Living as day people and not as night people - Romans 13.8-14
|Love for neighbour. Detail from choir screen. National Museum of Scotland.|
That is what we are told in Romans 13.
When I am on holiday I sometimes go sailing. We have a small yacht. The best time to sail is when there is an early morning high tide. So, my alarm clock goes off at 5.30am. The sun is shining, it is a beautiful morning, the only sound is the singing of the birds, the wind is just right – not too weak, not too strong (that is important because I am a fair weather sailor). And everything is new and fresh and filled with promise. And I know that if I get up, I will have a very precious time. But then I look at the alarm clock, turn over for 10 more minutes, and wake an hour or two later. And I have missed it.
Paul urges us not to stay lying in bed, to wake up and not to miss it.
“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.” Romans 13:11-12
The new day is dawning. Christ has risen from the dead. He is alive. He is near. Life has won over death. Love has conquered evil. What seemed senseless and chaotic has been brought together in harmony and beauty.
And there are so many opportunities to bring healing, and to do what is good and creative and beautiful and true. There is joy ahead of us,
For some the call to wake up is the call to open our eyes: to realise that despite the difficulties we are going through, the moral failures, the struggles, the grief, the frustrated longings, God exists and God is close. This is the call of forgiveness and love; the call to hope, to a new beginning, to the promise of a new life with God.
But this is also a call to examine our lives, at look at how we are living:
To stop doing the things of the night, and to start doing the things of the day.
In the night we do things which we would be ashamed to do in the day: when it is light, when we can see and all can see.
I am sure that you have never been in that position, when you wake up in the morning and think: Did I really do that last night?
The night is the time when it is most easy to think that we are unaccountable, that we can live simply for ourselves and our desires, ‘to have a good time’ – even if we are not actually having ‘a good time’, and even if in the morning we feel awful about it. Romans speaks of ‘revelling and drunkenness .. debauchery and licentiousness’.
I’m not saying that we should not party or have a drink (Jesus turned water into wine), but as people of the day, as men and women who live in the light of God and the eternal and the resurrection, we know that there is a greater freedom, a deeper happiness and a richer joy than ending up being sick in the gutter at 3am in the morning.
And we know that we are more than cattle at a meat market, that each person has an intrinsic God given nobility, dignity and potential glorious destiny.
And so we respect our own body and the bodies of others. We do not treat them as objects to satisfy our own desires, and we do not allow others to use us because we think that by that we will get them to love us. That is why the bible teaches that public commitment (which is marriage) and love should come before sexual intimacy: so that it becomes something that is genuinely mutual and life giving.
But Paul is, of course, not speaking of literal night, but a metaphorical night.
We know that because quarrelling and jealousy are included in the list. And they happen as much in the day as they do in the night.
We can understand why jealousy is so destructive – for both ourselves and others.
But quarrelling? Well, there is a difference between disagreeing with someone and quarrelling. A quarrel makes it personal, and we quarrel for many reasons: pride, fear, revenge, self-centredness, simple bloody mindedness.
We are called to stop doing the things of the night, and we do the things of this new day.
In verses 8-10, Paul calls us to love.
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another”. Romans 13:8
To love another person is look at the other person as God sees them.
We delight in them and in their happiness – their happiness here and now, and their eternal happiness. We long that they might become the person who God created them to be. We serve them so that they might become that person.
And love sees the other person as one of their own. That is what the OT command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ means: to love them as if they were one of your own. To do for them what you would do for your own people, your own family, your own children. You do for them what you would want others to do for you.
Love is bigger than the law.
The law tells us what not to do: not to commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, not to covet (to want the thing or the relationship or the happiness that the other person has). Love does not do wrong to another person.
As Origen (184-253) said, ‘If you love somebody, you will not kill him. Nor will you commit adultery, steal from him or bear false witness against him. It is the same with all the other commands of the law: love ensures that they are kept.’
That is why the whole law can be summed up in the command to love.
But love takes us much further than simple prohibition. The law prevents us from doing wrong to our neighbour.
Love takes us out of our comfort zone. It shows us not only what we should not do, but what we should do.
How do we live as people of the day and not of the night? How do we love?
1. We remind ourselves that the new day is dawning: that Jesus has risen, that this world is not all that there is, that the Spirit has been given, that there is a new way of living, and that one day soon (and it is sooner now than when we first believed) God will set us free from this sin-infested and sin-racked body and he will give us a new transfigured radiant body.
2. We are to put on the Lord Jesus.
I’ve been preaching in my jacket – and you will now realise why.
I take my jacket off and I put on the cassock alb. It is a picture of how we are called to take off the old self and put on the new self.
We are called to put off the old works: the pride, the jealousy, the quarrelling, the lying, the envy
And we are called to put on the Lord Jesus, the armour of light, and by the power of the Spirit, to live the way of love.
Some Christians make it part of their daily prayers to do this – they confess to God the things of the night, they put them off, and then in their minds, they dress themselves with Christ.
In Ephesians 6, Christians are encouraged to put on the armour of God.
Here, in Romans 13, that armour is identified with Jesus Christ himself.
We are to put on not any belt of truth, but Jesus’ belt of truth: the truths that he lived by and the truths, promises that he declared.
We are to put on his robe of righteousness: so that we might be right and do right as he is right;
We are to put on our heads his helmet of salvation: so that we begin to think as he thinks;
We put on our feet his sandals – so that we stand in his shoes, and go where he goes;
and we take up his shield – his trust in his Father; and we arm ourselves with his sword, his word, so that we speak his words
My brothers and sisters, it is easy to spiritually lie in bed.
Today we are reminded that the new day has dawned – it is fresh and beautiful out there. Jesus is alive. A new life is offered. Wake up and don’t miss it.