Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reflections on Romans Chapter 12 – Part 7

…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another, Romans 12:5

I suggest that this image of the Body of Christ, along with verses 9 and 10, form the basis for 13:8 – 15:13.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…12:9 – 10.

In 13:8 we read, Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another

In 13:10, Love does no wrong to a neighbor

In Chapter 14 Paul deals with the issues of eating and drinking, of regarding particular holy days, and of judging others. Consider 14:13, Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this – not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

In 15:1-3, Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, and to his edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me”.

15:5, Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus…

This way of living, this living in koinonia, is a significant element in the renewing of the mind. Hence, the renewing of the mind is not individualistic, it cannot be individualistic, it cannot occur in a vacuum – it occurs in relationship to others. It is in relationships that I learn not to think too highly of myself. It is in bearing the weaknesses of others that I learn not to think too highly of myself. (To truly bear the weaknesses of others requires some measure of identification with others and such identification will disabuse us of thinking too highly of ourselves.)

It is when I let go of my preferences that I learn to escape the gravitational pull of “self” and enter into the koinonia of the Body of Christ which is rooted in the Trinity. When it is more important to me not to put a stumbling block in front of my brother then perhaps I’ve embarked on the renewing of the mind.

I want to make an observation here about Paul’s emphasis on bearing with the weak. I don’t think there is much room for the weak in our churches. Whether they are weak in body, weak in learning, weak in doctrine, weak in faith, or weak economically; I don’t see much room for them. In some churches I don’t perceive any room.

I’ve heard pastors say in effect, “This church is not for everyone. This is our program and if you don’t feel you can get behind our program and support it then maybe this church isn’t for you.” And whether we say it or not, I think it is often true. Churches can be like Interstate highways, they are not for pedestrians – you will be run over, I guess we could call it road kill in the church.

In many churches there is little room for reflection, little room for working things out internally or relationally over time, little room for questions that require more than pat answers. If pastors and other leaders were winemakers most would be out of business for we seldom permit fermentation, we seldom let things age within our congregations. I write as one who has produced some hasty wine.

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