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.
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.
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.
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.
For a month.
Or for a year like me.