Sunday I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon (you would know what I said if you were there) that i didn't have enough time to address all the things that Paul writes in Romans 12. That epistle reading was packed full of powerful guidance for the life of a Christian. The Holy Spirit is showing us how we are to treat one another - in light of the fact that we offer our bodies to God as living sacrifices. We give ourselves, not to our own actions and our own desires, but to the Lord's actions and desires. The old sinful nature in us is put to death over and over again as we live in spiritual worship to our Lord Jesus Christ.
I feel compelled to talk about the verses beginning at verse 14. "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them." That is a challenge isn't it? To bless those who curse you. This is truly following the example of Luther's 8th commandment explanation. Bless - speak well of and put the best construction on all that is done by those who persecute you. That is so contrary to the way we want to act. When you push me, I am going to react by pushing you back. You say something bad about me, I will think of something worse to say about you. You hurt my reputation and I will do all i can to destroy your reputation. That is the way of the sinful, natural heart of each one of us. That is what we must sacrifice. To follow that way of thinking is to be conformed to the way of the world instead of being transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit. We are not only told to do this, but our Lord Jesus Christ has given us that example as He suffered at the hands of those who wished to have Him put to death. Instead of hurling insults back at them, He took their mockery and asked His Father to forgive them. Instead of attacking the pharisees, He dealt with them in a righteous and holy manner. We are called to do the opposite of what we want to do - bless and not curse our persecutors.
"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (vs. 15) This is something we are able to do with those that we like. If they are our friends or someone that we want to impress, we will be there for them. We will party with those who party. We will cry with those who cry. When someone has a child, we rejoice. When they have a death, we weep. Or do we? What about when that family that you cannot stand has a joyous event happen? Do you rejoice with them? Do you call them up and tell them how happy you are for them? Do you stop by their house with a plate of cookies and tell them how wonderful it is that things have gone well for them? Or do you grumble about the fact that they don't deserve to win the lottery or to have a healthy child or to have the son who is on the honor roll at college? When something bad happens to them, do you feel sorry for them? Or do actually feel like, "They got theirs!"? This is tough when you are talking about all people - especially those who persecute you in your life. To rejoice with them makes us want to puke. To weep with them would mean you would have to be a hypocrite because you really want that person to suffer. Think about it. Which way are we called to live? Not conformed to the world in it's thoughts but transformed by the Spirit.
"Live in harmony with one another." What? Live in harmony with one another? What does that mean for us? The harmony is that which is found in Christ Jesus, given by the Spirit. Jesus prays that we might be one as He and the Father are one. Live at harmony doesn't mean that we wait for the other person to become like we want them to become. No, it means that we are asking the Spirit to transform "ME" to be like Jesus so that I can live in harmony with all people. It is easy to be at harmony with those that we like. But those that we don't like (and you know that the church has people in it that you don't like), that is much more difficult. That is the direction of the Spirit - live in harmony with one another. All too often in a church family, we sound more like an orchestra where everyone is out of tune and doing their own thing. There is no beautiful music being made. Instead it is a terrible, awful sound that drives the mice and bats out of the building. How can we expect to share the love of Christ in that situation? How can we expect the love of our Lord to come through when it is like that? It can't! Harmony - like an orchestra made up of a lot of different instruments that come out sounding beautiful - as each follows the conductor (our Lord) and follow the sheet music (the Word). The next time you think to yourself that it is too tough to live at harmony with THAT person, stop and think how tough it is to live in harmony with YOU! Ask the Spirit to change your lack of love and harmony and to make you in you a joyful noise that is found in the life of faith in your Savior.
OK, I am going to stop at this point for now. Why? If I make the blog posting too long, you will stop reading. Come back later for a little more on Romans 12. For now, pray that the Spirit would transform you so you don't conform to the world in your relationship with your fellow member of the church.