Here is my message from this past Sunday. The last Sunday covering the Biblical one anothers. So over the last several weeks we have been looking at what it means to do life together as the body of Christ, or what we have termed the gathered nature of the church. We have done this by looking at what is known as the biblical one anothers. We spent time talking about meeting with one another, encouraging one another, loving one another, and last week we talked about the idea of forgiving one another and how to go about resolving conflict in a biblical way.
Today we will be looking at two passages of Scripture found in Romans that play off our discussion 2 weeks ago revolving around love. We will be looking at the ideas of accepting one another, being devoted to one another, and honoring one another. All three are rooted in loving one another based on realizing the love, grace and acceptance shown to us through Jesus. And all three are seriously an upside down Kingdom of God value that goes so contrary to what the Kingdom of the world tells us to do and be about.
So let’s take a look at these two Scriptures and see what we might learn about how to do life together as a community of Jesus followers.
The first passage we will look at in the book of Romans is found in Romans 12:10 and says this, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” What does it mean to be devoted to one another in love and to honor others above yourself? Let’s unpack it together.
The first thing we need to know regarding this verse is where it falls in relation to all the verses around it. This verse falls in a section of Scripture that deals with how to relate to those within the Christian family. So first of all, we are talking about the body of Christ and how we are to relate to one another, not saying that we aren’t to treat those outside the family of Christ the same way, but that these commands are for followers of Jesus and how we are to treat one another.
Secondly we realize that all these commands that the Apostle Paul is giving to the body of Christ, as I said before, are rooted in the command to love one another. In 12:10 Paul calls us to be devoted to one another in love. This Scripture is sometimes translated to be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The word love there is phileo, which means brotherly love. Love of a family. What Paul is getting at here is that we should love each other with the affection of a natural brother or sister. That the body of Christ is a real and true family and should rival that of our biological family. We should truly be brothers and sisters in the family of Christ, and live in such a way that our lives bear out that fact.
Now for some that might sound great, if you grew up in a loving, idyllic, intact family. You can grab a hold of the idea that the body of Christ should look and act like a real family. Calling each other brother and sister and doing life in such a way that reflects the love that you have for each other, and living out the Kingdom. For others, when you hear the word family, you cringe inside, because your picture of family is of broken relationships, grudges, fighting, and not what Paul is calling us to, being devoted to one another and putting others ahead of yourself. Family doesn’t bring to mind the words love, honor, devotion, etc…
Just like God redeems us to be what he calls us to be and to live out the Kingdom, God can redeem our view and our practice of “family” by showing us how the family of God should live, treat each other, and do life together. But while he can redeem it, it takes work and our putting the Kingdom of God above our own kingdom. Because this lifestyle, the Kingdom of God life, isn’t natural, goes against our fleshly nature, and we continually fight against it. We want to be devoted to each other and love each other as long as it doesn’t cost us too much. As long as we can put our needs and desires first. As long as we get loved back. We put all these conditions on being devoted to one another in love, but Christ calls us to a love not dependent on the response of others. If Christ only loved us if we loved him back, where would we be? But thank God that isn’t the case. Jesus loved us, as the Scriptures say in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
The Apostle Paul then lays it out even further when he says, “Honor one another above yourself.” This is really difficult. This can only be done when we put ourselves, our desires, our needs, etc.. on the cross and die to ourselves. We need to get up on the cross, die to wanting people to honor us, love us, respect us, etc…then get off the cross and begin to honor, love, respect and put others before us. This can only be done by living a crucified, Kingdom of God life, and only through the power of the Holy Spirit because it goes so counter to all that we know, experience, and see in the world. You see the world tells us to look after number one, that you deserve a break today, that it is all about you. If you do put others first it is only so that you can manipulate them and use them for what you can get out of it and them. To some in the world, this honoring others before yourself seems weak, passive, and waiting for someone to step on you. But if you really true stop and think about it, to honor someone above yourself, to put their well being before your own, and to wish for their well being is probably the strongest thing that can be done. Anyone can put themselves first. It takes a strong person, infused by the power of the Holy Spirit, seeking to live out the Kingdom of God in the midst of this world, to put others first.
We also have to realize that this life that the Apostle Paul is talking about is rooted in Jesus. As in many of our discussions over the last few weeks, we have come to the conclusion that Jesus went first in all these one anothers. That he is telling us to do something that he has done first and more fully. Which leads me to our next Scripture that we’ll be looking at together. This one found also in Romans a few chapters later, Romans 15:7.
Romans 15:7 says this, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” If we look at the context of this passage we realize something really profound and super relevant to today. Romans 14 and 15 deal with the idea of the weak and the strong, and whether it was okay for Christians to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. Some thought it was okay to eat the meat since idols weren’t really anything, but some thought they couldn’t eat because it was sacrificed to idols. The Apostle Paul then says the words in Romans 15:7 about accepting each other. What he is getting at is that no matter which side of the issue (eating meat sacrificed to idols) you came down on, you were to accept each other and not condemn your brother or sister because they came down on the issue on the other side.
Instead of letting this issue (or a host of other issues that seek to divide us now) about disputable things divide the body of Christ, we should accept one another just as Christ accepts us- in the term of pure grace, knowing yet, bearing with our faults. Think about all the disputable things that seek to divide us as the body of Christ in the world today, and when you do, do you see us accepting one another as Christ has accepted us, so that we can bring praise to God? Sometimes we do, but so often we let non-essentials divide us and we show the world that we can’t accept one another, so who would want to join us? We don’t bring praise to God because of our lack of accepting each other, in spite of our differing opinions on various issues. Issues like politics, the end times, the beginning/Genesis, can a Christian drink, homosexuality, and a host of other issues serve as great testing ground to see if we can disagree on the issue and still accept one another.
The other week I downloaded a great free album from a church in Seattle called Church of the Beloved (you should get a copy) and on the album was one song called Peace which speaks to this issue of accepting one another. The Lyrics go like this,
Broken conversations, broken people, we’re broken Lord. Terrified illusions, seeking comfort, we’re seeking more. We need each other more than we need to agree. Father, Son, Spirit bless us with your love, with your grace and peace. Peace. Let there be peace. Let there be peace. Let there be peace. Let us see and not destroy. Let us listen. Let us listen. Let us suspend judgement for the sake of love, for the sake of love. We need each other more than we need to agree. Father, Son, Spirit bless us with your love, with your grace and peace. Love. Let there be love. (among us) Let there be love. (among us) Let there be love.
I love the line that says, “we need each other more than we need to agree.” I believe this is exactly what the Apostle Paul was getting at in Romans 15:7. That in spite of coming down on opposite sides of an issue, that we need to accept each other (positions, weakness, and all) just as Christ has accepted us. Since Christ has accepted us all as Christians, the least that we can do is to accept each other at the same time being willing to overlook the mistakes, errors, and differences of each other. Such a toleration of mistakes, errors and differences, in relation to things unessential and secondary will inhibit strife and division in the church and result in great glory to God. Or put in another way, as someone once said, “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”
So let’s talk about what it looks like to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, to honor others above yourself, and accept one another as Christ has accepted us. What does it look like, why does God call us to this, and how does living these things out in the world further the Kingdom of God?
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the message and the Scriptures?
2. Have you ever thought about the community of faith as being a family? How might we live, what might we do, etc...to live out this reality (that we are really a family) day in and day out?
3. What issues (theological, social, etc..) does the church face that stops the church from loving and accepting each other? How can we as a community of faith disagree with each other about these issues and still love, accept and see each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? 5. What is God saying to us as a community of faith and what should we do about it?