Together – Romans 12:1-21
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, that you might prove what the will of God is, that which is good acceptable and perfect.
At the age of 25, I was a young zealous disciple who had memorized this verse and was busily memorizing others in a systematic way which, along with inductive bible study, was how I would manage my transformation. It felt good to be on the cutting edge of authentic Christianity – oblivious to Paul’s council in verse 3 …
Don’t not think more highly of yourself than you ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgement.
A lesson I hope I can continue to learn is that God’s intentions involve bringing our minds and our hearts together. While the mind can acquire truth, its the heart that must live it. While I had enscribed the first 2 verses of Romans 12 on my mind, it was the remaining 19, having to do with relationships, that God would use to inscribe his words onto my heart. Here is a summary of those verses;
So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of the other; be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; bless those who persecute you; be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation; if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
I think of truth as a seed. When I memorized it, I would like to think that it had been planted in my heart and was now a part of the renewed me. In truth though, as the seed was stored in my mind, it was really just resting on the surface. It had no roots and it certainly didn’t have any fruit. I had no idea that my response to the one another – relational commands of verses 3-21 would determine if the hard shell around that seed would deteriorate, allowing it to germinate and grow.
One of the ways we are conformed to this world is the way we see ourselves. In Adam – in our flesh, we are predisposed toward selfishness. Here, the devil and the world conspire to keep us in competition with each other so that comparison is second nature. This is ground zero for the transformation God has in mind.
When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 2 Cor 10:12.
Certainly we differ but our differences have more to do with our place in the Body of Christ and the gifts he has entrusted to us. God is inviting us into a kingdom without class-distinctions as we know them. In this counterintuitive realm, we must embrace one anther, especially the #10 grit-one anothers. Our transformations depends upon it.
Jesus is Lord and he is faithful to provide us with others (often abundantly) who will rub us cross grain. In this dynamic tension, we have peak opportunity for truth to move from our minds to our hearts where it becomes part of the kingdom’s government – influencing our motives and ultimately, our actions. If we will listen and obey in the ruff and tumble of relationships, the hard shell of the seed will break down and truth will be birthed, the Word will become flesh, the Light of the world will be seen, love will prevail and the gospel’s claims of freedom will be validated. I can’t help but think of Suzy Derkins famous line from Calvin and Hobbs …
And while I’m wishing, I’d like a pony too 🙂
By the time I was 35, I had amassed a lot of bible knowledge but I had also amassed and afflicted tons of pain on my one anthers. I blush in this confession but even while I was duking it out with God’s agents of grace (code for my family), I was trumpeting propositional (memorized) truth from the housetops with conviction. I was blowing with all my might but the sound fell to the ground as a lifeless religious noise – kind of a gong. One of the great milestones in my journey occurred when God confronted me with Paul’s words ..
If possible, be at peace with all men.
This may be difficult to understand, but I knew specifically what I was to do with this verse. God was asking me to forgive one of my one-anothers. On my list (and I had a long one) this one-another qualified as #10 grit sandpaper. If you are unfamiliar with sand paper grades, #10 is the one made with shards of glass. My knees buckled when I grasped what God was asking me to do. Welcome to the kingdom of God.
A very familiar part of me violently opposed this plan, but what was I to do, I had given him permission to use his Hebrews 4:12 sword on my heart. This was an OMG moment; I was discovering what it really meant to be a follower of Jesus. The story is too long (and too personal) to post but I chose to follow Jesus. Again, this may be difficult to understand, but the moment I sided with God on this matter, grace literally poured into my life and into my relationships. And, all I had done was acknowledged that, as far as it concerned me ..
It was possible (because of Christ in me) to be at peace with all men.
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done but it resulted in an amazing transformation in me and, consequently, in my family. I came away with the understanding that God has called his children to embrace this dying-living-loving process as our kingdom-way of life. Our light shines brightly in these 7×70-moments because in our dying we are being transformed into the image of Christ.
Prior to this watershed event, I was at serious odds with people very close to me. I was dead certain that a jury of my peers would vindicate me on all counts if they could only hear my case. I was certain of this. I just knew, if truth and justice were on the job, the real perpetrators would be brought be exposed and punished. I was dead-certain.
A few of my memorized verses were slipping from my head to me heart. I now knew for sure that God’s ways are very different and much higher than my own. It became crystal clear (and heart breaking) that he was not in the least bit interested in my jury idea. Can you believe that! In fact, as far as he was concerned, my attitudes toward my one anthers was the only item on the docket. Again, welcome to the kingdom.
I knew in my heart that if I didn’t let go of this, God and I were going to be at odds. I’m so grateful that he enabled me to respond to him and abandon my self righteousness. This event underscored what it meant to to take up one’s cross and followed him. Grace flooded into a situation I had written off as impossible, setting the stage for a new season of life. A captive had been set free and a decade of strife has been redeemed. This was the kingdom.
Had I insisted on my rights, I would have been walking in the flesh. I would have reaped death for myself and others. I would have had to sell myself some story about my opponent’s depravity to justify my own self righteousness. Being right is highly overrated. While thinking we are right feels good to our flesh, it is a certain pathway to death for our spirits.
Father, help us to see that all the ingredients are at hand, that our circumstances, together with your Word and Your Spirit are sufficient for our transformation. May this world see your resurrection life demonstrated as we find ourselves in right relation to each other, individually members one of the other. In so doing, may we overcome evil with good.
If the Lord is bringing anyone to mind just now, here is a prayer-route to higher ground;
Lord, I forgive (fill in the blank for yourself – you know the names),
I give you permission to take the judgement and the bitterness out of my life. I do not want this in my life. I surrender it to You and ask You to remove it – to heal me where I have been wounded, to forgive me where I have sinned. I choose not to blame or hold the action of others against them. I hereby surrender my right to be paid back for my loss by the one who has sinned against me, and in so doing, I declare my trust in You alone as my Righteous Judge. Father bless them in every way. In Jesus; name. Amen (This prayer is contributed by Charlie Finck of Liberty Cross Ministries, Liberty Lake, WA. God bless you Charlie!)