Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Romans 12: 11

 

Romans is not the place where I would look in order to find proverbs, those short and pointed little statements about living that can be used as signs on a wall or as quotes at the bottom of a page. Yet, here is one tucked into Paul’s great theological work. As Paul is summarizing the nature and the character of followers of Christ, he mixes in this statement about the attitude and the approach that he is directing us to hold as we prosecute the journey of our Lord’s calling. In so doing he sets out the image of the sloth as the opposite one to the way that we should enter into our engagement with our world. The sloth is slow moving and very careful. It could never be accused of rushing into anything. They prefer hanging around in a safe place and observing it all, for a very long time. Then, they act with great care and deliberation.

 

Paul is saying that Christ should make a real difference in our willingness to take risks and to engage with whatever life sets before us. He grants a form of security to His followers that penetrates deep into the soul and that frees us to speak the Gospel of Christ and to live out His love without counting the personal cost first. This counter sloth-like living is propelled forward by a passion for Christ that exists deep inside at the level of our inner most drives and desires. Passion can be hard to sustain, but the one that comes forth from a relationship with the Lord is different. It is not based upon rapidly consumed emotions or upon shallow and momentary excitement; instead, this passion for the Lord is driven and inspired by Christ Himself as He directs and leads His people into lives that demonstrate His truth, grace, love, and righteousness in every aspect of life and of living.

 

This active and passionate life is a picture of what it is like to serve the Lord. There are certainly other quieter and more contemplative aspects to a life of service to God and within His kingdom, but action and the freedom to engage in it are clearly something that Jesus demonstrated and that Christ calls us to engage in. Following Christ means that we will go to those places and encounter the people and situations that He did, and His Spirit does guide and direct us along those same harsh and troubles streets. These real life moments of challenge, confrontation, and of coming face to face with spiritual opposition are exactly what Christ equips His people for and are times for us to enter in faith into living in total reliance upon Christ. This is the sort of service that our Lord desires, and this is the way of life that brings us ever closer to a full knowledge of God.

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