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Know your place

October 7, 2013

Know your place

Romans 12

It’s important to know your place in church. My wife and I were only reminiscing about a week ago about the time when we sat in someone else’s row at church!

This also made me think of the church I was in as a student for 3 years – probably less than 100 people in the Sunday services. Well into the third year an older chap introduced himself “You must be new?” “No” I said “I’ve been coming here for 3 years”. “Oh” he said “you must have been sitting on the other side”. Needless to say he was not impressed! Trouble is nearly 30 years later, I thought – did he REALLY mean that? Did he only actually speak to people who sat on the left side?!

Romans 12 is not of course about which seat we sit in in church, but it is about knowing our place. It also gives us some basic principles for church life.

Paul starts the chapter reminding us about our motivation. The part we play the church is because of God’s mercy. It is a response to love.

Paul’s readers knew about sacrifices, but Paul calls them to offer their own bodies as living sacrifices. Ultimate commitment, but a living sacrifice.

We have our ideas too about what constitutes worship. We limit it to singing- or to an hour a week. But Paul says a life of sacrifice is a true – and reasonable act of worship – in view of God’s mercy.

He goes on to say that we must not CONform but must be TRANSformed. As followers of Jesus we need to stand out in our lifestyle and actions.

Paul would not have agreed with Pink Floyd when they sang “We don’t need no thought control”. We do need minds controlled by God’s Spirit. Our minds need to be renewed.

That renewing enables us to test God’s will. Often we think of God’s will for us as something to be feared, but Paul reminds us that his will for us is good pleasing and perfect.

That renewed mind also helps you to think about yourself. Soberly and realistically. Don’t get an inflated idea of your own importance.

Paul uses the picture of the church as a  body. We have many body parts – not all eyes and ears. Just as the different body parts have different functions, so do we in the church. We all have our part to play. That gives us a sense of belonging – to one another.

We are different people. What other organisation would contain such a vast array of different people and personalities? We bring our individual personalities, but by God’s grace we all bring different gifts to the party.

There is no room for a spectator mentality though. We are all involved. There is no place for saying “I don’t have a gift”. Paul’s approach is simple – you have a gift so use it!

 Prophesy/serving/teaching/encouragement/giving/leadership/mercy – a variety of up front and behind the scenes gifts, of “spiritual” and “practical” gifts – all are vital to the functioning of the body.

But it’s not just about what we do. It’s not just about scraping along together – it’s about love – sincere love.

We need to hate all that is evil but hang on to everything that is good for all we are worth.

We need to be devoted to each other – to honour one another.

Sometimes we may find it all too much. We need to rediscover our zeal and spiritual fervour. We should not serve God wearily and grudgingly. We need his power resources.

As we hold on to our hope in him, we serve joyfully. Even as we suffer we can learn patience. We need to be faithful in prayer. Prayer backs everything.

We need to share with the needy and practice hospitality. Live generously.

We should be countercultural – we bless those who curse, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. We live in harmony.

We are not to be proud or conceited, but associate with the lowly.

We react differently. We don’t return evil with evil.

We need to aim to do what is right in everyone’s eyes, to be peace lovers so far as we can be

If we are rejected in spite of this, we don’t take revenge, but leave it to God.

Our acts will make a difference. Feeding our enemies (whoever you perceive them to be?), giving a drink. That can change people. The odd verses about coal on heads apparently echoes an old Egyptian repentance ritual.

Your goodness can change people. Our light  – the light of Jesus – cancels out the darkness.

Let’s all take our places!

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From → Christianity

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