Romans 12:13-16 —
13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.
Philippians 2:3-5 —
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus….
Greetings, readers! How is your spiritual wellness check going? I have heard from several that this journey through Romans 12 has been quite challenging. It has for me, as well.
I think these characteristics of the church are supposed to be convicting. They seem unattainable – or at least too hard for someone like me to live out in my life. But these characteristics are not meant to be attained or achieved by the likes of us. They are only to be accomplished by Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20)!
So far, the Word has shown us what it is like to love and live in faith out in the world. Now, we are to look again to our minds and hearts to see the attitudes that should motivate us in walking with Christ.
The Philippians 2 passage gives us a little bit of context. I will not go into too much detail there as I hope to write on Philippians 2 at a later date, but what we see in verses 3-5 – not being selfishly ambitious, counting others “more significant than [ourselves], looking to the interests of those around us – is a picture of the mind of Christ.
The concept of putting others is a bit foreign for most of us. We live in a day and age that is often described as being a dog-eat-dog world and running at a cut-throat pace. But Jesus wants more for His bride – His body. Notice I said “more for” not “more from” or “more out of”. This is important when looking at today’s characteristics because they are not so much actions that can be learned and practiced as they are motivations that have to be cultivated and engrained. Let’s walk through these verses to see what the Lord would have for us here.
Verse 13 says, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” It is in our nature to look at verses such as this and fight against what they teach. Rather than get sidetracked by counter-arguments, let us look at it in the context of the whole chapter of Romans 12.
Think back to a few weeks ago when we looked at Romans 12:3-8 and the Church being Christ’s body. The body of Christ (the Church) is not a man-made organization. Its members are not to be thought of as individuals making up a corporation but rather to be parts of the body (i.e., losing an arm would be dismembered). So, when Paul talks about contributing to needs and showing hospitality, it is like saying take care of your arm for the sake of the rest of the body.
For centuries doctors could not fight against infection and knew, for them, it was better to sever the arm or leg than to allow gangrene or infection to set in and kill the entire body. It is the same principle here. If one of the members of our church is suffering or has a need that God has provided us the means to meet or take care of, we need to do it. It really is simple, and it flows out of love. Rather that cut that member out of fellowship for being in need, we reach out in love and meet the needs out of the overflow of God’s blessings to us.
Verse 14 cuts me right to the core. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” I struggle with this. When I was a kid, I was made fun of and bullied pretty heavily. My parents told me that I used to pray at night to be big like my Uncle Mike so that people would treat me differently. God answered that prayer quite specifically: when my Uncle Mike passed away, we were the same height, wore the same size clothing down to the shoes, and were within fifteen pounds of one another. I was finally big enough to make people leave me alone – or so I thought. All that happened was my heart changed and anger and bitterness had a bigger space to fill inside me.
The significance of this characteristic is that it changes the way we look at those who mistreat us. Those we are to be blessing are those who persecute us. They are lost people who are treating us poorly because of the gospel – which they need! By blessing them, we give opportunity for the Lord to work in their lives and their hearts be impacted by the gospel! Now, I do not mean the Southern “Bless your heart!” here (that’s more than likely meant as a politely worded curse). I believe that asking God to save those who are persecuting us 1) protects our hearts from bitterness, 2) gives us a Christ-like mindset, and 3) will see your enemy become a brother or sister if they get saved.
Verses 15-16a say, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another.” The first thing I see here is that we often misunderstand what it means to “live in harmony”. Paul is not telling the Church to just go along and get along. Harmony is much more complex. Think about a group of people singing in harmony. Every single syllable makes a specific chord. If you take one voice away, the chord changes. If one voice decides to sing a completely different song while the others are singing together, you get discord.
Essentially, our collective harmony is built around doing life together. The Christian life is not meant to be walked alone. The kidneys – while an important part of the body – cannot carry out all bodily functions. And part of our living in harmony and contributing to each of the needs of the saints is sharing in life together.
When a brother or sister is joyful over something in their life, are you joyful with them or do you resent and covet? When a member is sorrowful over something bad that happened in their life, are you crying with them or silently ecstatic that they got what you think they deserve? I can think of few sounds that are as beautiful to me as a church singing together. We must make sure our lives are singing the same song, as well.
Our last characteristic this week is found in verses 16b: “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” The word “haughty” here could be translated “arrogant” and “lowly” could be translated “downhearted”. Basically, we get the picture of one person whose worldly status has caused him/her to be swelled up with arrogance, while the other person’s lack of status causes them to be looked down upon. This should never be the case in the Church. This is backed up by James 2:1-7, verse 1 of which says, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
The gathering of the Church together should be a place where people from all walks of life should fit because of the shared faith, hope, and redemption found in salvation by Christ alone. The gospel does not discriminate. Anyone who repents and believes upon the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. Anyone – rich, poor, skinny, fat, and every shade of skin on the planet.
This may seem odd, but I have never fully felt at home in church until about a year and a half ago. If you know me, you know I am weird – at the very least quirky, probably more than a little eccentric. I like stuff that many others do not: books, science fiction, comic books, etc. It has always been hard for me to fit in. Then, God allowed me to come to Christ Community Church. The slogan on the church sign is “everyone is welcome”, and, once inside, it holds true. Even the persecution gets it right; one gentlemen – quite aggravated after worshiping there one Sunday – said, “This is a church of misfits.” Amen, indeed!
While Christ Community is not perfect, it gives us a good picture of the Body of Christ. Everyone Christ has ever saved has was a sinner who needed saving. He does not save because of status; He saves lost sinners! The variety of differences are for His glory and much to be celebrated. Revelation 7:9 describes a multitude in heaven as being “from every nation, …all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” – a bunch of misfits, and all loved and adopted by God!
Knowing where the Church is headed and remembering from the depths of sin Christ brought us lead us to much love, care, and thoughtfulness in our daily lives. My prayer for you today is that you could view the world around you – especially your church family – the way Christ does. May it drive you to love and care for those around you and see people’s lives changed by the gospel! “Never be wise in your own sight” (v. 16). Let us not seek our own wisdom but His and follow after Him, and seeing the change only He can bring to our lives and communities!