The Chair and the Desk, 4/1/16

From the chair:

“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. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

-Romans 12:14-21

The presidential election makes for a contentious season, and as I read Romans 12 this morning I was reminded that God’s people are called to interact with their enemies in a markedly different way. I’m not saying, “It’s just politics, people.” No, political decisions are often ethical decisions, important ones. Romans 12 is honest about the fact that the disagreements in view are serious stuff–if not sharp interpersonal conflicts, at least people who the readers would consider worthy of divine judgment.

This divine judgment is not something we should just read over in the text. In fact, it appears to theologically anchor the ethical exhortations: We can bless those who curse, repay evil with good, forego vengeance, and feed our enemies, not because we no longer believe in good and evil, but because we leave it up to God. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” That’s a chilling thought, one that should give us pause, take the edge off of our temper, take the urgency out of our self-justification.

Christians can live at peace with all as far as its up to us, not because we don’t have feelings or convictions or grievances, but because we trust the wisdom and love and wrath of God to set all things right, all things just as they should be, in the end.

From the desk:

“Most people who insist on God’s ‘nonviolence’ cannot resist using violence themselves (or tacitly sanctioning its use by others). They deem the talk of God’s judgment irreverent, but think nothing of entrusting judgment into human hands, persuaded presumably that this is less dangerous and more humane than to believe in a God who judges! That we should bring ‘down the powerful from their thrones’ (Luke 1:51-52) seems responsible; that God should do the same, as the song of that revolutionary Virgin explicitly states, seems crude. And so violence thrives, secretly nourished by belief in a God who refuses to wield the sword.”

-Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p.303

“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

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