Can You Be Counted On?
What do today’s young adults think of Christians? In research findings published in the book, “Unchristian,” young adults (16-29 years old) indicated they viewed Christians as hypocritical, insensitive, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental. Obviously, their opinion of Christians is not at all positive.
In Romans 13, Paul encourages those in the body of Christ to live in such a way that those outside of the church will respect our faith and devotion to the Lord.
As a citizen: In verses 1-7, Paul challenges Christians to recognize civil and governmental authorities as means by which God establishes order and provides for the common good. This was an important message for the Christians living under Roman rule, but it may be even more relevant and timely for us today.
The United States is a politically polarized nation. Far too many have the attitude that if a certain candidate isn’t elected or if a specific agenda is not supported, then we are free to make disparaging comments about those leaders or can actively thwart the good that elected officials may be trying to do. Paul would have seen this attitude as dishonorable.
In a democratic society, believers should exercise the opportunity given to vote and support causes that are godly. Without question, our first allegiance is to the Lord. But we are also called to respect, honor and submit to the authorities that God has placed in power to govern, even if we disagree with them. Paul echoes what Jesus said in Luke 20:25: “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
As a neighbor: After instructing Christians to be exemplary citizens, Paul moves in verses 8-10 to call followers of Christ to display the love of the Lord to everyone. While being in financial debt to others is something to avoid, Christians should owe everyone one thing – the sharing of God’s love.
Paul rightly points out that often the commands of the Jewish law are phrased in the negative – what not to do. But Jesus emphasizes the positive – what God wants us to do in loving others as he has loved us. As we are filled with God’s love and express his love to others, we will seek what is best for others and fulfill the law through loving actions.
As times require: In Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” Reignier says, “Defer no time, delays have dangerous ends.” Our time on earth is limited, and the timing of Christ’s return is unpredictable. As such, we must maximize the time he gives us to “put on the armor of light” (v. 12), while at the same time discarding indecent and sinful acts. Becoming like Jesus is our only hope of reversing the negative perceptions that many have of Christians. We must not delay in letting his light shine through us.
- Lessons in the ETB series for the fall quarter are being written by Ken Owens, director of the collegiate ministry group for the South Carolina Baptist Convention.