In today’s world division is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Through the anger, fear, and frustration this division has only dug deeper into the hearts of all. So in the midst of all of this hate and anger, how can we possibly begin to seek true unity with one another? Look no further than Romans 12:9-21.
In today’s society we face even greater division - both politically and religiously within the Catholic Church. The country is as divided as it ever has been and no remedy seems to be in sight. This political division has even bled over into our religious communities. It appears as if tolerance and civility are lost entirely to us. There are pressures from every side to conform to what they are saying because they claim to be the truth. Thankfully, we know that there is only one source of truth: Christ. Now because Christ is the source of truth, we can also look to him for the remedy to these divisive times.
In Roman’s 12, St. Paul paints a beautiful picture of what it means to practice what is called “mutual love.” We grew up being told “love your enemy” from a young age, but I can confidently say that every person in this world finds that easier said than done. As a conservative Catholic, oftentimes my view points, beliefs, or practices are looked upon quite oddly by today’s world. This has spurred arguments and ridicule with friends and strangers alike. How then can we be expected to love those that hate us, persecute us, or ridicule us? In Romans 12, each line first tells you what you need to do to love your enemy, but then follows up with the practice in which you can put into place to carry out this love.
Love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.
Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them.
It is in our human nature to treat those around us how they have treated us. Why would I bless and not curse those who persecute me? Although it may be human nature to give what we are given, it is not divine nature. Divine nature tells us to look upon His creation with the loving eyes of a father. The best practice for this is preparation. What loving father would not prepare their home in anticipation to receive their son? Likewise, we must prepare for the conflicts, persecutions, names, and all sorts of things that will be thrown our way so that we may better respond to them in a Christ-like way. Later in this scripture it also gives us the roadmap on how to respond in this way.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.
It goes on to say,
“if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”
You see the correct response is one of compassionate care and love. Oftentimes this does mean fighting every instinct in our body, but countering evil with evil resolves nothing and leads this world only into greater division and suffering.
Lastly, I want to make note that this is not an excuse for a passive heart that gives in to all opposition as to not “offend” or “bother” the other person. There comes a time in which we must stand and fight. Even in Romans 12 we see St. Paul say this in,
If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
This truth must not be compromised, twisted, or changed to fit the narrative of the world we live in. There are certain issue in this world which we must fight for as hard as we can, like abortion - the greatest human rights crisis in our world at the moment. When the world persecutes the truth, it is our duty to fight back. It is in how we fight though that matters. We must not fight back with the same hate and anger we are met with, for this will never produce fruit through changed hearts. We must fight with the sword of truth that is Christ. This truth is unchanging and unyielding. It demands our attention and our perseverance in the fight to reveal it to the world. This is quite terrifying to do. The world may meet us with opposition, but Christ would not ask us to do it if he did not do it first. Take for example how Jesus reacts to losing followers after his teaching of the Eucharist. This has been debated by protestants for years that Jesus was speaking in a metaphorical sense. Contrary to that idea, the crowd took his word literally and began to leave. The craziest part about this story is that Jesus lets them. He knows that this teaching is too precious and valuable to compromise and out of love for us he let’s the few walk so the rest of us can encounter him 2000 years later in the most intimate form. Is that not a prime example of not compromising the truth in the face of opposition?
I pray that we may all merge our differences and find union and love in this time of division. Let us end on the wise words of St. Paul, “Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”