Day 29

Christian Ethics

from the reading plan

Romans 12:9-21, Amos 5:14-15, Matthew 22:34-39

I’ll admit that I’m not great with organization. In fact, if I’m stressed out, it’s probably because I’ve either let something fall between the cracks or I’m afraid something’s about to fall between the cracks. When I feel disorganized, it’s not a pretty sight. Maybe you can relate.

To compensate for my lack of organizational skills, I rely on lists to keep me on task. And rather than putting them in my phone or using a computer program, I write them out by hand and keep them on my desk. It’s old-fashioned, but it works—at least most of the time.

For me, lists are great because they help me focus on my priorities. If something is really important, it moves higher up the list. I also find great satisfaction in scratching things off my lists. Accomplishment gives rest to my chaotic mind.

I think the apostle Paul was a list maker. Over and over again, I see where he itemized things for his readers. If he wanted to drive home a point, he often provided a list to underscore what was most important and why.

One of his lists can be found in Romans 12:9–21. In this passage, he ticked off several character qualities that define the Christian life. When the world looks at us as Christ followers, these are the things they need to see. 

Theologians call this “Christian ethics.” They even teach classes about it in Christian colleges and seminaries—and for good reason. God’s people need to know what it means to be God’s people. We need to understand what it looks like to be “in the world” without being “of the world.” 

Paul provided a great introduction to the topic in Romans 12. His list includes things like honoring other believers (vv.10,16), being consistent in our faith (vv.11–12), and being hospitable and generous (v.13). He challenged readers to love those who attack us (v.14), stay humble (v.16), and leave revenge in God’s hands (vv.17–19).

But if you really want to know how Paul defined the Christian life, memorize and meditate on the three commands of verse 9: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.” That’s the umbrella that covers all the other commands in the chapter. Love people sincerely. Steer clear of anything that even hints of wickedness. Hang on to whatever’s godly for all it’s worth.

When you stop and think about it, Paul was simply saying, “Live like Jesus.” That’s what Christian ethics are all about. We’re called to dig into what Jesus did and to follow in His footsteps—all so we can give the world an accurate reflection of Him. 

Of course, it’s not easy. Paul never said it would be. But it will make the world a better place. More importantly, it will help you and me become more like Jesus each day.

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