Heaping burning coals

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Scripture – Romans 12: 1,2 & 17-20
Reflection – George Vink

The first “Graffiti Board” as a place to express oneself that I saw was at the 1971 Urbana Conference. It read, “The problem with living sacrifices is that they’re always crawling off the altar.” I’ve quoted it as a reminder for myself, and as a challenge.

Romans 12:1 is a memorable verse. Whether it says, “…your bodies” or “…yourselves” makes little difference. It demands a transformation.

As we read, let’s remember a helpful hint: “When a sentence begins with ‘therefore,’ ask, ‘What is it there for?’” Here, preceding the “Therefore” is a doxology as Paul concludes the teachings for followers in Rome. After extolling the depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge, God’s mind beyond our grasping, and His unsearchable judgments, Paul sings a doxology, “To Him be the glory forever!”

Followers of Jesus are urged to live a transformed life of gratitude as obedience to, “Therefore….” Sacrificing means a surrendering to a way of life that’s different from that of living for themselves. A life-style of self-surrender, of “belonging to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,” means conforming no longer to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by renewing our minds—our way of thinking. A new way of living to be demonstrated in everyday behavior, daily living. It’s a transformation demonstrated in who we are and what we do so our lives are pleasing to God.

Pastor Andrew Kuyvenhoven put it well. “The question is how we are coming along right now! The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The test of conversion is a new life style.” (Daylight-July 21) Christ’s followers cannot afford to blend into a world that defies its Creator by putting the self at the center as if “It’s all about me and my desires!”

Romans spells out a way of life that’s demanding, calling for self-sacrifice, and a different way of thinking. Hearing, “It’s not fair! He hit me first!..No, he did!” we perceive a vengeful behavior, lacking forgiveness. The command in Romans 12 demands a different life style for those who believe. Faith means more than having a ticket to heaven. Not wanting to live differently could mean lacking assurance of salvation. In a world of hypocrisy, we’re called to love genuinely! It’s doing the unexpected and hating what’s evil, clinging to what’s good. Our calling is to be like Christ-like.

We’re encouraged by way of Paul’s quoting Proverbs 25:21,22, a figurative expression. It’s not a literal heaping of hot coals on someone’s head! That would be mean, contrary to what’s taught. However, it does come in the context of vengeance and the new life style. There’s to be no room for vengeance. Our calling is to be genuine, revealing a loving God. Let’s make sure to show kindness to those whom we might see as an enemy, but may just be “difficult” people.

I like an interpretation that suggests it’s sharing what people need, leading to their thinking differently. Having no matches or lighters, burning coals were carried in a brazier and shared to start a neighbor’s fire. If I went next door because my fire went out, instead of getting a single coal, my generous neighbor would heap burning coals into my brazier to take home. That’s talking kindness and generosity!

And, that’s our calling as Christians.

Feeding, giving drink, and rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who mourn. It’s a life style transformed because we genuinely care for neighbors and enemies. It’s applying the gospel in tangible terms, sharing the fire or what we have and doing so generously. It’s living in harmony with those making it difficult to do so, at home, at church and in the community.

We’re called to a life-style of being kind when we feel like being mean, of going the extra mile when we’d just as soon walk away. It means showing consideration when you’d just as soon show them the door. Doing so is pleasing to God, overcoming the evil rampant in our world. The evil taking the form of church gossip, critical of whomever and whatever. The evil that declares, “I want this, no matter how it affects others!”

We have Jesus’ example as well as those of others. Look around and find someone who demonstrates God’s genuine love, and imitate it. It means serving instead of showing off. It means patience with words of love for the slow of heart. It’ll mean trusting that God is the ultimate restorer of justice as we seek justice for whom we can. It means offering ourselves as living sacrifices. No crawling off the altar!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me be the person you want me to be, the person you redeemed me to be…every day, even with enemies or difficult people! I do what to be more like you, Amen.

Action: Look around your community, your church or family and find someone who demonstrates love and acceptance, and ask him/her what motivates them? Do you have the same reason to do what they do or what you can do?

Song- “O To Be Like Thee” or “Fill Thou My Life, O Lord My God”

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