Hold fast to what is good. – Romans 12:9b (NRSVUE)
When I served as a local church pastor, each week I considered how to end the service. Would there be a charge, some words that directed those present to apply the themes or lessons of the day to their lives? Or would I simply offer a benediction, which literally means “good words?”
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul offers a charge that forms a basis for a benediction often heard in churches, and the end of Romans 12:9 has become central for me as a charge for my life. Hold on to what is good.
Now, I’ll be honest. I grew up on Mary Poppins’ spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, so I have to watch my tendency toward denial. Yet the practice of naming what’s genuinely good has become a charge on my life, as if God (via Paul) handed down an instruction that like so many other things is wholesome in moderation even though its extreme or its opposite are not.
As I write this, I am recovering from surgery for something that turned out to be benign (good) but missing out on taking our youngest to college with my wife (sad), but also grateful that our daughter is here to take care of me (good), even though I am also missing out on a planned visit to our other children and granddaughter (sad).
I’ve tried to learn to identify what is good, genuinely, with no need for embellishment or martyrdom to make it so. I’ve tried, and I am still trying, to live that charge and have it be also a benediction, a blessing.
Holy One, bless us with the capacity to see what is good. Amen.