Reflecting and Doing
This activity not only reflects, it shines! We will make stained-glass reminders of the words from this passage. Depending on the size of the glass you can use it for a candle holder, pen pot or vase (but not for drinking).
This simple craft is suitable for adult and children, although very young ones will need to be supervised because permanent markers are, well, permanent.
You will need:
- Small glasses with straight sides (click for supplies)
- Permanent markers or glass paint pens (click for supplies)
- Sticky tape
- Printouts of phrases from the passage in various fonts and sizes
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- Make sure your glasses are well washed and free from any label stickiness. Baby wipes can be useful for removing finger prints.
- Choose a few phrases from the printed texts and cut them out. If you are good with lettering, you can just draw them on paper as I have here.
- Tape the phrases inside the glass and trace over the letters on the outside with a dark-coloured marker.
- Draw lines over the rest of the glass, leaving space around the words. You can use straight lines or curves, regular patterns or irregular.
- Colour the spaces to look like stained glass. You can use solid colours, small pictures, or patterns.
- If you are using permanent markers, it is better to leave small gaps between colours to avoid staining lighter pens.
- If you are using glass paints, bake the items according to the instructions.
Pondering – 1
Who says the Bible is not relevant for today? This list of how to apply ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ is as timeless as it is difficult.
Christian or not, religious or not, this is the home-style wisdom of everyone’s gran – which is to say, the wisdom born of many years of living in this weary world. It’s not about grand statements. It’s not Live Aid or 24-hour telethons. It’s not nation-wide movements or slick videocasts. This revolution is small, close and personal – and thereby all the harder.
It’s easy to give a tenner to a worthy cause (and that’s there in the list) but it’s much, much harder to bless those who are mean to us. That really does require a miracle. Fortunately, as we read earlier in this chapter, we have a God who is very good at heart surgery.
Pondering – 2
The wise advice is fine (if tricky to actually do), but what’s all this about heaping burning coals on the heads of your enemies? That doesn’t sound very nice!
Sure, I can think of a few folks who might deserve it, and I expect you can too, but isn’t the whole point of this chapter that we’re not supposed to do that kind of thing? This puzzled me for years, and it illustrates a really important principle to remember whenever we read the Bible.
It wasn’t written for me.
Yes, of course God can speak to me through his written word, absolutely; but it wasn’t actually written for me. Romans is a letter written in a different language by a guy from a different culture to a bunch of Jewish bods in first-century Rome. And this bit is quoting something written centuries even earlier in a different language again by a different Jewish guy in another different culture. Phew!
And I wonder why the joke doesn’t translate!
That’s right, it’s a joke. The Bible contains jokes – get over it.
It’s a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22, which the Good News Bible renders “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them a drink. You will make them burn with shame, and the Lord will reward you.”
Ahhh, that makes so much more sense. ‘Heaping coals of fire’ (not literal) is ancient Jewish for ‘make their cheeks burn’ (also not literal). But from this I learn much more than a witty turn of phrase from a few thousand years ago; I learn how to read my Bible.
Not everything we read in the Bible is word-for-word true. We are not literally supposed to heap burning coals anywhere (unless you are starting a barbecue). It’s a figure of speech, and must be understood as such. We must always look for the meaning that the original author meant for the original audience and then reapply that for our culture and language. The bods in Rome would have got the joke, it’s only our distance in time and culture that causes the difficulty.
As an example, take this recent exchange on facebook:
“My wife’s just been on holiday to Lyme Regis.”
“Oh yes, she’d recommend it to anyone.”
(For my non-UK readers, Lyme Regis is an old-fashioned sea-side resort in the county of Dorset. It’s the place where they keep finding dino-bones.)
Imagine that re-translated for a different country, different culture and through different languages. Still funny? I think not. Just out of interest, I put it through Google translate: Hebrew, Greek, Latin and back to English. It became:
“My husband, on vacation when he was just kicked King. ”
“Oh, yes, it is recommended that a person is”.
I find myself challenged by the words I read here.
How much do I do these? I don’t think I score too well.
I am going to use the ‘Reflecting and Doing’ to make myself a reminder of some of the phrases that seem to weigh on my mind. Would you like to join me?
Romans 12:9-21 (NIV)
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
New International Version – UK
Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Good News Translation
Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society