”So do not let your good be reviled. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit: whoever serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by others. Let us then pursue what leads to peace and to building up one another” (Romans 14:16-19)

Christ has called us to serve one another in humility, in righteousness, and in peace. When we think about these virtues and the demands that they make on us in our daily lives in this world, we might be tempted to despair that we can ever be so good. But that is to forget two things; first, that God is with us, and second, that he does not ask us to do the impossible. He knows of what we are made. And, if we willingly choose to follow him, to learn and to know and to do his commandments joyfully, God will give us the graces we need to live the life with one another that God is calling us to in Jesus Christ.

In this world, broken and battered as it is by the consequences of sin, our goodness, our righteousness may very well be reviled. Those who live according to the world are concerned with material things and the often mercurial “happiness” that “food and drink” brings to them. Because of this, those who have committed themselves to the world and its things, get caught up in the madness of competition and comparison. The material things of the world are finite. There is only a limited number of them. Therefore, in order to compare oneself as more successful than another, one has to compete to have more of those limited things than others. These attitudes and desires inevitably lead those who are committed to them into the deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, gluttony, and wrath. And this is what fills the world with jealousy, bitterness, and divisions of every kind.

As Christians, we are to be IN the world, but not OF the world. We are to be in it because it is of God. God created it and put us in charge of it. We are to be it’s good stewards. We are to build it up, to protect it. But even more importantly, we are to be people for others, just as Jesus was. We are not to compete with one another, or to compare ourselves to others as better than they are. We are to love one another, to forgive and to build up one another, as Jesus did for each and every one of us. We are to do this by living in accord with God’s will. In doing so we become more and more righteous in the eyes of God and of the world. In taking on the duties of discipleship in Christ, our lives are to be rooted in goodness, for it is in serving Christ in our relationships with one another that we become “pleasing to God and approved by others.” This is why Paul admonishes us in this verse, to commit our lives to the “[pursuit of] what leads to peace and to the building up [of] one another.” And this practice must begin “at home” in our families, in our church communities. It is there that we practice and perfect the habits of the Christ life. If, with the help of God’s grace, we can do it there, we can take those habits, those virtues into our daily lives in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and beyond. This is what Christ Jesus wants for us. And he calls each one of us to this life personally and intimately. Praise be to our Lord and savior Jesus Christ!

Lord, Help us to desire and to learn the habits of righteousness and peace. Give us the strength to pursue these things with joy in all that we do, wherever we are, in whatever stage of life. Our deepest desire is to be your good and faithful servants of love and forgiveness in this life. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

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