``Roaming Through Romans (Romans chapter 12)
`The twelfth chapter of Romans starts right off with instructions for us to let God’s Word and His Holy Spirit radically transform our way of thinking. We are warned not to be conformed to the ethics of this world. We are to be different. Proverbs 14:12 warns: “There is a way that seems right to people, but its end is the way of death.” And Romans 12:2a reads: “Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,…” The worlds’ ways aren’t good enough. When we believe in Christ, God has a new way for us to go.
To be transformed by a renewed mind means to be committed to the ideals of this new way -the kingdom of God. As Christians we have been born again into God’s kingdom. We can’t navigate this kingdom walk by ourselves. His Spirit and His Word will help us. Since we follow kingdom precepts now, we don’t fit in with the ethics of this world. When the world ethics say we should compete, the kingdom ethics tell us to cooperate. We are strangers and pilgrims here.
Romans 12:1 begs us to present our body as a living sacrifice. The Jews brought animals to God as their sacrifice in the Old Testament times. But today our sacrifice to the Lord is our life. We are invited to give our life to the Lord.
As we move on through Romans 12, the Lord through Paul challenges us in verse 3 “…not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” We are being called to give up worldly pride and live lives of humility here. Paul continues in verse 4 and 5: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Our different gifts make us love and depend on one another all the more. The fact that we are all one body in Christ is a beautiful mystery that draws us closer together.
We read on and verse 9 through 13 and 15 emphasizes love as the guiding principle in Christian relationships. “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” …“distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” And “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” In these verses you can see that love reigns supreme! God is calling us to love.
We are instructed to allow love to shine through our lives, not just for our fellow believers, but for our enemies as well. Romans 12:14 and 17 read: “Bless those who persecute you: bless and do not curse.” and “Repay no one evil for evil.” And Paul continues with this theme in verse 19 and 20. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him, If he is thirsty, give him a drink: For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”
You can see we are over our heads and out in deep waters here. We will sink trying to love our enemies in our own strength. But we can walk on water with the Holy Spirits’ help! He will give us the strength to obey this command if we ask. We can love our enemies if we live Spirit filled lives.
Romans 12 closes with this last instruction: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” How many times in our lives have we felt surrounded with controversies, hatreds, insults and dangers? It’s so easy to want to fight back with the same. But our marching orders are to overcome evil with good. And we can do that. In Christ we can do it all.
Christians are being called in this chapter to come away and not accommodate to worldly standards. The worlds’ standards for success are obtaining wealth, status, and power. When we play the worlds’ game we love our friends and hate our enemies. We are proud of ourselves, compete with our neighbor and get angry with those who get in our way. We become depressed when we aren’t the center of attention and we are critical of folks we don’t agree with. We take care of Number #1 and we push ahead at others’ expense. This worldly way comes naturally and makes so much sense to all of us, but it leads to death.
But God calls us to a different way. When we live in the Spirit we love our friends and we love our enemies too. Our lives are marked with humility and we don’t think that we are more important than others. When friends treat us badly we take our hurt feelings to God. We constantly keep asking the Lord to help us love the unlovely. When we’re angry we get over it and forgive. The standards for success in the kingdom are faith and obedience and love. And as Christians we don’t live for ourselves but we live for God. We’re being invited to take this road less traveled. It’s a whole different way, but it leads to life.