Thursday, August 13, 2020

Romans 12: Parts 2 and 3; Recipes for Good Relationship

 Romans 12 | Part 2

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” - Romans 12:9-10 NIV
This passage speaks to every age and stage of Christians in the world today. There is no limit to the ways we can describe and demonstrate love, hate, evil, good, devotion, and honor. Every form of society has shown examples of these concepts throughout time, for better or worse.
I think that in our healthy friendships and fellowship, we can best relate to the emotions and feelings that Paul discusses here. When we take them apart we can then make them more in-depth, as being entirely beneficial for the Body of Christ. I want to start with the end of the passage first.
“Honor one another above yourselves.” - When we honor someone above ourselves we consider their ideas out of respect and anticipate their needs over our own. We are making a conscious decision to prefer them. We are placing whatever they need in higher importance over whatever we think we want. We wouldn’t inflict pain, injury, or injustice upon ourselves. We would protect those that we honor at all costs. This is the mindset that we need to have as we honor someone above ourselves.
“Be devoted to one another in love.” - To be devoted in love to another person, we will be committed to them. We are dedicated to our children, our spouse, and maybe our parents or siblings. We are often willing to be devoted to a friendship that has weathered years and miles. If we have built up a loving and trusted relationship in our church family we may be able to say we are devoted to our church. We will serve these people, go the extra mile, and sometimes the extra expense, to be sure that they have their needs met. Our relationship with them is a priority, and we will make and take time to be with them, pray with and for them, and for the things that matter to them. Their priorities become our shared priorities.
“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” - This is so simply stated, but if you’ve ever had a discussion with people, spanning generations or spiritual maturity, you know that evil and good can mean different things to different people, in different places and times.
If we consider the words that Paul wrote to the Philippians in chapter 4, we can gain a framework for the “good” things. He says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” We can also reference his writings in Galatians 5, where he expands on the fruits of the Spirit, which can be displayed as evidence of maturing faith and “good” in our life. Verses 22-23 read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” These things are all “good,” beneficial for our life to display, and for our church, community, and society to receive from us.
Common sense would tell us that “evil” would simply be the polar opposite of “good.” If we need a reminder of things that would fit under that heading, we might look at the verses preceding the spiritual fruits in Galatians 5 where Paul lists things “in opposition to the Spirit.” I would classify these things as “evil,” although he is careful to include “and the like” at the end, so this list is not inclusive. He writes in verses 19-21, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Enough said.
“Love must be sincere.” - If I had started with this part of the verse, it would have been more difficult for me to explain. When I take into consideration everything that comes after it (everything you have just read), I think that it builds the framework of what sincere love is. It is a love that is honoring, devoted, preferring others over ourselves. It does not display or think of doing evil to another, and it blesses others with good things. For our love to be sincere, we do it without the expectation of genuine love being returned to us.
As we reflect upon this framework, we can recognize that this is the love that Jesus has for us. His life, death, and resurrection is the perfect example of a life lived sacrificially for us. In all that He did, He reflected His Father’s perfect love for us, and not only for us but for all sinners. This alone should be enough to encourage us to love all people more fully, to serve them on behalf of Jesus, and to be representatives of His hands and feet, whether in our home, neighborhood, church, workplace, community, or world.
Romans 12 | Part 3

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” - Romans 12:15 NIV
In this verse, Paul states clearly and simply how we should react when others exhibit heartfelt emotions. We could easily focus on our feelings right now and make excuses for not sharing others’ joy and sorrow. However, self-focus is not what Paul suggests.
Rejoicing with those who rejoice may be more comfortable. A friend’s family celebrates a long fight against cancer. Weddings take place and babies are born. A business survives a problematic season. A church anniversary or special day may occur. These are all reasons to celebrate. While some may seem superficial, I encourage you: take joy in every little space that shines! Look for ways to celebrate with others.
What about mourning? Can we take time to cry? Can we become still and allow others' pain to touch the tender parts of our hearts and minds? How can we comprehend someone else’s pain? It is an intentional act to sit still and listen, especially when so much demands our attention.
We need to quiet the news, talk-show hosts, YouTube videos, and podcasts so we can listen to downhearted friends facing something we may not have ever encountered. Let us sit still, close our mouths, open our ears, and support others in their troublesome seasons of life. We don’t need to explain what they are going through or share our similar experiences, but simply listen and be quiet with them.
We can ask questions to more fully understand others' feelings, but questions are not required. We can ask how we can pray and invite the Holy Spirit to join us in helping us understand what has led up to this season. It’s also best to stop at that moment and pray with the person, asking if he or she would like to also pray--again, putting the premium on listening. If you’re not sure what to pray, then sit with him or her before God and ask that He would send His Great Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to minister in this time of need. It’s okay to pray, “Lord, I don’t even know what to pray. Please, let us feel Your presence and Your comfort."
In addition to prayer, another way to mourn with others is to do something to help. In my own life, I have had to “put wheels on my grief” and do practical things to help me work through it. Recently, my oldest child and her family moved to Central America to work as missionaries. COVID now prevents us from flying there to visit our 7 grandkids, and we rely on technology to see one another. To help me work through the grief, I make quilts for my grandkids.
Others have also mourned with me in this circumstance by praying, creatively raising funds to support the relief work my family is doing in Central America. My friends weep with me and care for my tender heart.
There is no limit to the various ways we can walk alongside those who are rejoicing or mourning. Let us pray, listen, and see how God leads us in sharing these tender moments with people we care about. May the Holy Spirit also empower and equip us to meet the needs of those by our side as we celebrate and weep with them.
These posts first appeared on the Facebook Group page for Balanced and Beautiful in Christ. You can view that page here. ©2020 Marina Bromley, all rights reserved.

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