Saturday, November 6, 2010

Romans Chapter 12 (Duties of Christians)

First, a short discussion on Romans.  According to the introduction this is "the longest and most systematic unfolding of the apostle's thought, expounding the gospels of God's righteousness that saves all who believe."  It was most likely written by Paul between AD 56 to 58 while he was in Corinth.  Having read the Acts of the Apostles so far (and having found very little in it about the original 12 Apostles) I have moved on to Romans.

My first impression of Romans is that it is difficult to read.  I find myself re-reading passages several times trying to determine the message as it is at times cryptic in its language.  But anyway... Chapter 12.

1 I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. 2 Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned. 4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith; 7 if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching; 8 if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  9 Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. 11 Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. 19 Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." 21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

So in verse three we are told to think of ourselves soberly "each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned".  Not to be arrogant, which I understand but it is the second half of that verse that has me confused.  We should think of ourselves according to the measure of faith that God has given us?  Does that mean that those with greater faith should think more highly of themselves, because that doesn't seem to match my experience with those I would consider great in faith.  It appears to me that those great in faith are the most humble among us.  Knowing the power and grace of our Lord should not make us arrogant, then what is Paul trying to say?

After pondering this passage the last couple days I have come to the following conclusion, that our faith has come from God.  We are to take that faith, live in it and through it with all that God has given us.  We are not to take our faith and let it rest, we are to use it to the fullest measure that He has given us.  That's what Paul is talking about.

The other passages I highlighted just because I liked them.  "Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer." and "if possible, on your part".  I especially enjoy the fact that Paul recognizes that we are not perfect, that there might be people that we cannot live in peace with.  However, he isn't exactly letting us off the hook on that one either.  He tells us "do not look for revenge" but to let God handle it.  The Lord is our ultimate judge and because of that we should not judge others.

That idea also plays into the "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged" (Matthew 7:1-2).  Vengeance is mine, I will repay.....

So as a father of three, what meaning should I take from this?  Essentially, I should be living out the faith the Lord has given me.  I should be living it to its fullest measure, the "measure of faith that God has apportioned". Hopefully this blog is assisting me in that manner.

Secondly, as a father I find myself overly busy.  Work, family, children's sports, Scouts.  I know we all have our own lists.  We sit in the pews during Sunday Mass and judge those with the children that are acting up, we watch those who come in late and imagine their faint excuses.  We do these things not because we are bad people or that we constantly look down on others, but we do them nonetheless.  We judge, when judgement is not deserved.  We judge when we should instead be open and welcoming.  We are not perfect and Paul recognized that fact, but he also called us to do that which was within our power, that which was within our faith.

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