If you read long enough, either online or on paper, you will find enough home-grown wisdom to either make you laugh or make you crazy. A few examples:
- Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
- It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.
- Taxation with representation isn’t so hot, either!
- Duct tape is like the Force, it has a light side and a dark side and it holds the universe together.
- Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.
- Diplomacy is the art of saying “good doggie” while looking for a bigger stick.
- The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
- Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’re a mile away and you have his shoes.
A philosopher once said, “The hardest thing about relationships in the church is that the church is filled with people.” He wasn’t totally wrong. Building healthy relationships is one of the most important tasks for church leaders today. Unfortunately, healthy relationships can only occur when you have healthy people. Recognizing this truth, the Apostle Paul sent instructions to the believers in Rome on living together in the church. The title of this teaching? Love. This is the first in a series of articles on Romans 12:9-21, as Paul continues to speak to us today about how we can find peace with others.
Verse 9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
You’ve heard the adage, “Don’t ask how someone is doing unless you’re ready to listen.” Most of us ask the question without even thinking. We’re really just saying “hello” and don’t really expect an answer.
Paul instructed the believers to be sincere. One possible origin of the word “sincere” comes from dishonest tradesmen in ancient times. They would sell inferior pots by covering or filling cracks and blemishes with wax. The pot looked great, but when the wax melted, the pot would leak. Therefore, sincere may come from the Latin words, sine “without” and cera “wax” literally meaning “without wax.” Any housewife who bought a “sin cere” pot knew that the clay would be solid the whole way through.
God calls us to be sincere, without a false cover, when we are in relationships. Modern-day versions of “with wax” approaches to relationships are prevalent in today’s society and in the church.
- We smile and greet someone, but when the person walks away, we talk about them—this type of “wax” we call “concern.”
- We make commitments, knowing we will never fulfill them—this type of “wax” we label “kindness.”
- We sing songs of praise to God, but enter the fellowship hall talking about the problems of the person sitting near us—this type of “wax” is called “sharing.”
Just as in Paul’s day, we wear social masks. We use them to hide our true feelings and sometimes to honestly try to spare another’s feelings. Yet, the insincerity of our words and actions will often be known when the light of God shines in our hearts and lives. How can we be sincere? Ask yourself these questions:
Would I still speak these words if the person I am speaking about were standing by me? Are my words honest and true, or am I just speaking what others want to hear? Would God be pleased with the words I am speaking?
Verse 10: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Paul instructs the believers to be devoted to, literally to “stick to” one another in brotherly love. Healthy relationships occur when we are committed to each other, not just in our own little cliques. This kind of love goes beyond likes and dislikes and recognizes the value that God places on each individual. This value can be seen in Christ’s actions: Christ died for every person. An evangelist once said, “If you were the only person alive, Christ would have died for you.” Just think, if you were the only person alive, when Christ would have died for you even though you would have been the person putting Him to death.
To build strong and healthy relationships, I must recognize that I am not the center of the universe. My good friend tells her teenagers, “It’s not about you; it’s about our family.” We honor others when we consider their needs, hopes, and dreams just as valuable as ours. Even more, Paul makes no distinction between the people we enjoy and those who drive us crazy. We are to honor one another, to attribute value to every person because God has done so first.
Next week I will continue looking at Romans 12, but I want to finish with one more thought. Within our communities we have many “flavors” of Christianity, and Paul’s words speak to all of us today. Healthy relationships are necessary, not only in our individual congregations, but between our denominations, as well, so that those who don’t know Christ will see God’s love within us. In that way, they will know we are Christians by our love.
Pastor Mary Kay Glunt