Our Relationship with Church Communities (Rom 12:3-13)
In Romans 12 verses 3 to 13, Paul talks about how we should treat each other in a church community. Paul first talks about different gifts used in church.
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Rm 12:4-8)
One of the characteristics of church communities is that unity and diversity coexist. Church communities are probably the most diverse in the world because the gospel of Jesus embraces everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, language, or social status.
But, what’s more important is the unity found in church communities. Even though people from different backgrounds gather in churches, they can be united as one because they all gather under Jesus’ name. The gospel of Jesus Christ tears down all the barriers between humans and God and between people so that they can become one family of God.
Paul explains these characteristics of church communities using the human body as an example. Just as a body consists of many different parts, “in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rm 12:5)
Paul also said, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Co 12:27)
The diversity in the church community is also shown in different gifts. Even though we form one body of Jesus, we each receive different gifts from God. In this passage Paul lists some examples—prophesying, serving, teaching, giving, encouraging, leading, and showing mercy.
We also can find different lists of gifts in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Ephesians chapter 4. Even though the lists are different from each other, there are things common among them.
First, all the lists show that the source of every gift is God. In Romans, the One who gives gifts is God. In Ephesians, Paul said, “To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it” (Eph 4:7). In 1 Corinthians, Paul said, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.” (1 Co 12:4)
So, Paul makes it clear that whatever gifts we’ve been given, their source is the Triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Second, Paul also emphasizes that all gifts are given to us to build up the body of Jesus Christ, not for our own good.
So, what’s important when we use the gifts we’ve received from God in the church is that we don’t boast about them as if they are from us. We must ensure that we use our gifts properly to take care of the community we’re in and that we don’t compare our gifts to others’.
There are many things to do in the church. Some are called to preach God’s word and lead. Some are called to lead worship using their musical abilities. Some are called to serve.
Some people stand out, but others don’t. Some gifts look more important than other gifts. It’s easy for us to compare our gifts with others’.
So, it’s important for us to remember that all the gifts are from God and all of them are equally important and essential in building the body of Jesus. Then, we can truly discern what kinds of gifts God has given us, develop them, and properly use them in building the body of Jesus Christ.
So, before listing the different gifts, Paul said, ℗ “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Rm 12:3)
So, what’s important is that we don’t judge others who have different gifts. Everyone should act in accordance with their gifts. Some should serve, some teach, some preach, some lead, some encourage, and some give. All gifts are necessary to build up the body of Christ.
After talking about gifts, Paul continues with how we should behave and treat each other in the church community and others outside church. He said, ℗
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.” (Rm 12:9-16)
There’s not much to explain. God’s will for us is clear. It is for us to be devoted to loving God and loving others both in the church and outside the church. This is how Jesus lived on earth. What Paul urges us to do is simply follow the loving way Jesus lived.
Our Relationship with Enemies (Rm 12:17-21)
What’s notable is how we should treat our enemies. Paul said that even our enemies are included in those that Christians should love.
When we’re deeply touched and moved by God’s mercy and when our minds are renewed according to God’s will, all of our relationships change. Now, we not only love God and each other in the church community, but also our enemies.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rm 12:17-21)
Here we find three negative instructions. We are not to repay anyone for evil, not to take revenge, and not to be overcome by evil. So, for those who follow Jesus, revenge is prohibited. Jesus himself also never paid back injustice with words or actions. He never cursed or took violent actions against those who persecuted Him. Rather, He just humbly lifted up everything to God, who judges and repays for Him.
The reason revenge and punishment are prohibited for Christians is not because the actions themselves are wrong, but simply because we don’t have the right to do so. They belong to God. As Paul quoted from Deuteronomy, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” (Rm 12:19). So, those who believe in God must “not take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath.” (Rm 12:19)
In fact, this is what we do in modern society. No one is allowed to personally take revenge upon anyone or punish others for their wrongdoing because only judges have the authority to judge and punish. So, Christians are also not allowed to repay evil for evil because we acknowledge that God knows everything and He is in control.
However, what’s different is that Christians don’t stop there. Every negative instruction is followed with positive instructions. Christians are called not only not to curse those who persecute them, but also to bless them. They shouldn’t only not repay evil for evil, but also try to live at peace with everyone. They shouldn’t take revenge against their enemies, but feed them and give them something to drink when their enemies are hungry or thirsty.
If we curse, repay, or take revenge against evil, that is, if we treat our enemies in evil ways, it means that we’ve been defeated and overcome by evil. But, if we refuse to repay evil for evil, but seek good instead, we can overcome evil with good.
These positive instructions are much harder for us to follow than the negative ones. But, that’s the only way for us to “overcome evil with good” rather than being overcome by evil. And, we also have an example to follow—Jesus.
Despite our innate retaliatory tendencies, Jesus commands us to follow in His steps. The world says that we must pay back evil with evil, but Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44) because “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Mt 5:45) And, in this way, we can “be perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48).
That’s how Christians should treat their enemies, following Jesus’ example. It seems impossible for us to love those who persecute us, but we should still embrace them and love them and do good to them because we know not only that God judges and punishes, but also that He even loves our enemies and wants them to return to Him. If we fail to love them but repay evil for evil, we would be overcome by evil and they would lose the chance to return to God.
And, if we’re reminded of the fact that God loved us even when we were His enemies and gave us His Son to save us, we can also love our enemies with His love. I hope that everyone here is filled with God’s love so that we can see our enemies through God’s eyes and love them with His love so that we can overcome evil with good and reveal God’s amazing love through our lives.
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