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.Romans 12: 14-16
I know that all we want is normal. And this year is far from normal on so many fronts. It’s easy to slip into the fear, to grasp onto the entitlement that we think or hope to deserve. Making ourselves the underdog hero of our story makes that triumph feel within our reach. And when it doesn’t happen, when chaos whips around us, it is really easy to lash out at the other side, make them the villain.
In movies, the villain used to be all bad. It was the thing or person that the hero conquered. But in more recent years, movies have presented the villains as misunderstood or misguided, even capable of being good or changing course. It gives more depth to the characters, more understanding in their own humanity. In Romans 12:14, this idea of blessing people who are persecuting you gives that same chance to keep other people’s humanity intact.
Removing their humanity requires us to remove a piece of our own humanity, to forget our flaws in the face of outrage. To forget the grace we need when we are learning and growing. We forget how long it sometimes takes for our hearts to soften, or how much pain or fear can blind us to what is going on around us. But in addition to keeping the humanity intact, or maybe in order to do so, there is also this thread through these verses to keep our entitlement in check as well.
Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn requires a healthy dose of empathy. The empathy removes entitlement. I rejoice because I connect with those who are rejoicing. I see their humanity, their need to rejoice because things are so hard. Same with mourning. I see their humanity, their need for space to mourn how they need to, not how I think they should. I won’t push their pain or their joy under the rug when it is convenient to me.
I am willing to associate with people in a lower position. Or maybe even a different position. People who are not like me, who don’t think like me or read the same news outlets and articles that I do, who don’t have the same priorities that I do. It’s really easy to disassociate myself from others and make judgment calls and create labels to write off their humanity from my own echo chamber.
When we see each other as humans, as creations of God, it doesn’t matter what labels are given to the people around us. We are called to have the sober understanding that under God, we are all the same. These verses are really challenging me to put down the desire to be right and superior in that rightness. Instead, we are called to love wholly with the love we receive from our holy God.
I don’t know when the chaos will stop. But judging from my past experiences with loss and disruption, I know that the day will come. I have real concern about the divisions in our country, our church, and our community. But I also know that God is in control, that he loves us completely in our own humanity. So, I can trust in God, and that frees me to humbly embrace others in their humanity and love as God first loved us.