Sometimes the Bible roars like a lion at us and wakes us up. Other times it feels as if Scripture is a loving embrace that hugs us and lets our weakness melt away in tears. On other days God’s Word is like an infusion of jet-fuel into our hearts and we find ourselves inspired by promise and hope. Today, as I was reading through Romans 13-15, my Bible spoke to me as a concerned counselor in soft but firm tones as it reminded me that I have a calling on my life to grow up, strive to silence the pettiness in my heart and to honor Christ by learning how to scale the heights of getting along with those that disagree with me, and I with them.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6
There’s no getting around it: the depth of our commitment to Christ is most clearly revealed in our relationships with others. We are citizens in a culture that oozes out the exaltation of individualism and it has certainly seeped into our theology, our philosophies and our churches. The new high-road in Christendom can be summed up with the demand, “Leave me alone with God as I leave you alone with God.” In adopting this mantra we find ourselves isolated, jaded, fearful and incredibly selfish at times. God has not only given something to you, He has given you to something. He gives you Himself through Christ and then turns around and gives Himself – through you – to others. There is no reality to the thought that you and I can go maverick in our relationship with God. We belong to Him for sure and there is great individual and personal delight to that. But that is where the process begins, not terminates. It is after giving Himself to us that we embark upon His plan to be shared with others. Our love is for others – both our friends and our enemies. Our service is for others as God Himself needs no service from us. Our sacrifice is for others because the only sacrifice that God ever required, He supplied Himself to His full satisfaction. Jesus Christ prayed intensely in John 17 that you and I would experience with all other believers the exact oneness that the Son shares with the Father. How well are you doing in endeavoring to live out your own life in a manner that reveals the high call of that prayer? Chances are that your human nature has whispered to you that you have the right to build walls, burn bridges, erect barriers and stiff-arm the saints with whom you differ. Have you become adept at criticizing, complaining, murmuring, gossiping, moaning and denouncing? Has it been a while since you prayed to become more gracious, understanding, merciful, slow to speak, eager to listen and first to refuse to get your own way? Today is a good day to take an inventory about how God is being glorified (and pleased?) with how we are approaching our relationships with others.
Or is it
Paul asked above in the Romans 15 verses that God would grant us endurance and encouragement to endeavor to live in harmony with each other. Why did he make this a matter of prayer? Because it is near-impossible apart from divine aid. The one-voice glorification of Jesus Christ can potentially be drowned out by the myriad of voices who express that they are clearly convinced that they are the supreme voice which should be heard above all others. With all our assertive talking is it any wonder that it has been a while since someone in the church excitedly told you what they have heard recently from God? What percentage of your conversations center on speaking well of others versus a critique of what lacks in them? With all your own potential to stream unprofitable words, is it any wonder that you are not hearing God’s voice as much these days?
Yes, there’s a whole lot of chatter going on by Christians who believe themselves to be spiritual. Lots of voices. Lots of words. But when we are talking over each other… or about each other…not much is really being said.