Reading and Applying Romans 12 in a Year of Raging Discontent

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As I consider the past year, the frame around which I position 2016 is most likely disparate from most. For my 2016 frame is embellished with words like

mercyּ ● ּliving sacrifice ● grace ● sober judgment

gifts● love ● sincerity ● devotion ● honor ● spiritual fervor

joy ● hope ● patience ● faithfulness ● prayer ● generosity

hospitality ● blessing ● peace ● harmony ● humility

These words have influenced my thoughts, my attitudes, my speech, and my worldview for nearly 365 days of 2016. For it was this year that I chose to read Romans 12 daily and apply its exhortation to my life as best I could.

I’m glad I did.

In a year when entitlement reigned, raging discontent screamed, and criticism and disrespect vociferated in my social media and other media streams, I often asked myself this question:

What would 2016 be like if more people chose to read Romans 12 once a day?

Would this daily reading make a difference?

I can say that for me, it made all the difference in the world.

I mean it.

Sincerely.

One of the verses of Romans 12 that continues to stick in my throat, pierce my self-righteous heart and resonate most with my soul is this one:

For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  New International Version, Romans 12:3

As Paul acknowledges the bucket load of grace that has been afforded him, he asks the rest of us to remember that humility and an honest and frank assessment of ourselves wins the day.

Taking personal offense and/or considering oneself to be the right-left-or-whatever-place-you-esteem-most at the expense of another – disregarding or disvaluing the cares and concerns of another – causes great harm.

You know it does. It has throughout 2016.

Honestly, as I read different comments and posts this year, I often wondered, “Would they have posted this word or that word if they had first considered a sober thought – about themselves – and remembered that there by the grace of God go I?”

Believers like me take a ton of heat, yes, a ton of heat, for failing to demonstrate the love of Christ on this earth. Paul is frank about that too. He says in Galatians “…The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” New International Version, Galatians 5:6b

I wonder if we as followers of Christ really get this truth?

The only thing that shows that our faith in Christ is genuine is the love we express to others.

That’s it.

I’m not perfect in that expression.

I know I’m not.

But I’m giving it the best shot I can.

And when I fail to love in the way that honors someone and honors my God, I fess up to that. I don’t want anything to be between someone I care about and me. Such division does nothing to honor my God, my love for Him or my love for others.

I’ve got to remain sober in my self-assessment.

To be sober is to have a sound mind. It is the ability to curb one’s impulses and selfish desires by demonstrating prudence, self-control, and discretion.

I am convinced that an honest and sober appraisal of myself has caused me over and over and over again to keep my heart open to those in my sphere of influence throughout the year. I may or may not have agreed with people, but a difference of opinion wouldn’t stop me from loving and caring for them.

It didn’t stop Jesus.

It shouldn’t stop me.

Again, from Romans 12, this time Romans 12:10 :

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves. 

I don’t know what is ahead for 2017, but as you read this blog post, my hope is that you might consider reading Romans 12 once a day for a year and take its many, many, many exhortations to heart.

Here are some of the truths I have decided to frame 2016 year with:

I live my days in view of God’s mercy. He sees everything I do and He continues to demonstrate his amazing grace in my life.

My life is a living sacrifice to Him – holy and pleasing in worship and praise.

My life is transformed by renewing my mind through God’s living and penetrating word.

I know I am one decision away from blowing it with someone – I need to think before I speak.

My love for others must be sincere. They can tell when I’m faking it.

I want my faith to be an expression of love for God – above all things.

I want the hope of Christ that resides within me to overflow with joy and generosity.

I will pray – all the time – about everything.

I choose not to take offense, even when I am wounded deeply. I choose to forgive.

I choose not to offend, even when I completely disagree.  I choose to listen.

Yes, these are just some of the heart and soul lessons I’ve gleaned from a year with Romans 12.

There’s more of course. So much more.

I know that reading Romans 12 daily this year made a significant impact on my day to day life.

How do I know?

I reflect upon 2016 as a year when God’s word directed me to my God.

I am not raging with discontent.

I’m at peace.

I’m hopeful.

My heart is filled with joy and the love of Christ.

There’s no better gift than that.

And in closing I’ll say it again, read Romans 12.

Daily.

For a month.

Or for a year like me.

Romans 12 will change your life.

7 thoughts on “Reading and Applying Romans 12 in a Year of Raging Discontent

  1. If I could ask for some clarity: you say that the only thing that demonstrates your faith in Jesus is your genuine love of other people. I think most Christians would probably agree with you, but most Christians also don’t agree about what “genuine love of other people” looks like. The bible itself doesn’t seem very clear on what genuine love looks like when people do it. I don’t think Christians have forgotten that they are required to love, but rather some think “love” means “treating others with human respect and striving to be understanding and open and defending the rights and safety of others.” But other Christians think love means “demanding religious behaviors from people and attempting to coerce them into compliance with their beliefs because Christians know what people truly need and thus their overreach is warranted.” These Christians will say that more tolerant Christians are actually being unloving by not confronting a person’s “sin” at every moment and thus risking letting them go to hell. Which one of them is right? How do you tell?

