Most of the time when I hear Romans 12 being taught it is about the Body of Christ and how we all work together and have our roles, which is appropriate. But I find that there is a disconnect between hearing that we all have roles and seeing everyone actually take a role. Well, an active one anyway. I hear that we are to be hands and feet and then I see a church full of appendixes and gallbladders. I’m sure these parts are important I just don’t know what they do; if anything.
Just after Paul talks about how we are all the Body of Christ he then explains what he means by way of a list. It is important to note that this is not a checklist, but a way of living. Paul talks about prophets, servants, encouragers, teachers, leaders, givers and the merciful but he doesn’t imply that those are the categories of the Body and there is no reason to believe that this is a comprehensive list either. He is simply saying, “If you have a gift use it.”
Unfortunately, the church knows this all too well as finding our gifts and acting on them is less about actually finding the gifts God gives us than finding the things we like to do and doing what we already do but now with a stamp of approval.
The logic goes: I’ve decided that I have the gift of playing video games because it is what I like to do (so obviously God made me this way) so to act on my gift I will play with joy and that will be my role in the Body. I love my gift. It is totally what I like, by myself and for myself so why wouldn’t I love it?
Satire aside – this is a real issue the church deals with. Everyday activities that we already do have become our “gifts” and this is why the church is so much less effective than it could be.
Paul is clear that while there are more than just a few named gifts God expects every part of the Body to act in certain ways. The gifts are different starting points with a common end point.
Starting in verse 9 and continuing through the end of the chapter and beyond, Paul lists out some of the things that each member of the Body should do, no matter what we think our gift is:
- Really love everyone.
- Hate & despise what is evil and keep only the good stuff.
- Love each other like family.
- Treat each other like you want to be treated.
- Work hard (with your whole heart) serving the Lord.
- Be joyful.
- Be patient.
- Pray all the time, especially when trouble comes.
- Bless those that don’t like you.
- Be happy with those who are happy and empathize with those who are not.
- Live in peace; don’t fight among each other.
- Make friends with those that don’t have any or are undesirable.
- Don’t think yourself better or smarter than anyone else.
- Do not take revenge.
- Do things that everyone knows are good.
- Do your best to get a long with everyone.
Paul (and thus God) is very clear that these things and more are how we should live our lives. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the gift of mercy – you still need to pray for those who wrong you, being nice to them and avoid spite, anger and thoughts of revenge. If you have the gift of teaching you still need to give to the poor, befriend those who need friends, and work hard to not think you are smarter or better than anyone. The combinations are endless because there is no end – everyone with any gift needs to act in every way.
If we can tell what kind of tree something is by its fruit let me ask what kind of tree Christianity looks like. What kind of tree is your local church? What kind of tree are you?
It is time the church stopped being Frankentrees – mismatched good and bad (well mostly bad) fruit. I’m not trying to bring us down – I know we can do better than this. God tells us in Acts 1:8
When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will receive power!
That power is enough to be Body of Christ as we are supposed to be – in God’s image; not our own. I encourage you to ask for it.
We can do better.