You shower or bathe daily, right? For this we’re all even more grateful, right? And yet, what about your ways with others? When was the last time you carefully washed away any filth and scrubbed off all of the stink that’s a part of the way you treat others? Has it been awhile?
You use toothpaste and/or mouthwash, right? For this, we’re all very thankful. But, do you do a brain and heart wash? Have you even done that this week?
To be sure – we all need it. And we dare not think we can “skip a day” or that we’re “good enough” for we all know that there are plenty of times that we think we pass “the sniff test,” but others would tell us, if prodded for honesty and they were true friend, that … parts of us, well, just plain stink or that there’s dirt in places we can’t see. For just as a person will never see 30% of their own body without the aid of a mirror, so there is no small percentage of our ways to which we will always remain blind, nose blind even, without the help of others.
And so, we all need others – especially the others we don’t think we need!
Remember: honest to God Christian faith is not about you and God. It is about God and your relationship with him and all others. Think “one another,” not merely “me and him.”
All of which leads me to note: there are several dozen instances of the phrase “one another” in the New Testament and a significant number of them – quite a cluster, really – appear in the latter part of Romans (ch.12-16). And while we’re reading through Romans right now, I’d encourage all of us to keep our eyes open for these passages.
And why is that? Because they speak clearly and directly to the heart of a very important matter – to use our common and terribly watered-down way of speaking today – how church members treat other church members. All of them. Take the time to seriously ponder what it would look like for you to carefully live these things out in your life, and deeply so. To the point that you became a walking, talking embodiment of each one of them in your ways with others, all others, beginning with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Each of these nine statements are exceedingly brief, so brief in fact that you could easily memorize one in the morning and turn it over and over again in your mind throughout the course of a day.
Be devoted to one another in love. (Romans 12.10a)
Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12.10b)
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12.16; cf. 15.5)
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13.8)
… let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. (Romans 14.13)
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus … (Romans 15.5; cf. 12.16)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15.7)
… instruct one another. (Romans 15.14)
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (Romans 16.16)
Think of these matters as floss for your heart and body wash for your behavior. And then imagine a church full of people practicing the same every day.
Courteous, to say the very least, no? Respectful, to be sure. In truth – beautiful.
Try this: read, ponder, and pray over each of the following thirty-one passages* in the book of Romans over the course of thirty one calendar days.
If you do so, I can’t imagine your mind not being moved and improved.
1.1-4 – Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
1.17 – … in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
2.4 – … do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
2.28-29 – A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
3.23-25 – … all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood — to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished — he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus
4.25 – He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
5.1-2 – … since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
5.6-8 – You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
6.4 – We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
7.24-25 – What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
8.1 – … there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …
8.26 – … the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
9.1-4 – I speak the truth in Christ — I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit — I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel …
9.15-16 – I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
10.9-10 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
10.14-15 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
11.22 – Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God …
11.33 – Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
12.1-2 – I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.
12.4 – … just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
12.11-12 – Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
12.15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
12.20-21 – “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
13.7 – Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor
13.13-14 – Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
14.1-4 – Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
14.7-8 – For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
14.13 – … let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
15.3-4 – … even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
16.19-20 – I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
16.25-27 – Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith — to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
* All of the preceding passages are from the NIV (2011).
Q. David, for someone who is apolitical, you certainly don’t shy away from posting links to articles on political subjects on your Facebook. Why is that?
A. I pray the news. I refuse to simply “scan and stew” over or “glance at and gossip about” news that appears in my news feed. Instead, I deliberately attempt to re-frame such in my mind so that they become prompts for me to pray. I believe such is a healthy way of engaging the news that helps me keep the leverage of spiritually-healthy habits in my own hands. That is, rather than just being a passive sponge soaking up what happens to come my way, I seek to actively take people and matters to God in prayer. That’s where they belong, right?
For example, if I come across piece that stirs up in me a reminder to pray for a person or people group spotlighted by that piece I am either not accustomed to praying for, then I pray for them, then and there. I occasionally share links to such posts, along with comments as to how that particular items moved me to pray, with hopes that it will spark in others similar prayers.
