Be vigilant, Christian: the night is far gone and the day is at hand. #warfare
Romans 13:12 “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.”
On a particularly dark night, when it is difficult to see two feet into the distance, a young soldier watches with diligence. He waits eagerly for the coming light on the horizon, signaling the sun’s entrance, which when it comes will completely wipe the darkness from the sky and with it the danger of an encroaching enemy. So interested in expressing the importance of this reality in the Christian life, Paul draws on this military metaphor. The Christian lives now in that “in-between” moment, waiting eagerly for that beautiful dawn when the glory of Christ comes to earth. The night is far gone in that Christ came. Day is at hand in that He will come again. With that truth in the forefront, Paul again draws on a military metaphor reminding us that the battle we fight while here is indeed a battle. We must be armed with “the armor of light,” the accoutrements of our King, and “cast off the works of darkness,” the schemes and devices of the enemy. Paul desperately wants us to see the reality of the war we are in while we wait, a war that requires our constant vigilance. The dawn of eternal day is almost here, and while we anticipate its coming, we arm ourselves with weapons of light as we do battle with the forces of darkness.
Study/Meditation: Military metaphors are some of Paul’s favorites to use. Read 2 Corinthians 6:3-10, Ephesians 6:13-17, and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. What do all of these passages have in common and what is Paul’s main point in them? How must you practically employ all that he says?
*Father, I wait eagerly for the day when Christ comes. Help me live vigilantly as a soldier of the light as I wait. Amen.
Christians live and love with eternity in mind. #love
Romans 13:11 “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.”
Have you ever found it difficult to love someone, even though you know that as a Christian it is what you are called to do? It could be betrayal or anger or ambivalence on one side of the relationship or the other, but either way love seems almost impossible to give to that person. Paul gives us incentives to put away whatever hindrances block that love and think eschatologically as Christians. In other words, we live today knowing both that there is a glorious end and that it is nearer today than it was yesterday. Christians are called to live with Jesus in mind, to live in light of the fact that when He returns for His children, it will be as if we awaken from a lifetime of slumber to the marvelous reality of eternity with Him. That moment will be the final culmination of our salvation, and our eyes must be set on that prize, not on whatever trivial and temporal situations plague us now on this earth. What Paul is actually calling us to is to live in light of where we will be, not where we are, and to live knowing that the day is drawing near when we will truly go home. Let us live by the words of this great hymn by Helen Lemmel: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” (“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” Helen Lemmel, 1922)
Study/Meditation: Read Luke 12:13-21. How does this parable relate to Paul’s reminder in Romans 13:11?
*Father, give me a heart to love even those I find unlovable. Forgive me when I fail at this and remind me that my eyes are to always be set on You and eternity in heaven. Amen.
How does loving your neighbor fulfill God’s law? #loveyourneighbor
Romans 13:9-10 “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.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Probably one of the most widely familiar commands within the Bible is the commandment to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Believers and unbelievers alike refer to this creed as one of acceptable, moral behavior. However, what were Moses and Jesus and Paul actually saying? First, the commandment is not a call to love yourself first so that you can love others. There is nothing in the gospel or the Old Testament that commands us to self-love. As a matter of fact, the Bible clearly states that the prerequisite to loving others is to first know the saving love of God. When you have experienced His providential saving grace, then you are filled up to the point of being able to love another. We are called to be completely “other-centered” in our love and never “self-centered.” Secondly, when Paul recites the second table commandments, commandments 5-10, he is reciting those that specifically have to do with how we treat others. He is reminding us that love is embodied not only in and just because of emotion, but more importantly it is encompassed in our actions. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Love is demonstrated in action, and therefore it is a fulfilling of the law which requires correct action.
Study/Meditation: How does loving others fulfill God’s law?
*Father, thank You for loving me so that I might be saved. Thank You that in doing so You gave me the ability to love others. Help me see how I should fulfill Your law by correctly loving my fellow man. Amen.
