Aim for Good (Romans 12:9-21)

By | January 5, 2014

Aim Low to Reach Higher #1 in Series


     It was the day after Christmas. Dad was trying to take a nap in his new recliner, but his young son just kept finding ways to interrupt his nap. First it was this, then it was that, finally Dad just lost it and hollered: “Go to my bedroom, and go now!”

     Hearing what Dad hollered, Mom walked in and asked, “Why did you send him to our room and not his?”

     Exasperated, Dad said, “Are you kidding? Didn’t you see all those Christmas presents he got? In his room he has a TV, an iPod, an iPad, an Xbox and 3 new electronic games. If we want to punish him, now, we have to send him to our room.” (1)

     The seasons of Advent and Christmas are almost over. Many trees have already come down. Most of the presents have been opened, some of them have even survived until now.

     Officially in the Liturgical Calendar, tomorrow is known as Epiphany, or Twelfth Night; it is celebrated as the day the Wise Men entered the house and visited Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In the Liturgical Year it is also the day we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer, some 27 to 30 years later, depending on which timeline you choose for Jesus.

     For us, it’s important because it’s the day that the impact of Christmas and the birth of the Christ Child truly begins. You see, Christmas is just the forerunner. Christmas is just the introduction, the prolog, the overture, the beginning of God’s saving work in the world through Jesus. It’s the preamble describing how God entered into the world to save it through His Son. The seasons beyond Advent, Christmas and Epiphany are the real seasons of the Kingdom of God and work of God’s People.

     Mary understood this and held all the events up to and including the events of Christmas, in her heart, waiting for the day when Jesus would fulfill his destiny. The Shepherds wandered back to their flocks in awe, wondering when all they had heard and seen would come to fruition. The Wise Men left to watch from afar and wait until this infant King became enthroned.

     It took 30 years of preparation. Advent, Christmas and Epiphany remind us of those preparations, as well as the cost of those preparations to God. But they also set into motion the next step of living out this Kingdom of God in our everyday world.

     So, while January 7th isn’t celebrated as a High Holy Day, it may very well be one of the most important days of the Christian year. Because, it asks, will we simply pack Christmas away for another year? Or will we allow the spirit of Christmas to continue to permeate our lives. Will we allow the saving work of God born in an infant to influence all that we do? Will we allow the presence of Emmanuel, God with us, to redefine us and redefine how we live and how we act toward one another and toward the world?



     In Seminary I remember my New Testament professor saying that since we couldn’t possibly remember the entire New Testament, that eventually we would all find a core set of Scriptures through which we would define our whole understanding of the New Testament and the teachings of Paul. It turns out he was right.

     If you were to ask me to pick any chapter out of the New Testament that I thought summed up Paul’s teachings and is the model for the Christian Life, I would have to say it is Romans 12. For years I met with a Covenant Group. An accountability group of other pastors. Our Covenant included Romans 12:1-2 as its core.

[1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

[2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

     If I were to write that covenant today, I would include verse 3:

[3] For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

     This is the passage which describes the Christian life of as the Abnormal Life, a life that dares to deviate from the norm and from conformity to the world and instead is transformed by the teachings and expectations of the Kingdom of God.

     Now, there are other passages which I think say much the same thing, but Romans 12:9-21 sums up for me the basics of living the Christian life.

Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

[10] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

[11] Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

[16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

[17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

[18] If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

[20] No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”

[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I think this passage is all about our Aim in life. Our Aim to please God and serve God. And it gives us an outline of what the Abnormal Life is to look like.


     A. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Israel you will probably visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The church itself has some very rich history, it was built in 327. One of the memorable features is the entrance. You can only enter through “The Door of Humility.” Everyone who visits the site must symbolically bow to the new born king as they enter.

     Since my first experience, I’ve felt that bending through that door is a great reminder and a powerful symbol of the type of life we are called to live as followers of Jesus. We’re call to life a life of Humility.

     We’re called to Aim Low. God bent low to become one of us. Jesus willingly Aimed Low and became the Servant Son of God, who willingly took the cross upon his back, who willingly took our sin and the penalty for our sin, death. Jesus Aimed Low so He could reach Higher. 

     B. The world thinks this is a stupid idea. The world tells us to think only of ourselves and to Aim High. They tell us to “Aim for the stars. So even if you fail, you might reach the moon.”

     Michelangelo said, “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”

     But as Christians, our life should be about humility and servanthood. As Servants with Christ we’re called to Aim Low to Reach Higher. You see, our aim isn’t the stars. Our Aim is higher than that. Our Aim is life eternal. Our Aim is beyond the stars. Our Aim is Heaven. So we’re called to Aim Low.

     Firefighters and Fire Extinguishers will tell you that the best way to put out a fire is to Aim Low, to Aim at the base of the fire. We’re called to Aim Low in order to Reach Higher.


     Today the symbols for that call to humility are conspicuously present.

     The Lord’s Table, laden with the all you can eat buffet of God’s Grace invites us to be fed so we can Aim Low as we kneel in God’s presence, submitting ourselves once again to God’s will for our lives.

     And the font filled with the water of our baptism calls us to dip our fingers in the waters of renewal, the waters of remembrance, so we can come clean with God and ourselves through confession and pardon. And thereby, become clean once again. Washed and set free we are sent to Aim Low in humble servanthood.

     And through our servanthood we are called to Aim for Good. Or as John Wesley said in his three simple rules. Do no harm. Do Good. Stay in love with God.


     This morning, we are invited to “Come As We Are.” We invited to:

     Come Dirty and be made clean

          Thru waters of baptism and grace of God in Chrsit

     Come Hungry and be fed

     Come Broken and be made whole

     Come Poor and be made rich filled with riches of God’s love

     Come as Orphans and be made part of the family, sons or daughters of God

          And not only family but Royalty, heirs of the Kingdom

     Come Blind and be given sight

     Come Deaf and be given the gift to hear God’s voice once again

     Come Wounded and be healed


This is the Word of the Lord for this day.