Paul's letter to the Romans
Early Christian letters typically paint a picture of the wickedness of the world that people of faith have escaped from, alongside another picture of the new life possibilities that faith has opened up. This leads on to specific instruction in details of the way Christians should comport themselves. Only now is Paul ready to move on to this last theme. His advice can now relate to the character and quality of life in a Christian community which brings together Gentiles and Jews.For all these reasons I beg you, by God's mercy, to offer your whole selves to him. Present yourselves as a living sacrifice, consecrated, worthy, in the worship appropriate to rational beings. Don't take on the pattern of the world around you. Let God shape your thinking and transform your whole nature. Then you will understand the will of God; you will appreciate what is good, what God wants of you, what is the fitting thing to do.
By the grace of God I am free to urge each one of you: don't be puffed up, don't have an exaggerated opinion of yourself. Find your way to a modest self-estimate that relates especially to the faith God has granted you. Just as in a human body there is a diversity of parts with all sorts of functions, so we together, bound to Christ, form a single body, and as parts of it we contribute to one another. Our gifts differ according to God's determination and we should employ them appropriately. If your gift is spiritual exhortation, for example, then do that, according to your faith. If it is administration then that is what you should be working at. Teachers should teach. Enthusers should enthuse. Giving should truly express what you are. Leaders should put effort into their leadership. Helping those in trouble should be done in a good spirit.
Don't let your love be mere pretence. Hate evil, and cling to the good. With the love that befits a community of friends appreciate one another; honour others ahead of yourselves. Be energetic and enthusiastic in serving the Lord. Let hope keep your spirits high; stand firm in trouble; and persevere with prayer. Help each other out, and show hospitality. Call down blessings rather than curses on those who oppress you. Share one another's joys and sorrows. Be as concerned for others as you are for yourselves. Don't entertain social ambitions: associate with ordinary people. Don't go on admiring your own wisdom.
Don't return evil for evil. Have aims that everyone would
regard as upright. As far as you can, remain on good
terms with people. Don't seek vengeance, friends,
but leave space for God. 'Justice is my
prerogative. I'll do the paying back.
(Deut 32:35)' And on the other hand: 'If your
enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty give him a
drink. By doing that you will heap burning coals on his
head. (Prov 25:21,22)' Don't let evil
take you over. Defeat evil with goodness.
paraphrase and notes by Evan Lewis