Paul Sounds Like John

Today’s lectionary reading comes from Romans 13:11-14. In this short passage, Paul speaks about changing our behavior, and he discusses timing…mainly utilizing the visual of night and day.  On a personal note, I’ve been spending a lot of time in John’s gospel the past week or so in preparation for a possible theme for Lent (which is only a couple months away if you can believe that). One of the strongest themes of John is light in the darkness…namely that Jesus is the light in the darkness. This short little passage in Romans definitely reminds me of the same thing…but then Paul does that. I recall preaching a sermon last spring in one of my classes that came out of one of Paul’s letters (can’t recall which one off the top of my head though) and in this letter, he sounded exactly like John…I think I even made that statement in the sermon. But enough of these side notes, onto the real stuff.

Interestingly enough, this passage talks about day/night more in terms of sleeping. Paul will talk about this from time to time, and in many ways it reminds me of some of the things that Jesus himself would say from time to time. Here, Paul talks about the night passing and day approaching. We need to wake up and act in a way that is proper for the day. With the passage of the night, our deeds are visible. We can be seen and so we should act in a way that reveals the truth of what we believe. Based on this notion, it would seem that Paul is discussing the example that we set, or the witness that our actions provide.  That certainly seems to be the case in verses 13 and 14.

I find it interesting to think about the process of sanctification. While this passage doesn’t necessary talk about sanctification, it certainly places me in that mind set. When Christ begins to rule our lives, we are changed and as we continue to live our lives with Christ our lives begin to reflect that change. We become more like Christ. I appreciate Paul’s words in verse 14 when he says to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, as if Christ was a set o clothes. That being said, I reference back to verse 12 when Paul says to put on the armor of light. Well here’s an example of Paul sounding like John. Think of John 1, Jesus is the light in the darkness. What else could be the “armor of light” than Christ himself.

I also appreciate the words that Paul uses when he says “let us lay aside the works of darkness. Now, as I’ve said before, we do nothing to obtain our salvation. But we are called to change in response to it. I believe that’s what Paul is telling us here. One faith comes upon you…once you have received the free gift of grace in Christ, start to clean things up. Perhaps it is the Spirit within us that helps us recognize when these so-called works of darkness are present. In short, we might not recognize them right away…but when we do, we are called to respond. Again, it’s not a case of earning our way into salvation or even maintaining it by our works…Our works/actions are a response of gratefulness to the gift we receive.

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