How to live well

15 08 2011

We left Paul on a spiritual high – “Oh, what a wonderful God we have!” (Romans 11:36) – and in the concluding section of his letter he translates all the preceding theological truths for us so that we can learn to live well.

We often hear people distinguish between their “spiritual life” and their “daily life” as though the two can be boxed separately.  Paul doesn’t do this.  He integrates all areas of life and gives practical instructions about how to live as God’s people.  It’s gritty stuff –

“Don’t pretend that you love others. Really love them.  Hate what is wrong.  Stand on the side of good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.  Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically.” (Romans 12:9-11)

The key to doing this is found in Romans 2:2 – “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”  Another translation says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mould.”  In other words, if you’re cut out to be a gingerbread man, don’t live as a cup cake! 

And it’s all in the thought patterns. (Was Paul the first cognitive behavioural therapist?!)

Our thinking is crucial to our behaviour.  If we think of ourselves as people of God, we must live as people of God.  It is a personal deal – “Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.” (Romans 13:12) – and it’s an inter-personal deal – how I live affects you; how you live affects me.  Paul says, “Live in complete harmony with each other.” (Romans 15:5) 

Eugene Peterson often helps me to think through the implications of what I read in the Bible, so I leave the last word with him –

“What we often consider to be the concerns of the spiritual life – ideas, truths, prayers, promises, beliefs – are never permitted to have a life of their own apart from particular persons and actual places…God’s great love and purposes for us are all worked out in the messes of our kitchens and backyards, in storms and sins, blue skies, the daily work and dreams of our common lives.  God works with us as we are and not as we think we should be.  God deals with us where we are and not where we would like to be.”

Ponder with me…live well.

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