Thoughts from the Passage
As I read and reread this chapter over and over there were several thoughts that kept coming up. These same thoughts were echoed by the various commentators. Paul begins this section with using language that is illustrative and a reminder of what Jesus has done. Paul focuses on the idea that if we are disciples of Jesus than all of our life should be centered on him. If all of our life is centered on Jesus then there are some ways in which our lives should reflect that reality. With all that in mind we see Paul quickly move from the idea of worship as a way of life to very practically talking about what that should look like.
If you happen to be one of the few who read this blog and do not attend The Lakes Community Church of the Nazarene then a part of this commentary will not be nearly as helpful, but if you look at the other blog post that includes our church’s vision statement you may find some help in seeing the connections.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform 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.
Worship is not something that we go do, worship is who we are. If we are followers of Jesus then all that we do is worship to God. We either live our lives as a reflection of Jesus or we live our lives as a shell of what God desires for us. Paul is quite clear that to follow Jesus is to give all that we are, all that we have, and all that we might become to God to use for His Kingdom. How we live our life is how we show how we Love God. We show how we Love God through the way that we worship with our lives and the way we love others.
We are shaped by all kinds of things and if we are not careful we are shaped by things that are opposite of God’s Kingdom values. Paul is reminding readers in a very pluralistic world that what they believe matters and not all beliefs are equal. This echoes the day we live in today. Correct belief matters, not all understandings of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are rooted in Scripture, not all are rooted in church history, and not all are real well thought out! Paul is imploring the believers in Rome to be shaped by the values of God’s Kingdom and not the kingdoms of the world.
3 For by 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 faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Paul begins with mentioning the grace of God and if we are not careful we forget the depth of God’s grace in our lives and are then slow to give that grace to others. With that in mind Paul is encouraging us to remember that the spiritual journey that Jesus invites us on is not a journey traveled alone, but is a journey that we travel together. All those who are followers of Jesus are welcomed into God’s family and like any good family we are called to work together, to recognize that we need each other. In fact, it could easily be said this way, that the way we grow into mature followers of Jesus is directly related to the way in which we Grow Together!
6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
As Paul has just said we are all a part of one family and if you have ever been a part of a mildly healthy family unit, then you know that in that family certain people are better at certain things than others. In my family, my wife has never done any yard work, but that is okay because I enjoy it and have quite a bit of experience in that area. However, I have never lifted a paint brush in any home that we have ever lived (Mostly because my wife is a perfectionist and is scared I won’t be and she doesn’t want to hurt my feelings…at least that is what I am writing here!). The church is no different than a healthy family.
One person in a family may be better at math and balance the check book, while another person in the family is quite handy with tools and maintains the home, while another is great with cooking and takes care of the meals, but each offers a value that at certain times is vitally important. In the church not everyone has been blessed financially, and not everyone is a good teacher, and not everyone is compassionate, but if one of those things is your gift then do it well! We should not feel inadequate because someone does something better than us because there is very likely something that we do that they do not do. The church needs all our gifts and God calls us to use them as acts of worship. This is how we Serve All.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 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. 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
These verses are a very practical example of what Paul calls people to in the first few verses of this chapter. If you are offering your whole self to the Lord as an act of worship and you are allowing God to renew your mind and your life then this is the way that those who are followers of Jesus are to live. In fact, these descriptions of what it looks like to be disciples of Jesus are the same descriptors that should describe the church, because the people of God are to live this way. It is as if Paul is reminding people that they are to live as people of “truth in the midst of grace.” That they are to never find themselves responding by the patterns that the kingdoms of the world value, but are to be responding in ways that show God’s grace.
The practical list of 21 ways that Christians are called to live looks like this:
(The phrase followed by a brief commentary…it should be mentioned that this in many ways echoes the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount)
(1) Love must be sincere. Don’t be hypocritical so that the church can have a new word describing it!
(2) Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Don’t stay in areas of evil and assume it won’t rub off.
(3) Be devoted to one another in love. Love looks like laying down our rights in all areas of life.
(4) Honor one another above yourselves. Serve all as Christ did, by putting others ahead of himself.
(5) Never be lacking in zeal. Is your faith life changing or not? if it is, live it out.
(6) keep your spiritual fervor There should be an intensity to the way we live as followers of Jesus.
(7) serving the Lord. Serve in all ways, don’t be lazy in anything. God doesn’t call people to life half-hearted, but to remember that how we live is a spiritual act of worship and Christians should model what it looks like to give our all.
(8) Be joyful in hope, Jesus went to the places that were hopeless and he brought hope to them. We are to do the same!
(9) patient in affliction, God does not promise us riches, God does not promise that we will not go through temptations and trials, but he promises in the midst of them he will be present. In His presence we find a strength that is not our own and we come through those afflictions in such a way that our depth is greater than we could have imagined.
(10) faithful in prayer. Prayer is a way of life
(11) Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. We cannot let our money or our possessions own us, but they must always be God’s and we are to hold them very loosely. Our lives should be defined by generosity.
(12) Practice hospitality. May our generosity leads us to practicing hospitality.
(13) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. When we don’t like someone’s response we are to bless them. This is a counter-cultural way of responding, but it is Christ-like!
(14) Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. We are called to share in life with one another. We are called to share in the good and the bad. We need to be willing to enter in one another’s life with love.
(15) Live in harmony with one another. Don’t be the person who causes the conflict!
(16) Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. You nor I, nor anyone else is as important as we think. In God’s Kingdom there is no one person who is better than another. God’s Kingdom takes the social statuses that exist in our world and it flips them and even erases them. In God’s Kingdom we are all sinners transformed by His grace.
(17) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If you are wronged, don’t retaliate.
(18) Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. People are always watching the life of someone who claims to follow Jesus. Make sure we don’t take shortcuts in any area of life.
(18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Paul keeps coming back to this idea that living at peace is always God’s call for our lives as the church and in the world.
(19) Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, Don’t seek revenge, no matter what! If you are wronged, don’t forget what happened to Jesus. Paul would be thinking of Stephen (Acts 7) as he wrote this and that was the moment that Stephen echoed the prayer of Jesus which said, “Father, forgive them.”
(20) 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.” Followers of Jesus are to respond as Jesus would, not as the world around us would tell us is okay.
21(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. If revenge takes root, then we are in trouble. “Evil cannot be conquered by evil.” Only when our enemies become our friends can we overcome evil.