agreement at the beginning of the list, you must concur with the end of the list.

Paul believes that Jesus’ death and resurrection has made a positive difference at the very core of our lives. We have been reorganized along another principle than that of the world. In the first paragraph of this reading, he identifies it for us: Love. The world would dominate and exert power over other people. But God, though he has great power, does not dominate us. Rather, in Christ, He has subjected himself to death for our sake. He has lost all to win us. But being God’s people, we are now drawn to His nature and His way of doing things.

The good man who did not put himself at the center of the picture but rather put the ministry of Christ’s kingdom there is an example of what I mean. He did not quarrel nor was he jealous of recognition that rightly belonged to him. He had emptied himself in a small way to be like our Lord Jesus.

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