Mar29WedMarch 29, 2017
Last week, I enjoyed some Acts 2:42 time with a few of my spiritual brothers from FMC. We quickly surveyed Romans 12 as a devotional reading before digging into Hebrews, the book that we are studying. (By the way, if you are interested in ever joining us with some of these 6am men’s studies, please let me know! We’re always looking to expand in spiritual community.)
As we studied, we made a quick observation about the awkwardness of some of the Bible’s chapter divisions. In case you were unaware, the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts contained long texts with very little punctuation and no numerical system for finding phrases or themes. Our current numerical system of chapters and verses was adopted by English translations of the Bible during the 16th century. However, this system occasionally divides up passages in ways which are distracting and unhelpful. Our recent Daily Scripture Readings through Romans highlights this.
Romans 12 and 13 are two familiar chapters in Scripture. Romans 12 encourages Christians to use their spiritual gifts, show hospitality and never avenge ourselves against evil. Romans 13 gives the ‘job description’ for our governing authorities and for Christians within society. Because of the chapter division, it can be very easy for readers to automatically assume that Romans 12 contains one directive from the Lord while Romans 13 contains a completely separate command. However, when you look past the numerical divisions, there is an overarching theme which connects well with our current series on prayer.
Romans 12 begins with a clear agenda from the Lord - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds” (12:2). Then, the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes how our worldly attitudes are to be transformed into genuine, Godly love.
His love, through us, is to be directed towards four types of people:
1) other Christians by honorably serving one another with our finances, prayer and hospitality (12:10-13),
2) our enemies by feeding them and offering kindness (12:20),
3) our government by submitting to their leadership, living good lives, and paying taxes (13:1-7)
and 4) our neighbors by loving them as we would love ourselves (13:9).
Every person we meet falls into one of these four categories - our neighbors, our authority figures, our enemies or other Christians – and to each of them, we are called to show love…as commanded by the Lord.
Yet, I find it very easy to pick and choose which group should receive my love. Sometimes I prefer Romans 13 and like to ignore Romans 12. Sometimes, I feel the opposite. But we cannot forget that this command to love and respect all people extends beyond the chapter division.
This is where prayer come into play. We cannot love consistently and powerfully without “renewing our minds” through the posture of prayer. I cannot really love my fellow Christians, enemies, governing authorities, or neighbors if I am not first bringing them before the Lord in prayer. When I'm left to my own strength, it's really easy not to pray for those difficult relationships - and therefore begin to 'pick and choose' who is deserving of my love.
But when I pray for them…or pray for you…God places within me a desire to demonstrate His powerful, transforming love.
As you pray this week, I invite you to pray for those whom you struggle to love. Invite the Lord to transform your heart towards them. Who knows? You may be surprised with how quickly God begins to answer your prayer!