Don’t try to fit in with this world
Give all of yourself to God1 Dear family, I’m coming to you because of God’s mercy. I’m asking you to give yourselves completely to him. Instead of showing your devotion to God by sacrificing an animal on the altar, give him your entire body as a living sacrifice. Present your body in complete devotion to God, for him to accept. This is a reasonable way to worship him. 2 Don’t adapt your life to fit this world. Transform yourself by expanding your mind. Do it so you can recognize God when he’s guiding you. He’ll take you in the direction of what is good for you, and perfect.
Find your skill and do it3 Because God, through his grace, has kindly given me this mission assignment, I need to make sure you understand something. Don’t get uppity. Keep a level head about who you are, and make good decisions based on the faith God has given you. 4 The body that we walk around in every day has a lot of different body parts that do a lot of different things.
5 Well, we Christians are one body in Christ. We are individual members of one church. We belong to each other. 6 We each have a different skill set, thanks to God’s grace. If you’ve been given the gift of prophecy, then go ahead and prophesy as far as your faith will take you. 7 If serving others is what you love to do, go ahead and do it. It’s your gift. If you love to teach, go ahead and teach. 8 If you’re a natural encourager, do it. Encourage. If you have the resources to give generously, go ahead and give generously. If you’re a leader, lead with energy. If you have the gift of showing mercy, show it with a smile.
Keep it real—no faking love9 Don’t fake your love; keep it real. Hate evil with all the guts you have in you. Love what is good and hug it tight. 10 Love each other like brothers and sisters who actually get along. Honor one another like there’s no tomorrow. Take it to the limit. 11 Don’t wimp out. Keep your spirits up. Do whatever the Lord wants you to do. 12 Celebrate the hope you have. When suffering comes, treat it with patience. Spend time talking to God in prayer.
13 When you see other believers who need some help, give them a hand. Always try to be welcoming and hospitable. 14 Ask God to show kindness to people who make you feel miserable. Don’t ask God to give them what for. 15 When you see someone happily celebrating, join right in. If they’re crying, you can cry, too. 16 Get along with each other. Don’t be aloof. Stay down to earth, and live your life in constant touch with people who don’t have much to call their own. Don’t spend much time thinking about how smart you are. It wouldn’t be smart.
Payback is none of your business17 When someone does you wrong, don’t return the favor. People are watching. Let them see you do something good. 18 Try to get along peaceably with everyone, when it’s possible. 19 Never try to get even with someone, my dear friends. That’s God’s business. Let him take care of it. Our Bible says he’ll do it: “I’m the Avenger. I take care of the payback," says the Lord.
20 Your job is to do the opposite of getting even. “If your enemy is hungry, give him some food. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Doing this is going to make those folks feel pretty doggone bad.” 21 Don’t let the bad guys win. Beat them with goodness.
The Greek word is usually translated as “holiness.”
“Grace” sounds like a vague word that’s hard to define. In fact, it’s a specific word that can be hard to define: charis. When Bible writers use it to describe God’s expression of grace to people, the word comes in different shades: mercy, kindness, love. We have to look for context clues if we want to understand how the writer used the word. One interpretation of God’s grace is this: “Grace is God accepting us the way we are and exactly where we are in our lives, yet it’s also his unwillingness to leave us there.” That may cover all the shades of “grace.” We should probably add that Paul says we can’t earn the right to any of it (Romans 9:16). In the Casual English Bible, we typically substitute “kindness” for “grace,” because the word “kindness” is more easily grasped and is a key feature of grace. But in Paul’s letter to Romans, we go back to “grace” because this is Paul’s greatest surviving work and the most theological. Some scholars describe this letter as the first thorough work of Christian theology. If you can handle Romans, you can wrap your welcoming arms around God’s grace.
Proverbs 25:21-22. A more literal translation of the last phrase would be “pour burning coals on their head.” Bible experts aren’t sure what Paul meant by that. One option is that it would make the people feel so ashamed that they would repent. One piece of history that might seem to support that is that there was an Egyptian ritual that involved a person carrying coals of fire on the head as evidence that they were genuinely sorry for something they’ve done. Another option is that by doing something good in return, you make the person even more guilty and more deserving of punishment. So in a sense, you are entrusting the abusive person to God, but you are trying to make the person look even more guilty. That might not sound particularly Christian. But given some of our relatives, it could sound like a fun idea.
One of the most famous lines in the movie “Jerry Maguire” is, “You complete me.” Given what Paul says in the section called “Find your skill and do it,” 12:3-8, do you think Paul would say that would work as a description of how Christians should feel about each other in the church?
Paul offers a lot of practical advice in this chapter. If you had to pick out one piece of advice that you think should be the headliner, but would it be?
A psalm attributed to David asks God to give his enemies what for. “Pour out your fury on them; consume them with your burning anger” (Psalm 69:24 New Living Translation). Yet Paul says, “When someone does you wrong, don’t return the favor…Never try to get even” (12:17, 19). Paul knows his Bible, and especially Psalms, a favorite of all God’s people. What do you think Paul really expects of us?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells the Christians in Rome to give themselves completely to God. “Give him your entire body as a living sacrifice” (12:1). Why do you think he put it that way? Why not ask people to give God all of their spirit?
LIFE APPLICATION. In one of the most memorable ideas Paul expresses in this letter to Christians in Rome, he tells them, “Don’t adapt your life to fit this world. Transform yourself by expanding your mind” (12:2). How do you think Christians adapt to fit into a culture that’s not friendly toward Christianity?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Paul talks about love he says one thing that seems a little odd to say to Christians. Then he says another thing that makes more sense. Odd: “Don’t fake your love; keep it real.” Not surprising: “Love what is good and hug it tight” (12:9). Why do you think Paul would tell Christians not to fake their love? And do you see any connection between that in what he says about loving what is good?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul tells Christians, “Ask God to show kindness to people who make you feel miserable. Don’t ask God to give them what for” (12:14). Is Paul kidding? He has no idea what kind of misery we are going through. What do you think we should do with Paul’s advice?