In Romans 12:9-21 Paul drills down on the words of Christ found in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” and in Luke 6:22, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you”. Paul does this for the church in Rome that is fragmenting: The Christians with a Jewish background are fighting those with a Gentile background, not to mention constant debate over the way they were to treat the non-believers surrounding them. It is so bad that Brutus no longer comes to the Sunday service so that he will not run into Crispus. Secundus is so angry at both of them that he no longer comes to church at all. Pomponia hired an off duty Centurion to keep pagans from cutting across her yard to get to their temple.
Humans find it hard to live with one another even during the best of times. Some of us aren’t emotionally wired for intimacy. Some of us have crippled flaws that make relationships difficult. In fact, some of history’s greatest contributors have been relationship-challenged. As an adult, Isaac Newton shunned personal intimacy in all its forms, preferring his laboratory in the mind to living specimens. Henri Nouwen, who inspired many of us to move deeper into relationships with God and one another, had trouble himself developing intimacy with others. Relational disorders abound among creative people.
Below is a fascinating visualization of the interconnectedness of the Bible, done by Chris Harrison, a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and Christopher Römhild of the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hamburg:
I heard about a rooster who spied a large ostrich egg in the yard next door. He quickly flew over the fence to examine it. He looked it over, kicked it, and rolled it back into the yard. He then called the hens together and said, “Now girls, I’m not complaining – I’m simply showing you what some are doing in other places.”
To be born again implies a clash. A Christian is always counter-culturing, swimming upstream, and challenging the status quo in order to make a change for the better. This makes the quality of courage absolutely necessary, without courage, the best of intentions will fail; in fact, vision without courage will merely produce a flood of frustration and anger not only at the circumstances of life, but at life and at oneself.