Advent: December 18

Romans 12:13-21

Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don't mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, "I am the one to take revenge and pay them back." The Scriptures also say, "If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads." Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

Paul encourages his listeners to consider the needy, especially the needy of the new congregations of the “followers of The Way”, as Christians were described in the early days. Some congregations were very poor, and Paul encouraged the other congregations to support them.

Paul echoes that which has been drummed into him from an early age – welcome strangers. I’d say that Paul spent quite a high proportion of his time in urban situations, unlike Abraham, but the rule of hospitality is still to be kept.

Paul now takes things to a higher level – we are to bless people who curse us. That’s a far cry from God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him, but curse those who cursed him. Now we see a positive change. A curse is on God’s table, ready for delivery to those who curse us, but we may ask God to turn this round to a blessing. Imagine sending a blessing to someone who hates you. Imagine asking God to give them success in work, in life, in family after what they’ve done for you. But perhaps this is an odd form of hospitality. You break the cycle of retribution, giving to that person a blessing and receiving blessing from God.

Paul tells us to turn the other cheek, not because we like suffering, or consider it a religious duty. Neither of these attitudes will bring any blessing at all to you or the person who wronged you. In turning the other cheek we offer unconditional love to a person – it may be costly for us – but returning when we can an insult with a blessing will be part of a process that leads to the venom being drawn.

If your enemy at a disadvantage, don’t take the advantage. If they’re down, don’t kick them – pick them up! If he or she is hungry, then offer food. Crazy hospitality, but it will work! Your enemy will eventually be in debt to you, and that’s as painful as having a shovelful of hot coals in their hat!

Defeat evil with good. What other way can evil be defeated? It’s what Jesus did.

What can you do to welcome strangers, by yourself or with others?

Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. Do you know where does your church’s money go?

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. How does your church compare with the Macedonian Church?

Father God, I pray that you will protect your people from harm, and that, as we pray for the nation in which we live, you will grant us a quiet life. For those churches in other countries where there is state or religious oppression, I pray that we who are comfortable remember those who are not. May my church be like the Macedonian church in giving and supporting. Give strength and grace to all those who suffer for their faith. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Paul