    1. Hi Evan,

      Thanks for once again popping by and asking a ‘let’s get down to it’ type of question! I hope you have been having a great holiday season. It’s the festive season over here and things slow down considerably – and I love it!

      I agree with you in that everyone has an opinion about what genuine love is…and more learned people than me may give you a more thought provoking answer. However, when I look at and meditate upon what Paul says…the only kind of faith that counts is one that is expressed through love that means to me that the person receiving the love – feels it. Yes, I know feelings are fleeting kinds of things at times. However, you know when you’ve been loved and you know when you have not. In my mind, confronting some one’s sin as you say – especially if someone is an unbeliever – may not be the best move. Why? Because the unbeliever is being confronted with something and held to a standard that they don’t abide – the believer is holding them accountable for something that they don’t uphold at this point in their life. It’s like a football player who is playing a football game demanding that a volleyball player start playing by his rules when the volleyball player is playing a volleyball game.

      I believe that if someone wants a relationship with Christ, a lot more is going on at a spiritual level, to see that a faith decision comes about. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work and the heart/soul of the person is being invited to respond. And that often happens because of their interaction with a believer or believers who have shown love to them – over time.

      There will be believers who disagree with me and who will say that confrontation works. However, I believe confrontation may work if it is believer to believer. Again, only if the motivation is genuine love and not to best some one or out of fear.

      Yes, I believe in hell. And no, I don’t want anyone to go there. But I’m not going to try to scare someone into believing in God because of hell. I want to invite people into relationship with my Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ because of my love for Him and because of the love I experience from Him. I have found Him to be trustworthy and faithful. I find comfort and strength in my relationship with God.

      So in closing, I believe genuine love is felt when someone is cared for, listened to, and respected – even in times of disagreement. Genuine love is also expressed through mercy, grace and forgiveness. I hurt a friend this week, for example. I didn’t mean to. I honestly didn’t. However, when we talked further I realized I had and although I could have made a case that I didn’t mean to, I heard her out and I apologized and asked for forgiveness. I didn’t want any kind of bitterness or misunderstanding to fester. I wanted to deal with it. It wasn’t easy. It actually hurt me too. But in my mind, that’s what love is about – working it out – together.

      Take care, Evan. I appreciate your questions.

      Blessings,
      heather

      1. “that means to me that the person receiving the love – feels it.”

        I think that is pretty close to how I feel about love too. I think an important part of loving someone is surrendering some amount of the power to that other person to define what love looks like. That doesn’t mean I have to let them walk all over me: I get to define my own boundaries and assert my needs as well, and if their idea of love conflicts with those boundaries or needs, a relationship isn’t going to work. But if they say “I don’t want that” I need to respect that. If they say “that hurts” I need to stop. If they say “I don’t want you” I need to be able to step away. I don’t get to override their feelings and boundaries under the guise of “this is just how I show my love” because that sort of “love” lacks *respect* which, ultimately, I feel is more important than love.

        It is disturbing to me how commonly Christianity is used as an excuse to perform the non-respectful sort of love. I suppose when people feel they have the ultimate truth and the blessing of an ultimate god, they assume that opinion of how to act gets to trump everyone else’s – especially someone of “lower rank” (such as an unbeliever, or a believer in the wrong denomination, or a gay believer, etc). I’m encouraged to find Christians who push back against the lack of respect I’ve encountered, so I am glad to hear your response. I hope that you will spread that sort of love to others around you; it can make a big difference in someone’s life!

      2. Thanks, Evan. I agree. Anytime we lord ourselves over another person, that really isn’t love in my book. Since I am a believer and follower of Christ, I believe my position is thus – below Christ and certainly not above anyone else. When I was in the States recently, I did see a certain level of entitlement that some Christians seemed to take over any number of issues. I think we need to be very careful about such kinds of behavior. As I shared, Romans 12 is all about transforming ourselves in a way that honors Christ. This is what I want to be about – especially in how my faith demonstrates love in my sphere of influence.

        Thanks again for stopping by. I hope you are doing well and that you are looking forward to the new year.

        Take good care,
        heather

  2. Your post is timely for me as I am going to start the new year with a study of Romans. Not a bad idea to read chapter 12 every day. Any plans for a chapter in 2017?

    1. Hi Patricia, thanks so much! Romans is a great book, isn’t it? I’m not sure if I’m going to do this again this year. I may go back to doing a word study. I don’t have a plan yet. However, I may be doing a class again that focused on grace and that may stir something in me to address.

      Regarding Romans 12, I was encouraged over 20 years ago to read Romans 12 for a month and it would change my life. I’ve done it a few times in my life and then this past year chose to read it daily for a year. If you decide to read it daily for 30 days, I promise you that you won’t be the same!

      All my love,
      heather

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