Romans 12-13, Psalm 53
Since God has shown us such great mercy we are to be “living sacrifices” that do not conform to the world’s pattern and are constantly being transformed through having our minds renewed (Romans 12:1-2). This transformation means that we are committed to using our gifts to build up the family of God (Romans 12:3-14), and are to be steadfast in showing love to enemies in absence of revenge (Romans 12:15-21). This transformation also shapes us to cooperate with our governing authorities (Romans 13:1-7) and to refuse to owe any debts except our perpetual debt to love others (Romans 13:8-14). Lastly, as opposed to those living according to sinful flesh, the world; we are to live aware that our time in history necessitates being awakened by the nearness of Jesus’ salvation (Romans 13:11-14). This summary demonstrates what many have considered a clear connection between all the rich theology found in Romans 1-11 and the “therefore” (Romans 12:1) that links those chapters with all the commands we see in chapters 12-13. We would be wrong, however, to assume that Paul ever wanders too far from proclaiming the wonders of Jesus into making commands isolated from God’s work. Rather, we see that Paul constantly keeps the ongoing work of Jesus linked to how we should live. We build up another with the gifts given to us by God (Romans 12:3,6). Our lack of vengeance is rooted in the fact God alone metes out perfect justice (Romans 12:19). We submit to governing authorities, not because they are perfect, but because God has good purposes for our rulers (Romans 13:4). Our debt to love is found in the fact loving our neighbor fulfills the laws of God (Romans 13:8,10). Lastly we wake from our sleepy sinful practices by recognizing the day of our salvation has come and is coming to us through the Christ who came, died, and rose from the grave (Romans 13:11,14). Christian practice should always be deeply rooted in and connected to rich theology. Paul would not leave such an important work, the task of our obedience up to us alone. For all of our obedience is grounded in the character and work of our Lord and God. In fact as we clothe ourselves with Christ, this is the very action that enables us reject gratifying the sinful flesh (Romans 13:14). By the way, that one little verse is what St. Augustine read when he supposedly heard a child sing Tolle Lege, (take up and read) and for the first time felt powerfully God’s salvation had visited to him. My we also wake up to how by putting on Jesus, we might find strength for every good work.