Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Romans 12:9-21

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.

More thoughts for meditation

This week, we are using The Violence of Love by Oscar Romero to explore conversion to Christ and the subsequent actions for justice and peace that must follow. We’ll listen to what the slain Archbishop had to say to his people in a time of great violence, injustice, and uncertainty. And we’ll pray together from “A Step Along the Way,” which was composed by Bishop Ken Untener in honor of Romero and helps us to set aside anxiety, arrogance, or apathy as we journey with one another and with Jesus.   

From Romero’s homily on September 10, 1978:

“Whoever fulfills the duty of love fulfills the whole law,” says St. Paul. “You shall not steal, you shall not kill, you shall do no wrong to another—all this is contained in one phrase: you shall love your neighbor.” If there were love of neighbor there would be no terrorism, no repression, no selfishness, none of such cruel inequalities in society, no abductions, no crimes. Love sums up the law. Not only that, it gives Christian meaning to all human relations. Even those who call themselves atheists, when they are humane, fulfill the essence of the relationship that God wants among human beings: Love. Love gives plenitude to all human duties, and without love justice is only the sword. With love, justice becomes a brother’s embrace. Without love, laws are arduous, repressive, cruel, mere policemen. But when there is love—security forces would be superfluous; there would be no jails or tortures, no will to beat anyone.

Sandwiched in between two detailed accounts of what love looks like in action, Paul’s letter to the Romans contains an admonition for Christ-followers to “be subject to the governing authorities…those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.” It’s a small passage that can be used to promote passive acceptance of injustice. It seems to really stick out, as if Paul is saying: “Do all of these unquestionably good things and behave in these generous ways. Do whatever bad people tell you to, because God put them in power for a reason. The whole law is: love your neighbor.”

Is it possible to read these passages together, as a cohesive unit? Just before the infamous “governing authorities” verses, Paul has suggested that followers of Christ, “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Many Jesus followers all along the political spectrum are worried that the government under which they live today will require us to do or behave in ways that are counter to our faith. In that way, we aren’t very different from the early Christians.

Romero reminds us that “love gives plenitude to all human duties.” Love gives abundance to all human duties. Love makes all human duties full, complete. When we act out of love, we are within the law. If our love looks like resisting authority, we ought to ask ourselves if our motivation is love or just being contrary. If love is what drives us, we’ll be doing what is good.  

Suggestions for action

Pray: Help me, Lord, to take the long view as I discern how you are calling me to love all of my neighbors.

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”