Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Romans 12

I read this passage today and was struck by just how much is here. Romans 12 could easily be considered a "quick start guide" to living a Christian life. If I were critiquing the writing, I'd say that the author needs to go into more detail, but in context of being a part of the entire Bible, it does a great job in introducing key ideals of the Christian life. I most likely won't do it full justice here, but wanted to just skim through a talk about what is being said.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 is our call to not be pulled into what the rest of the world sees as necessary and good. This is probably one of the hardest steps in following Christ's example. He angered other people because he didn't do things the way they believed they should be done. It is easy to start to fall into the pattern of worrying what others will think if we do or don't do something, to offend family when we disagree with their choice of entertainment, skip certain social gatherings in favor of worshiping and celebrating our Maker and his son. We are not called to fit in--we are called to live a life that reflects God and His perfect will for us. It may be uncomfortable, but in the end to make God happy is one of the most fulfilling things we can do. To be able to do all of this, though, we need to have a relationship with God and spend time in the Bible. The Scripture serves a guide as to how exactly a follower lives. It has all sorts of different writing styles to accomodate different learning types: poetry and songs, magnificent stories, history, drama and even some comedy if you are paying attention. It is beautiful and made to influence all aspects of your life. Can you imagine playing baseball without knowing the rules of the game? The chaos and constant feelings of failure as you mess up because you didn't know you were supposed to run to the bases, and then that you were supposed to run clockwise around them. Living life without knowing what is in the manual, the Bible, is like that. On top of all that, what it has to say is actually deeply personal. We all get the same manual, but what it says is to be seen through the light of a personal walk and relationship with Christ. It is through our prayer time that we are able to see what the Bible has to say. It is not the same for everyone (though some things are pretty universal, like, oh, I don't know, do not murder). That is why you have to read it, and cannot take what the church or TV or anybody else says without checking out their source for yourself. I have heard some pretty far-fetched interpretations of God's word. It is sad how many people do not take the time actually read what is there (which is also the case with so many other important documents, take the Constitution, for example). There is no easy way out of this test. So, in short, live the life God expects of you, not what is popular, necessarily.
For the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Verses 3-8 are more of my favorites. They are important, as it is easy to fall into that lemming role and just do whatever everyone else is doing, especially prevalent in churches. People see others crying, or yelling or jumping during worship and assume that they are doing something wrong if they aren't doing that also. Paul is very forth coming with the fact that we each are endowed with our own strengths, and that we should live according to those. We aren't all called to be missionaries. We aren't all called to prophecy. We aren't all called to be loud and rowdy or quiet and small in our worship. Like we love all our children for who they are, so God loves us. We are all different; He is okay with that. I get very frustrated when churches like to critque each other because they worhsip differently. This one is more "on fire' because of how loud they are or this one is more devout because of how many missionaries they have. Our call is to love, and we all love differently. We should love each other and God. How that plays out is up to how we were made. I love quiet, calm time when I worship and pray. I have siblings who like it loud and active. There is no problem with that. I attended a church for awhile where they felt that you were not actually "saved" if you could not or had not spoken in tongues. I have never felt like I needed to do so, and I think, frequently upset them that it was not important to me. It was not my strength. I sing. When I feel like I need to be close to God, I sing to him. Not everyone can carry a tune or has hymns stored up inside, but I do. I do not condemn others because of this or judge their walk on that truth. We are each made with different talents, and those talents we are to use for good. What is also being said here is something that our society has some serious trouble with. We need humility. It is easy to feel proud of ourselves for being able to do this or that, when, we can only do those things because God lets us. He can just easily take them away. I may be blessed with a certian amount of money right now, but tragedy can strike at any moment and it would be gone. I may be a fast runner (OR NOT) but I could be in a car accident and lose the ability to walk. I need to be thankful for what I have right now, using it to further His message, but not in such a manner that others feel lesser because of it. I also see some word on the need to make everyone feel equal in our society. God did not make us all the same, so to expect us all to be the best at everything is folly. We aren't all going tobe able to write well. We aren't all going to be the best ball players or actors, and yet our schools and many parents are making a point to not hurt anyone's feelings by not letting those weaknesses be pointed out. Everyone is awesome at everything without really trying is the message that gets sent out, when we should be highlighting strengths and not giving false hope. The repercussions of this are starting show in our issues with the economy as individuals think they do not have to work to be awesome. Awesomeness (or what is needed to live a satisfying life) is just there. It is a sad thing to watch happen.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice 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 everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my 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.

Verses 9-20 are rather straightforward--love one another. Our worth is the same in God's eyes whether it is the same here in earthly standards or not. We are all His children. If evil is done to us, we should leave it to God to avenge. He knows what is truly good or evil and will make sure that justice is done. That does not mean that we should not have justice systems to help keep us safe, but in our day to day affairs to recognize what may be unpleasing to God, and avoid it. If we have a problem with something or someone, we need to pray for them. Not to have something bad happen to them, but rather that God would intervene in a situation and help those who do not understand that what they are doing is not okay. Part of practicing hospitality and giving to others is praying for them. Diligent prayer is awesome in how it works, and often that time spent in prayer opens our eyes to things we may not have seen about someone, and may soften our hearts to be more wiling to help with whatever the situation is. We are not supposed to focus on ourselves, but on helping others, whether it is encouraging words, prayer or a meal. Being a Christian is very much about relationships, both with God and with each other. Judging by what Paul was saying here there was some discord amongst the Roman church, and he was hoping to help them see that our worth in Christ is far more important than our worth amongst each other,and if we live according to that, a lot of what we worry about would be lifted.

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