Pay your debts and be done, but never be done with love. #love
Romans 13:8 “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Keeping civil law and subjecting ourselves to civil authorities is really about how we project the nature of Christ to the world. Paul is continuing in this avenue now by moving on to how we must also treat those in the world. When he writes, “Owe no one anything,” he isn’t saying that Christians aren’t to borrow money. The phrase is more accurately translated as, “Do not continue owing; pay your debts.” In other words, our witness is damaged if we leave debts unpaid; we must continue to pay them until they are met. When he follows that with “except to love each other,” he is saying that there is one debt that is never discharged—loving others. We can pay off all of our loans and credit cards, but we must never believe that we have loved enough to be finished with it. Paul is speaking directly to the love we show to our neighbors here, not just to our fellow brethren. To “fulfill the law” means that we have given to the law the full measure of what is required. We are called upon to apply our Christian neighbor love to all of our societal relationships, thus meeting the fullest requirements of Mosaic Law. In this way, as with our responses to civil government, we are projecting the nature of Christ in all aspects of our lives.
Study/Meditation: In what ways do you fulfill the law by showing love in a continuing manner to the world? Why do you think this is so important for the Christian?
*Father, help me reflect You to the world in the way that I treat them. Let Your love be the thing that they see, even if they do not return it. Amen.
Should Christians pay taxes? #citizenship
Romans 13:6-7 “For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
It is an historical precedent among mankind to dislike paying taxes. It’s not new today, and it wasn’t new in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. The objections were also quite similar, especially among Christians. Often Christians object to paying their taxes, sometimes refusing to do so, because they disagree with how the government is run or spends their tax dollars. It was no different in Rome thirty years after the death of Jesus, and in some ways it was even worse. People were required to pay a tax that was used as a form of worship of Caesar who was instituted as a god. While Jesus lived on this earth, taxes were collected by an extortioner hired by the Roman government to line his own pockets. Christians, including Jesus’ own disciples, questioned whether or not they should pay these taxes that went to support a government that was corrupt and often immoral. The same questions arise today, so what answer does the Bible give us? Paul points out, “You also pay taxes.” Jesus explained to Peter in Matthew 17 that although our citizenship is in heaven, in order “not to give offense to them,” we pay taxes. (Matthew 17:24-27) In other words, we know we have a higher calling and an eternal citizenship on which our focus must lie. We submit to the laws of this land out of submission to our King, and we obey those same laws so that we might bring focus onto that very same King and not on our own disobedience.
Study/Meditation: Read Matthew 22:15-22. How does what Jesus said to the Pharisees in this passage support what Paul instructs in Romans 13:6-7?
*Father, I submit to You and subject myself to You. Help me to make all of my actions and my life reflect that I am a citizen of Your eternal Kingdom. Amen.
When my mother was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, I was thousands of miles away, living in Japan. I struggled with why God allowed such a devastating diagnosis to come three weeks after my Marine husband left for a six-month deployment. Why this? Why now? When I’m so far away?
We all face challenges that make us feel alone, to wonder how we will make it through the wilderness of hardship. Fear can tempt us to forget God’s love and care.
We are not alone.
“The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness where you saw how the LORD your God carried you, just as a man carries his son, in all the way which you have walked until you came to this place’” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31).
What a clear picture of the love of God. Embedded in these words are principles of God’s love in the trials and transitions we wander through:
Grab hold of this truth and don’t let go.
But for all this.
“But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go” (Deuteronomy 1:32-33).
I am haunted by Moses’ words, “But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God…”
I forget God has been good and faithful in every hard thing.
Don’t let insecurity overwhelm you.
So often in scripture these same concepts and patterns play out in our lives. The details of the situation may change, but the principle resonates through time, out of the pages of ancient writings and into the details of our challenge.
When we face difficulty we can choose to trust God and move forward, believing He loves us and will help us.
Do you need to pray?
If you face a situation where your emotions and doubts are getting the best of you, join me in this prayer:
Lord, forgive me that I have been discontent and fearful about_________. Change my perspective so that I can move forward and enter into what you have for me. I ask you to give me this place, to make it my own and to possess what you have for me here.
I speak your word to myself: do not fear. You are going before me and you will fight on my behalf. I believe you will help me through this challenge as a father carries his son.
Thank you for fighting on my behalf. I trust you to show me the way I should go. Guide my choices and decisions—may they be prompted by faith rather than fear. I will not let my emotions hold me back.
Don’t let me be rebellious and unwilling in my heart, and prevent me from trying to fight the battles on my own, working out what I think needs to be done–putting myself where I think I should be.
Lord, I want what you want.
I will go where you lead.
In Jesus’ name, amen
Ginger encourages women to fully live God’s word and writes for GingerHarrington.com, and Planting Roots, as well as guest posting at Guideposts and (in)courage. She is a speaker and Social Media Coordinator for Planting Roots: Strength toThrive in Military Life. . She’d love to connect with you on her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.