Read Romans 12:14-21.
Some of what Paul had to say in the first half of this chapter dealt with spiritual matters for the individual, matters of spiritual practice whether or not we are in the company of others (vs.1-13). However, here in the latter half of the chapter (vs.14-21), everything Paul talks about has direct bearing on how we interact with others. In the mind of this apostle of God, any hard-and-fast distinction drawn between “personal spirituality” and “fellowship” (or “church life”) is patently false. Though it’s anything but a popular thought these days in our Christian culture, Paul speaks of faith not as something “just between you and God,” but as something always “between you, God, and others.” The Holy Spirit says that what you are in connection with the church is a reflection of what you truly are inside.
Christian living does indeed require serious thought and godly intent. Paul would be the first to say so; remember what he said at the very beginning: “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (vs.2). And Lord knows how we as Christians could do a far better job at thinking about faith! However, church is not just about what we think or what we meant. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. No, “real church” is practical. It is about living faithful lives toward, and with, others. That is – quite literally, if we keep the body of Christ in view (vs.4-5) – the way we treat our kin in Christ in our church family is what we honestly think about Jesus himself.
Think about that! We all know this truth – living with other Christians isn’t easy. To think otherwise is to live a naive or shallow life. But what Paul says here is that our dealings with each other call for great endurance and patience, continual long-suffering and tolerance, real mercy and forgiveness. Practical stuff.
So read the text again, this time with church life, interacting with other Christians, in mind. Then pause, reflect and pray as to how you can make these words truly live in your life down at church. Put pen to paper and write down the resolves that well up in your heart as to how you will change the way you live with your brothers and sisters. Then set your mind to living more faithful lives for the blessing of your brethren, the rest of Christ’s body.
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not think you are superior. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. … as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge … overcome evil with good.”