Looking back at my sermon the other day got me pondering transformation and God’s transforming power in our lives. I’ve also, like many of you, have recently faced the complexity of being a Christian in today’s world. Some of my friends have blogged really poignantly about how we as Christians are called uniquely, for instance, to react to the death of Osama bin laden, and how we can show light to others in a powerful, genuine way.
But when I turned to Romans this afternoon, I was refreshed to find that “the marks of a true Christian,” while exceedingly difficult to live out, are remarkably clean and clear cut. In short, the transformation Christ enacts within us should be clearly exhibited in our daily lives:
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. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21
And yet, the marks of that transformation are rather unexpected, totally countercultural, and have a lot more to do with blessing those who persecute us, patiently trusting in God’s slow work despite suffering, rejoicing and weeping with those in need, hanging out with the lowly, and choosing peace, nonviolence, and love above all else. To me, when the world looks at America and sees us rejoicing in the death of those who persecute us, we are not showing the truth of this transformation. We need to go further, we need to go beyond our first reaction, what is comfortable for us, as Americans, and become Christians first, the kind who bless their enemy rather than curse them.
This is hard stuff.
And so today I pray, as I must everyday, God, truly transform me, from the person I am, to the person you have called me to be. Make your transformation complete. Make your light show in me, and help me to humbly live because you live in me.