Focus on the positive
In his letter to the Romans, Paul sets out the things that God had done through Christ for them and for us — that Christ died for our sins, putting us back into the right relationship with God, that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
In Romans 13:8-14, Paul begins to describe how we should live our lives in consequence to this. He begins by reiterating what Jesus said about the law: that the commandments can be summed up in love. The “thou shalt nots” – not commit adultery, not murder, not steal, not covet, are all summed up in the words: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Paul then uses the image of night and day, dark and light to prepare us for the coming of Christ. You know what time it is, he says, now’s the time to wake up, the day is near. Wake up, get out of bed, lay aside the works of darkness, clean up, wash off all that dirt, get rid of that waste, and put on your clothes, the right clothes, the armor of light.
Notice what Paul does in this passage — he does it twice. He goes from the negative to the positive. He does that first with the commandments, the negative “thou shalt nots” are summed up in the positive, love your neighbor as yourself. And then while saying lay aside the works of darkness, don’t live in drunkenness, in quarreling, he accentuates the positive — put on the armor of light, put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
You remember the Johnny Mercer song that Bing Crosby sang: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, Eliminate the negative, Latch on to the affirmative, Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.” Paul is emphasizing that.
Too often we see Christians and judge Christians on the negatives: they are the ones who don’t drink, who don’t curse, who follow the shalt not’s of the Ten Commandments. The fact is if that makes a good Christian, a rock would be a perfect Christian. A rock doesn’t drink, carouse, a rock isn’t involved in debauchery, licentiousness, a rock doesn’t quarrel and isn’t jealous. Being Christian means more than not doing things, being Christian means doing things.
Paul tells us the positive things we can do — love our neighbor as ourselves, put on the armor of light, put on Christ, wear Christ as a part of us, showing Christ to others just like they see our clothes. So, let’s accentuate the positive, showing our love to and for our neighbors.
DALE BROWN is pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian Churches. His email address is email@example.com.