“This, then, is the judgment” writes John, the beloved one. The judgment is that those who do evil avoid the Light because they hate the Light while those who do good seek out the Light because their deeds are done by God Himself. The Light exposes evil and those who do evil things hide from exposure.
And those who do good discover that those good things can not originate from themselves; instead the good emerges from the Light Himself.
19 “This, then, is the judgment: The light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. 21 But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.”
With those who are happy, be happy alongside them. With those who are sad, be sad alongside them. With those who are rejoicing, rejoice alongside them. With those who are praying, pray alongside them.
With those who persecute you, bless them — “bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12: 14) “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)
With those who have little, share what you have. Open your home; showing hospitality. “Love must be without hypocrisy.” (Romans 12: 9)
“Be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.” (Romans 12: 11) With those who are lost, reach out to them. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11: 32)
“Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.” (Romans 12: 17)
Paul sets the example, saying: “Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I make myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people… I become all things to all people, so that I may by every means possible save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 19, 22)
Love each other, says Paul. Love each other in the same way you love your siblings — with a brotherly or sisterly affection. “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12: 14) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12: 17)
And, he writes: “Let love be genuine.”
And, “Hold fast to what is good.”
Holding fast to the good is such a map for happiness. If you see the good in the other, then you are able to bless the other even as he curses you. If you see the good in the moment, then you will not repay evil for evil. Instead you will do what is perceived as honorable to all. Such a paradox exists in the Christian walk. We walk by faith, hoping for that which is unseen. Our hope is that good will outdo evil, that perfection will triumph over imperfection, that God will be triumphant over the evil one.
And of course God is triumphant and good does overcome evil. Perfection does overwhelm imperfection, and holiness swallows sin.
Therefore, let your love be true. Hold fast to the good. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
Paul expects us to “rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Our hope rests on the finished work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, joy is possible. In moments of pain, our patience emerges from Christ’s own patience as He endures the Cross. Our prayer life is also continuous and persistent as we walk within the power of the Holy Spirit.
Be joyful, be patient, be persistent. “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)
“All things work together for good,” says Paul. Paul does not say that only some things work together for good, but all things. He includes those events which, on the surface, appear and feel terrible – the death of a loved one, the abandonment and betrayal of a spouse, the loss of employment, the straying of the heart, the end of good health. None of these happenings are welcome. No one seeks them.
God is the ultimate weaver, taking the broken painful bits of our lives and weaving these in with the less broken, even joyful bits to make a beautiful tapestry. Through all things, He perfects us.
We who belong to Christ are “led by God’s Spirit.” (Romans 8: 14) As His sons, “[we] do not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] receive the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Romans 8: 15) Because God calls us “according to His purpose,” we know that He foreknows us, predestines us, conforms us to His image, justifies us, and glorifies us. (Romans 8: 28 – 30)
Since God does all these things for us, what have we to fear? asks Paul. Nothing. We have nothing to fear for God is on our side. “Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus sets [us] free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8: 1 – 2)
We are free. Jesus says that He is the truth, and that as the truth, He sets us free.