Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God—the good, the pleasing, and the perfected.”
And then Paul does not prescribe the Will of God, so much as describe the Will of God, as if he sees the Will of God. He sees the Eschatos Adam. He sees the Superman. He sees what my daughter saw many years ago in worship. He sees, Roman 12:5, that “we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” Jesus is the Will of God—the good, the pleasing, and the perfected. And we are his Body.
Paul didn’t write, “Get more knowledge of Good and evil, and try harder.”
(That was the suggestion of the snake in the garden.)
Paul wrote, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
(That must be the revelation of reality on the other side of the curtain.)
People always want to know what to do, and Jesus already told us what to do: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.”
How do I love God with all I have and all I am, and then, have anything left over with which to love my neighbor? I could only fulfill the law of Love if God was in my neighbor and in me. And that is precisely what Paul is saying.
But what if my neighbor is difficult to love? That would be frustrating. It would make me angry—perhaps wrath is something like Love that’s been bottled up?
Many have argued that certain people are simply “vessels of wrath,” while other people, different people, are “vessels of mercy.” Yet Paul has spent all of Romans making just the opposite point. Romans 11:32, “God consigned all to disobedience (that would be a vessel of wrath), that he might have mercy on all (that would be a vessel of Mercy that used to be a vessel of wrath).”
Others wonder, “Why does it matter? What difference does it make?”
Well, what if there’s a chance that my neighbor is merely a vessel of wrath?
I certainly wouldn’t want to love my neighbor as I love myself for fear that myself might be my neighbor—a vessel of wrath!
And, what if there’s a chance that I might be a vessel of wrath and my neighbor a vessel of Mercy?
Well then, I would be threatened by my neighbor’s gifts and offended by his kindness in fear that I might be judged relative to my neighbor. I would compete; I would try to be my neighbor and secretly despise my neighbor. I would act like I loved my neighbor—for love is the law—but I’d secretly wish my neighbor to hell, all in the name of heaven.
If there’s just a chance that some folks are nothing but vessels of wrath, I would need to judge everyone before I dared to love anyone. And so, trying to love, I would crucify Love, and make myself an imitation Christ spawning imitation Christians: Anti-Christians—all of us filled with wrath. For what kind of God commands love for enemies and then endlessly tortures his own enemies, of whom I suspect myself to be one? Or . . . does he?
Does God bless those who persecute him (Romans 12:4)?
Does God repay evil with evil (Romans 12:17)?
Is God overcome by the evil, or does he overcome the evil with the Good (Romans 12:21)?
Is God, Jesus: the Good, the Pleasing, and the Perfected?
So, what does Paul mean when he writes, “Give space to wrath, for it is written ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay says the Lord.’ [But, moreover, indeed, yes] if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty give him something to drink; for by so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head (Romans 12:19-20)”?
“Vengeance is mine, I will repay” is a quote from the Song of Moses, right after Moses sings, “Is this not laid up in store with me sealed up in my treasuries?” It was in the treasury of the temple that Jesus spoke about judgment as if he himself were the judgment. Jesus is the temple, and his life is the treasure inside of the temple. We broke his body and the judgment flowed out. In the Revelation, the seven angels come out of the temple and pour bowls of wrath upon the earth burning away the great harlot (us) and revealing the Bride (us). The wrath in the bowls is the blood of the Lamb.
Like Paul, Jesus quoted Isaiah who prophesied saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of the vengeance of our God.” In the year of the Jubilee all debts were to be cancelled. That’s good news for debtors who know they can’t pay, but painful news for lenders who think others should pay . . . them.
At the end of Isaiah, all humanity looks down on the corpses of all humanity being consumed by eternal fire in the valley of Gehenna and in one body, as one flesh, with one voice, they all worship God for having saved us from ourselves.
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees God in a body high and lifted up and seated on a throne as Seraphim sing “The whole earth is filled with his Glory.” Isaiah saw all things filled with God in Christ Jesus and all things united in him in one body. And Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am lost”—also translated “utterly cut off, undone, perished, and destroyed.” Isaiah’s Psyche is violated, literally destroyed, by the revelation of the psyche of God, the revelation of Jesus and his body on the other side of the curtain.
My sin is to take and break the body of Christ.
God’s vengeance is to bleed for me.
One of the Seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with a coal from the altar saying, “Your sin is atoned for.” It’s the coals on the altar that burn away the flesh—the flesh that traps us in ourselves and so dams us to Hades and Jesus with us. The burning coals undam the river, set us free to lose our lives and find them, to love and be loved, to bleed one for another in an eternal communion of sacrificial life—eternal life. The coals are the kindness of God.
What difference does it make?
I am unable to actually judge my neighbor, but I can be kind to my neighbor, no matter what.
Jesus said that each of us is like a field of wheat and tares. If we try to pull up the tares, we will destroy the wheat. And so, we have to leave it to the end of the age.
The end of the age and the beginning of the age to come is the moment you forgive your neighbor, the moment they take your life, and you bleed the Life, the vengeance of God. It burns away the lie and liberates the river of Way, Truth, and Life.
It’s not your job to fix your neighbor (That’s “ekdikesis:” vengeance. It belongs to God.)
It’s your job to love your neighbor (That’s “dike:” right. It’s the Righteousness of God in you.)
And that Love that you bleed will judge your neighbor, fix your neighbor, and bring us all home.
“This is my body, which is for you. This is the covenant in my blood,” said Jesus.
If you don’t “discern the body” the blood will burn you like fire until you do.
If you do discern the body, you will bleed for others and, eventually, they will bleed for you in an endless ecstatic communion of Love and Life called Heaven.
That’s quite a difference.