But Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Viewed from one point of view there is little to be joyful about. The conflict in Ukraine appears to have no short-term solution with the result that there will be much more death and destruction for no good purpose. There is in relation to this, ‘affliction’ for those in the West who are not directly involved, as the financial consequences of someone else’s war impact our cost of living, which was rising at an exponential rate anyway. The predictions of the cost of fuel on into the year give many, nightmares about having to choose between keeping warm and eating and while the Ukrainian war grabs the headlines and the behaviour of our Government during lockdown is still just below the surface. Covid is rampant again, albeit less serious in most cases, and particularly among the over 50’s and realistically in the not too distant future the of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will come to an end as like everyone else she dies.
What is there to be joyful about? How do we handle the affliction that is at the door or already inside? What, we may be tempted to ask, is the point of prayer?
When Paul penned his letter to the Church in Rome exactly the same questions are likely to have been on the lips of the church members as they grappled with the same issues that we face today although created by different circumstances.
They are questions that they had to face as we do also, so let’s be sure our ears are open to the Holy Spirit’s challenge through Paul.
Be Joyful in Hope
‘We have a hope which is steadfast and certain’ run the words of the well-known hymn. A hope which is rooted and grounded in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The well-known words of Jesus recorded by John in chapter 14 of his gospel ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me’ hold true for every age, for they are rooted in the fact of the resurrection and thus lift our eyes, our hearts and our minds above the brokenness of this world. So in all the mess we can have joy, a joy which because we are human, is tempered as we see the suffering which our fellow men undergo but a joy which is rooted in the eternal rather than in the temporal and is available to all.
Patient in Affliction
The affliction of the Ukrainian people has been humbling to watch as they have suffered so greatly. Many of them, but not all, will be believers and patience in suffering is not something restricted to believers but we as believers do well to show that our hope is such that we can be patient when things are trough for:
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8.28
As things look likely to be some of the most challenging in our lifetimes how we react will be a powerful witness to the power of the risen Saviour in our lives.
Faithful in Prayer
One of the great blessings of prayer is the freedom we have to ‘Cast all our anxiety upon God for he cares for us. 1 Peter 5.7 and anxieties we most surely have. As we acknowledge this, do we become weighed down with the cares of the world because we try to shoulder them ourselves, or do we take God at his word and in so doing find that the joy and patience noted above are realistic experiences? At our Partner’s Meeting this week we were challenged to pray more! If we don’t respond to this challenge we fail to draw on the resources that make living as True Christians possible and a patient joy.