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Reading Romans 12:18 in Light of Christ’s Life in the Gospels (Miniblog #157)

by Carson T. Clark on December 8, 2012

Romans 12:18 reads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” I’ve been reflecting on this verse in light of Christ’s life. The implicit hermeneutic I learned growing up was to read the Gospels in light of the epistles, but what I’m slowly learning to do is more read the epistles in light of the Gospels. That being said, much of the counsel I’ve received over the years has been to not prod people. Don’t challenge opinions. Don’t identify presuppositions. Don’t offer criticisms. Don’t pose controversial questions. Don’t scrutinize beliefs. In general, just don’t make people uncomfortable lest they feel unwelcomed. This, I’ve been told, is what Paul teaches us in Romans. Yet that’s anything but what I see Jesus doing. What I see in His ministry is confrontation amidst compassion, conviction amidst humility, correction amidst grace, passion amidst forgiveness, frustration amidst hope, challenging amidst welcoming. That list could go on for some time. The point is, Jesus seems to have been at all times loving without ever bowing a knee to the reality of our brokenness. He understood and was compassionate about our fallenness without ever compromising on our need for reconciliation, redemptive, and restoration. To my mind, striving to live that reality is the key to Christians, i.e. followers of Christ, discerningly applying Romans 12:18.

  • Ray Hooker

    Understanding the epistles in light of the Gospels I do believe is the right way. That came clear as I read N T Wright’s Simply Jesus at the same time that we were storying Luke. Storying is where we examine the passage by first tell it. The point is that it comes across will all of the complexity whereas even sermons that focus on a passage often digest the passage leaving out the full force by explaining it away. I do believe it is important to learn the full passages and hear them frequently.

    Back to the issue of precedence, I believe that the Gospels are the teachings, are based on the OT and that Paul is color commentary on certain aspects. As one person pointed out, our view of social justice would be different if we actually studied the Gospels in many evangelical circles. For example, responsibility for the poor is all over the Gospels, but personal responsibility (e.g., “if he does not work let him not eat”) is addressed only in one statement in Paul’s writings to one church. Ironically to listen to many politically conservative Christians today, you would think personal responsibility was the principle emphasized almost to the exclusion of care for the poor and social justice.

  • Gill

    Great post, Carson, asking a very important question. Do we allow secular politically-correct values – such as, ‘all truth is equal': ‘everyone has their own truth': etc etc to guide the way we present the truth of Christ? It’s not possible. I suspect the Gospel is always counter-cultural. The true evangelist knows the way to cut through it all to the heart, both of the person listening and of the Gospel.

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