Today’s Reading: Romans 15:1-6 / SOAP: Romans 15:5
Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus,Romans 15:5
Scripture and observation
You may want some steal-toe shoes on before reading this. Seriously, Paul makes it clear that we must live ‘counter-cultural’. In other words, we must not live to please self, instead we must take time to consider how what we do and say will impact our ‘neighbors’. The bottom-line here is that we must live like Jesus.
How Do We Do This?
Learn to Know How Christ Lived
How do we live like this in a world that preaches and teaches and makes it more than easy to live for self? How do we live like Christ? First of all we have to learn to know how Christ lived and then choose to follow His example.
Paul gives us a glimpse of these examples in the passage today, but, I believe, what he wrote to the Philippians in chapter 2 says it best …
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit any affection or mercy, 2 complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. 3 Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. 4 Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. 5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
6 who though he existed in the form of GodPhilippians 2:6-8
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross!
This kind of living is not only counter-cultural, it is difficult to the nth-degree. If it weren’t for God it would be impossible – truthfully apart from God there is no way hope for true and abiding unity. However, we must remember – “nothing is impossible with God” (Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37) actually, Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:13 that – through Christ we can do all things, and Peter teaches us that we have been given everything we need for living a godly life, (2 Peter 1:3-4). So, while we may not want to put others above ourselves, or love others as Christ has loved us – it is clearly how we are called to live when we put our faith and hope in Jesus. On top of that, God has equipped us to do it so that we are without excuse.
Depend on God
As Paul did here in Romans, writing “to all those loved by God in Rome, called to be saints” – we must also do – and that is pray. Pray for, ask God often, and depend on God – for the unity both in individual and corporate setting, such as church, families, work places, and neighborhoods. Again, it is impossible without Him but “we have this confidence before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will (and without a doubt unity is His will) He hears us and if we know that He hears us we know we have whatever we ask.”
I don’t know about you, but whenever I set out to do something difficult it helps to have a goal that matters. When I broke my ankle and had to go to therapy morning after morning it not only meant getting up super early and enduring the pain that came with the therapy, but my goal was to walk again, to drive again, and to be free of that cast/boot. That motivation kept me going even when I didn’t want to – even if it was painful or seemed pointless. Paul clarifies in verse 6, the reason for what he has taught and prayed for, saying: “so that together you may with one voice, glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ“. The Bible says we were created for His glory and specifically here, the goal in our unity is first and foremost God’s glory. What a good and trustworthy motivation it is then to lay aside any self-centeredness or lack of consideration for the good of others and commit ourselves to live and love like Christ despite what it costs us.
Response to God’s Word: Prayer
Father God, only through You can or will we truly enjoy unity in the circles of our lives. Help us to let the attitude of Christ dwell in us – that we might be like-minded, having the same love, being in one spirit and of one mind. Guard us from acting out of selfish ambition or conceit – instead help us to value others above ourselves so that we look not only to our own interests but to that of others. Help us to have the same mindset of Christ, who being in very nature God did not consider equality with You something to be used to His own advantage, but made Himself nothing by taking on the nature of a servant – made in human likeness and humbling Himself to obedience – even death on a cross. Father, I know this doesn’t come easy – but we have hope in the knowledge that nothing is impossible with You! May Your glory be our goal and motivation. In Jesus’ name – Amen!