Saturday, October 31, 2015

Overcome Evil with Good

What doe it look like to live as though we belong to other members of the body of Christ?

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it 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." (Romans 12:17-21)

We live in a world where disagreements happen. Where people get hurt by the words and actions of other people - whether done intentionally or not. In theses verses, Paul is speaking about how we should respond in these situations.

We are called to respond differently. To respond with grace, kindness, and love, rather than evil, insult, and revenge.

This is another area that emphasizes our need to let God transform us, because we can't do this without Him. We can't choose the response to overcome evil with good in our own strength. It has to be God in us.

The way of responding Paul lays out becomes even more difficult when it comes from a brother or sister in Christ. We expect hurt, revenge, and insult to come from those outside the body of Christ, so we're better prepared to deal with it.

But, when it comes from inside the body of Christ, it seems to hurt more and to provoke a stronger response is us. But, Paul is saying this is how we should act no matter who the other person is. Maybe especially when it's a brother or sister in Christ.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Do Life Together

What does it look like to live as though we belong to other members of the body of Christ?

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with each other. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." (Romans 12:14-16)

We're supposed to do life together. To really be involved in the good and the bad of each other's lives.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Scripture makes it pretty clear that we will face persecution as Christians. The challenge comes in how we're to respond to those who persecute us. Most of the time it would be easiest and most natural to respond in kind, but we're supposed to have a different response.

We're supposed to bless them, to look for ways to do good for them, to pray for them. History is full of stories of the impact people had when they chose to bless those who persecuted them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

This one is often easiest for us. We find it more natural to celebrate with people when they have reason to celebrate. It's fun, so we join in. We do this part of life with people.

There are times when we may find it difficult to rejoice with those who rejoice - for a variety of reasons. But, even in those times, we can choose to rejoice with them.

Mourn with those who mourn.

This one is often more difficult, because we want to fix the problem or the pain for those we love and care about. We want to come in with the answer, to solution. But, part of doing life together is coming alongside each other in our mourning and just being with them. it might be one of the hardest things to do, but the person we "just be" with, it can be the best thing anyone can do for them.

Live in harmony with one another.

Living in harmony with one another doesn't mean we just stuff our feelings and pretend everything is good when it isn't. It means that we calmly and lovingly deal with things right away when they come up. That we deal with conflict properly. That we resolve issues with each other.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Pride and conceit get us into trouble in relationships with people. They cause us to think of ourselves as better than others and then we have people we don't want to associate with. When we get caught up in pride, we cut ourselves off from true community with other believers. In the family of God, we should be treating each other the same whatever position they may have.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It Starts with Love

What does it look like to live as though we belong to the other members of the body of Christ?

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour each other 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 the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:9-13)

Just a few verses, yet so much to unpack in them about what is this looks like.

Love must be sincere.

You can't fake love. If it's not sincere, it's not really love. It's manipulation, and that's not what causes the body of Christ to work well together.

Yes, love is a choice we make to treat people a certain way, but it is still something that cannot be faked. We choose love for the sake of the other person, not because we're looking at what we can get in return.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

At a quick glance this phrase seems out of place sandwiched between ones talking about love. But, I think it actually makes perfect sense. Evil destroys love and that destroys relationships with each other. What is good builds our relationships with each others as it helps us to grow in love. We need to remove and avoid what is evil in our lives with dilligence and regardless of the cost. We need to replace that evil with good.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.

This is about putting others first. Not so that you can become a doormat for everyone to walk all over, but beacuse you care about and want to serve others. It usually comes down to a choice to serve, a choice to seek good for others.

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

As we work together as a body it's our love for God that has to move us forward. It's far easier to keep our spiritual fervor when we're serving in community that truly loves each other.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

We have hope because of Jesus Christ and that gives us reason for joy. It's a joy that goes beyond our circumstances. That joy is a part of what helps us to be patient in affliction.

Being patient in affliction goes against our natural tendency. When things are hard, we want it to end. We look for a way out. What is we chose to look for what God is teaching us and doing in us through those times instead? It won't change the fact we wish we weren't in that time, but it amy change the way we walk through it.

Prayer is a vital part of our relationship with God. When we're faithful in it, our relationship with Him changes. We discover more reasons to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction.

Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

As Christians, we're called to care for each other. The early church is full of examples of helping out those among them who were in need. We should still be marked by that today.

Paul doesn't limit practicing hospitality to those who might be gifted at it here. He simply states that we should be practicing hospitality. How each of us does so may look different, but it's not something optional for us.

We may welcome people into our homes. We may be the ones welcoming them at community gatherings. We may practice hospitality by creating a safe place for people to belong and share their story. However we do it, we are called to practice hospitality.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We Belong to Each Other

"For 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, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others." (Romans 12:4-5, emphasis mine)

What does it mean that "each member belongs to all the others"?

That was the question that wen through my mind when I read these verses recently. What does it really look like?

These verses come in the middle of a passage that is well known as talking about spiritual gifts. About how we all have a part to play in the body of Christ.

As I reflected on this more, I realized that this makes sense when you think about how the body works. Every part of a body needs the others to do their job in order to function. They depend on each other.

The same is true of the body of Christ. We need each other to be doing what God has given us to do, so we as a body can function properly. We belong to each other in the sense that we need each other to do what God has called us to do - as a body and individually.

If we belong to each other and are part of one body, then we have a responsibility in how we treat each other. It changes the way we should be acting towards one another.

Paul goes on in the book of Romans to describe what it looks like for us to live as members of Christ's body who belong to each other. The way we should live and the way we should interact with each other.

To read the words of Paul it sounds straightforward enough, but living it can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Paul describes a was of living that is different from our fallen sinful nature. A way of living that requires us to allow God to transform us and make us more like Christ.

Paul gives us a picture of what this looks like in Roman 12:1-2, where he writes:
"Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper 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."
Living as the body of Christ that describes us as, starts with surrender. A choice on our part to let God have control and transform us.

What does Romans say about what this kind of living looks like?

That's the question I'll be exploring in my posts for a while. Romans is full of instruction on what this looks like - good, practical instructions that can help us understand.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Power of the Cross

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)

I've been reflecting a lot recently on the power of the cross. The importance of it to our lives as Christians. The freedom that the sacrifice it represents has brought in our lives. The ongoing freedom the sacrifice it represents allows us to live in. The freedom from shame and condemnation that it brings.

Romans 8:1 tells us that "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Without the cross we stand condemned because of our sin. With the cross, we are freed from the chains of sin that have bound us up.

When we come to the cross and realize the magnitude of what Jesus' death on the cross in our place accomplished, we are in the place where we can discover the power of the cross. When we accept the gift that is offered us to the cross, we find freedom from the power of sin in our lives.

The power of the cross becomes evident in our lives when we are willing to admit our brokenness and our need. When acknowledge our sin and our need for help. When we allow God to come in and be our strength, rather than trying to do it better on our own.

1 John 1: 9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." This is the starting place for discovering the power of the cross in our lives.