READ: Romans 12
BACKGROUND (by verse):
1 – What does it mean to offer our bodies as living sacrifices? Paul’s original audience was familiar with the imagery of ritualistic animal sacrifice and everything that meant. Sacrifice meant something had to lose its life. Sacrifice meant that something was dedicated entirely to God (or the gods in pagan culture). Living sacrifice means dying to self – losing our old life and gaining a new one in Christ – and living entirely for God! And why should we do it? God’s incredible mercy!
2 – Pretty straightforward. But this is one I urge you to memorize. We need to daily be reminded to avoid conformity and rely on the Holy Spirit to transform our minds.
3-8 – It’s so incredible to think that God has uniquely gifted all of us to serve him. And we need each other! None of us is more important in the body of Christ than another. The pastor or the theologian is not any more important to the body than the custodian or the Sunday School teacher. We are all simply called to use our specific gifts to serve God. And those are all different. And that is awesome!
9-16 – I wonder if the church wouldn’t be significantly more compelling to people out there in our world if this vision was actualized in our midst. What if these words were the very definition of our communities of faith? Wouldn’t that be awesome?
17 – This isn’t saying you have to please everyone. That’s impossible. “Do what is right in the eyes of everyone” is saying that we have an obligation to live out the high standards of the gospel or else people will see and they’ll be turned off to God.
19 – It is so nice to know that God is in control and that he is just. We don’t need to seek revenge – ever – because he is just. And as it says in Amos, one day his justice will roll on like a river.
21 – Good is more powerful than evil. Sometimes we don’t think that. Sometimes we look out at the world and it doesn’t feel that way. But we need to become convinced that evil can – and will – be overcome by good!
THINK: There is a story of two monks in the Middle Ages. They had taken a vow never to touch anyone of the opposite sex, but one day as they were out walking they came upon a woman. The nearby creek had flooded due to heavy rains, and she couldn’t make it across on her own. She pleaded with them, “Please, help me across the creek.” The first monk pretended not to hear her, but the second took pity, bent the rules, picked the woman up, and carried her across to the other side. Then the two monks continued on their journey in silence for a very long time. Finally, the one angrily said to the other, “I cannot believe that you carried that woman! We took vows!” To which, the other monk responded “I put her down miles ago, but you still carry her in your heart.”
We all have a choice. We can carry around every hurt and pain and injury and injustice we suffer in our hearts, or we can put them down, forgive those who sinned against us, and experience liberation. That’s not an easy thing to do. Especially when the person – or people – who hurt us wont even apologize. How can we possibly forgive someone who isn’t repentant, who isn’t even sorry? Well, in verse 18 Paul says, “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” And the easy response to that is to say, self-righteously, “Well, I am trying to live at peace. She is the one who needs to apologize; he is the one who should be sorry and make peace.”
But when Paul says “As far as it depends on you” he is saying that you have a decision to make. Everyone who hurts you is not always going to apologize, or be sorry, or even feel bad about what they did. And if you wait for that to happen you are going to be waiting a long time. And if you harbor anger and resentment and bitterness until they happens then you will carry them to your grave.
But there is good news! Though forgiveness looks different when extended to a repentant individual as opposed to an unrepentant one, you do not have to wait upon someone’s apology to release your anger and ill-will towards them. You do not have to let what was done to you define who you are. Believe this: God wants to set you free from the tyranny of your past. You do not have to hold on to what was done. You can forgive and let peace reign in your own heart as the chains that bind you to the wounds of the past are broken. Your identity is not found in your pain; it is found in the freedom and forgiveness of the cross!
ASK: Am I holding onto some hurt or some bitterness towards someone today? Would I be better off carrying that bitterness around in my heart or being set free from it? What steps do I need to take to reflect God’s mercy to those around me and be a more forgiving person?