Beyond “Therefore”

I suppose that many of you have the day off from work today in celebration of the national holiday remembering Martin Luther King, Jr. It certainly is a worthwhile day of remembrance honoring a man of diligent service to humanity. He accomplished much, and he did so in a way that was shocking to his enemies.

When they threatened him with violence and death, even the death of his wife and children, he spoke to peace.

Interestingly, while Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t necessarily align with the Lutheran theologies that would have put us in altar fellowship, his theological understandings of what to do in the midst of persecution and his fundamental thoughts on being a slave to Christ as opposed to a slave to man should leave most of us in awe. He got those things so incredibly right, and for that, he is to be wholeheartedly appreciated.

We just heard in yesterday’s preaching (which focused primarily on the Epistle reading from Romans 12:6-16) that quite a bit hinges on Paul’s usage of the word “therefore.”  It was noted that the word wasn’t in the actual reading, but had we gone back and collected Paul’s thoughts from the beginning of the chapter (as well as other chapters), we would’ve heard it, and we would have been situated to see that the long list of “do’s” and “do not’s” in chapter 12 isn’t necessarily an exhortation, but rather a description.

The texts that come before the “therefore” are ones that speak of God’s mercy to us. This teaches us that what follows the “therefore” is not a list of demands, but rather a portrait of who we are because of what Christ has done for us and works through us by His grace.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, God creates a different kind of person, a person who fits the description and is capable of seeing himself as one who is no longer in bondage to the world, but rather serves Christ and is capable of doing so in ways that simply flabbergast the world around us.

We are made into those who can have hope in the midst of struggle. We can pray for our persecutors. We can love our enemies. We can confound the world in these ways, and in so doing, we are found to be lights of Christ leading others to Him even in the midst of sin’s darkness.

If anything, Dr. King understood these things, and I appreciate his unbending fervor for living it out and being a real, tangible, national icon of this biblical truth. It certainly would seem that his cause is being lost on so many, nevertheless, history’s record unarguably stands in favor of a man who sought faithfulness to Christ in his effort to rid the world of the tarry and vile tendency to see others according to the color of their skin and not the content of their character.

Few come along with a willingness to do what he did. Maybe it’s because few are called to do so with such a courage in a public way. Nevertheless, each of us has been recreated to be God’s people in the simplicity and normalcy of our daily vocations. This, too, takes courage, and in the end, is never to be considered small. In fact, it’s really quite grand. It’s grand because of the gravity God attaches to it. It’s in these daily interactions that others behold the Gospel of Christ at work in a real person, and by this, onlookers are affected (Matthew 5:13-16). Not necessarily changed into believers. The actual message of the Gospel does that. But still, they are affected in a way that turns their attention to God. They are found curious, thoughtful, concerned, questioning—interested. And God worked this out by you just being you.

May God bless your day and week as you stand in His grace and beam this mighty and courageous love to the world around you. I know he will. As I mentioned in the sermon yesterday, I see this each and every day through so many of you. I have no doubt that Romans 12 is a description of our little church.