Summary: Christians see life from the perspective of the cross and eternity and live different lives because of it.
Romans 13:8-14 “A Different Perspective”
Those of us who grew up in the North Country often like to tell stories of our harsh winters. We tend to glory in the fact that we survived huge snowfalls, and some of the coldest temperatures ever recorded this side of Antarctica. Living as an adult, in the North, I was always amazed that the snowfalls were never as deep as they were when I was a child; the snow banks never quite so high. Then, it hit me. I was viewing winter from a different perspective. The snow banks look much higher when you’re only four feet tall instead of six feet, and the snow seems deeper when you’re making your way through it with 25 inch inseams rather than 32 inch.
A 26.2 mile marathon looks very different to the individual who is running it for the first time, as opposed to the veteran runner who has “been there, done that, and has the T-shirt.”
We Christians are invited to live our lives marching to the beat of a different drummer than other folks because we have a different perspective. We see life through the cross and eternity.
REMEMBER THE TIME
Two thousand years has shown the Paul was incorrect in his assumption that Jesus would return quickly. Still we have the promise that Jesus will return. When he does return, he will make all things new and will establish the kingdom of God—heaven—on earth. As children of God—people who have died with Christ in baptism so that we may live with him in his kingdom—we live in the reality of this promise, and the fact that we are eternal beings.
Teilhard de Chardin a French Jesuit philosopher, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience." Only the object and the subject have been changed in this observation, but the change in perspective is dramatic and dynamic!
For Paul, the fact that Christians are eternal beings makes a big difference in how we live our lives. We have broken free of the expectations, short-sighted goals, and self-centered interests of the world. He invites his readers to view possessions from a perspective beyond their physical lives. Jobs become vocations and ministries. Daily life is transformed from acquisition to a life of service. Grudges aren’t worth nursing, and relationships become valuable.
The other perspective that Paul has viewed life from and encourages his readers to do the same is the cross of Christ. Paul has written eleven chapters in this letter highlighting the steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness of God. It is God’s love and grace that inspires us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, and to live lives of love.
Working from his twin perspectives, Paul starts out his instructions on how to live in the reality of God’s love and grace by telling his readers to owe no one anything except to love one another. I think Paul is suggesting to us that we travel light.
Most of the people of the United States have entangled themselves in debt. We live from paycheck to paycheck, and sometimes we have too much month left over at the end of our money. Our debt and lifestyle has created heavy burdens for us, which have limited our experience of the abundant life that can be ours as Christians. It’s hard to be loving when you’re worried about making the payments on your credit cards, or have nothing saved up for the dishwasher that is starting to make funny sounds.
We have an opportunity to help the people whose lives have been devastated by hurricane Irene. Rather than give generously, though, because we love and care for the situation of others, we will look at all of our bills and decide that we can only afford to give a few bucks. There is nothing wrong in giving only a little—if that is what we want to do. The tragedy is to want to do more but we are limited because of our lifestyle and debt load.
Christ has set us free. We can work to experience that freedom—totally. We can strive to shed our debts and break the shackles of our lifestyles. We can live relatively burden free, and expand our ability to love worry free.
WALK IN LOVE
Jesus, by his life, death and resurrection, has shown us that a life that pleases God is not one that keeps a certain set of rules. Rather, it is a life of love and service.
Paul is not suggesting that we cultivate a feeling of love for everyone. He is, instead, exhorting his readers to a loving life of attitude and action.
Our attitude toward others is acceptance rather than judgment. God comes to us not with a stick, but with outstretched arms. We live in the reality that everyone is a child of God—no one is a “they” everyone is an, “us.” Following Christ’s example we forgive the unforgiveable, and love the marginalized, the weak, the poor and hungry, the forgotten and neglected—those people who few people love.