Q. While prayer is certainly good, wouldn’t it be better for you, and perhaps for all, to just ignore the whole political scene?
A. I think not. What good would that do? It isn’t like politics is going to just go away anytime soon or that people are going stop drinking in the news. No, we’re just like the ancient Athenians, aren’t we? (“For all Athenians, and even foreign visitors to Athens, had an obsession for any novelty and would spend their whole time talking about or listening to anything new.” – Acts 17.21, Phillips)
And so, if the news if going to wash up on us and we’re going to choose to swim in it, then someone needs to be modeling how to swim in the surf, how to avoid being carried out to see by the riptide, and how not to drown in the swell. I seek to humbly instruct. Period. Among other things, true Christ-followers seek to hold up to the Lord in prayer all who are leaders, not merely those we happen to agree with or who we want to see become leaders (1 Timothy 2.1-2).
Q. Noble. But really now, how many people do you think are actually going to take up seriously praying the news? You’re pretty much alone in this, buddy.
A. No, I don’t believe I’m alone in this by any means. And I seek to lay out and model good. Whether anyone else takes that up or not should have no bearing on my choice of doing what I understand to good in the light of Scripture. I believe I see many people making unhealthy choices all the time as to how they process, or fail to process, “the news.” I seek to hold up a good way of handling “the news” and leave what is done with all of that up to God and others.
Q. Well then, do you have any advice or thoughts in general about how to read your posts, particularly if they link to political matters?
A. Do remember, I am apolitical and so, I refuse to stump for or promote any particular candidate anywhere. If you find some news links I post offensive, recall that they just might have been offensive to me in some way, too. I post not because I necessarily agree or disagree with everything in a piece, but because I know others are likely encountering the same or similar and because such posts prompted me to do the very best thing I could do – talk with God in some way about it all.
A few nights ago (Tuesday) I dedicated two hours to systematically going through my Facebook friends list with one specific question in view: what are my fellow church members posting regarding current events?
Why? Curiosity and to be informed.
I found many good things, and for that, I thank God. However, I must say, it was, to say the very least, and all too very often – by no means an edifying exercise. I would certainly not recommend this exercise to the faint of heart and I would warn the depressed or doubting to not do anything like it. And, given the dates of posting, it was apparent that such matters have only increased in darkness and intensity over the past several weeks as a national election date draws ever closer.
It was as if I was witnessing points of light being dimmed, or even completely overcome, by darkness. (sigh)
As I scrolled and read, five passages of Scripture kept popping up in my mind, firing off like popcorn. What were those passages? Here they are (with my own application points inserted in all CAPS, within brackets).
Our Lord Jesus said …
1. “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter [VIA SHARING ON SOCIAL MEDIA].” (Matthew 12.36)
An apostle of our Savior said …
2. “[POSTING] Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes [ON SOCIAL MEDIA] — these are not for you.” (Ephesians 5.4)
3. “Let your [SOCIAL MEDIA] conversation be always full of grace …” (Colossians 4.6a)
An unknown preacher, inspired by the Holy Spirit said …
4. “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone [ON SOCIAL MEDIA] and to be holy, for without holiness no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12.14)
And the Lord’s half-brother said …
5. “With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image [VIA SOCIAL MEDIA]. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day [OR POST] and brackish the next, does it?” (James 3.9-11)
And so …
Let us re-dedicate our tongues and typing fingers to the Lord, my brothers and sisters. May we do that by re-dedicating our heart to him in repentance and profession of faith. Daily.
And may we never forget that along with our God who knows even the motives unknown to us that help give rise to our thoughts, feelings, words, and ways, a world full of people, yet to believe, are also closely watching us and reading us, along with brothers and sisters of greatly varying degrees of strength, burden, understanding, and maturity.
Let us not stumble, and let us not unwittingly cause, or lead, others to do the same, or worse. Rather, may we be an example of humility and godliness not only to all fellow believers, but to all who are yet to believe.
Deliver us from evil, Lord. Grant us, by your grace, to rise to this occasion, reflecting your light, and by no means, or media, adding to this world’s darkness. Amen.
Grace and PEACE, my fellow sheep.