Americans 12:9-3:10

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : July 4, 2008

Below is an adaptation of a paraphrase I wrote for Romans 12:9-3:10 on February 5, 2007:

Church, don’t be fakers when it comes to love (love is too important to fake). Fight evil as you embrace good. Lovingly commit to each other like family, respecting one another (instead of seeking your own self interests), not growing weary but burning with passion as you serve our Lord. Be joyfully hopeful, tenacious in hardship and persistent in prayer as you care for the needs of your spiritual family and live out radical hospitality.

I know it is hard to accept, but this hospitality extends to your enemies too. This means that you should bless them (and never curse them).

Laughing with the happy, crying with the sorrowful, live in unity with each other. Don’t be snobs, rather be friends with those who are “beneath” you. I know that arrogance and pride are at epidemic proportions in America, but knock it off. Stop thinking that you are better than everyone else.

The sort of humility I’m asking of you applies even to bad people. You should love them too. When someone does evil, don’t strike back with evil. I know this is an American past-time these days, but remember what I said earlier in my letter? Don’t do what you see everyone around you doing (Romans 2:2). Remember: people are watching to see what you do.

Because of this, I want you to do your best to live at peace with everyone. Don’t seek revenge—that sort of thing should be left to our Father. That’s why he said: “I’m the Avenger; I’m the one who settles the score.”

Instead, do what God tells you to do in Deuteronomy 32:35: If your worst enemy is hungry, shell out a few bucks and take them to McDonalds. If your worst enemy is thirsty, pull out some extra change and buy them a Coke as well. This sort of thing will not only surprise your “enemy” but also show them that you love them.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t be overwhelmed by evil, but overwhelm evil by doing good.

This applies to your relationship to the local and national government as well. We have pledged our allegiance to Christ, but that doesn’t give us the right to rise up against the Empire. Instead, you should submit to them. Why? Because God is in charge and America is restrained by God. And if you rebel against America, you will get slapped down.

Most of the time, you’ll be safe if you do good. Usually, you’re only in trouble if you do evil—and if the police punish you for doing evil, your punishment is deserved. You need to remind yourself that the police and the army have weapons for a reason (and have no problem using them), and when they punish bad people for the evil they do, they are, in a way, serving God’s purposes. In addition, even the government can find good behavior praiseworthy…so just stick to doing good and you’ll usually have nothing to fear.

And so, it is important that you submit…not simply out of fear, but because of your conscience.

And here’s the point: his is why you shouldn’t resist the IRS, for the US Government is (generally speaking) serving God’s purposes. Give everyone what you owe, whether it is taxes or tributes or fear or respect.

The only debt you should have outstanding is the debt of love, because when you love your neighbor (in the Good Samaritan sense of the word), you fulfill the Law.

Jesus himself taught us that the commandments (you know: don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t covet, etc.) are summed up with this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore Love fulfills the Law.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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