Gymnasiums are packed with people exercising, sales of organic food and sugar free drinks are going through the roof, all because people want to have as healthy a body as possible. That should be our aim when it comes to the Church, the Body of Christ, to have as healthy a body as possible. Romans chapter 12 is one of the key chapters for us if we want to do that, to cultivate authentic Christian community. I am going to post a series of blogs looking at what it says that might help us develop healthier expressions of the Kingdom of God. These blog posts are adapted from material I used for a church retreat.
Let’s start by focusing on verse 3
3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Paul tells us to “think” several times in these verses. So what he is encouraging us to do is to look at our mindset, to examine the way we think about certain things, to looks seriously at the attitudes that we have to certain issues and change them if necessary
The first thing Paul asks us to do is to think about how we think about ourselves. In essence he is encouraging us to
DEVELOP THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TO OURSELVES
What we find here is that the starting point for any community of people who want to be the BODY OF CHRIST more authentically, to have a stronger and healthier “Body” is to have the right attitude to themselves. Its vital that we all get the right perspective on ourselves if we are going to be part of the Body of Christ.
Now a wee bit of background will help us understand what Paul is getting at here. Although Paul had never visited the Church in Rome its pretty clear he knew there was a problem in it. If you read chapter 14 you’ll hear him talking about “THE WEAK” and “THE STRONG” It seems like there were some people in the Church in Rome who were saying that they were the “really strong” followers of Christ and so the important people in the church which means they were effectively writing everyone else off as “weak” followers of Christ and so in their view as lesser than them and unimportant. This “strong” group thought really highly of themselves and so looked down their spiritual noses on other people who didnt share their perspective.
Paul takes that attitude on, head on. He says no one is to think of themselves too highly, there is no room in the Body of Christ for a person or a group of people who think they are above everyone else. Looking down on others is a vantage point that is not open to Christians in the Body of Christ.
Instead Paul says we need to get our thinking about this sorted out and think about ourselves clearly “WITH SOBER JUDGEMENT” or as another translation puts it with a “SANE ASSESMENT” We do that by thinking about ourselves “accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” `Now that phrase in Verse 3 is one of the most difficult to understand in the NT because it could mean two different things
It could mean:
- FAITH …. as in “our” faith, how we believe and so he is saying that God gives some of us stronger faith than others
- It could mean “the” faith not how we believe but the content of what we believe In this understanding “THE FAITH THAT GOD HAS GIVEN “.… which is the Gospel
Here is what I think, it’s not likely to have been the first one because that would just have reinforced the problem in the church, there were already people in the church who thought their faith was stronger than everyone else’s and so that made them “stronger” believers.
So my conclusion is that the second way of understanding it is probably the correct one. That we are to evaluate ourselves in the light of the Gospel, in the light of what Christ crucified and risen tell us about ourselves. What God’s Word is asking us to do is to look in a mirror to really see who we are and that mirror is the gospel. Here is what we have to grasp, we only really see who we are clearly and truly in the light of the gospel.
The NLT translates the phrase we are looking at better than the NIV when it puts it like this “Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”
So what happens when we look in that mirror, when we evaluate who we are and our lives in the light of the gospel?
Well firstly it creates HUMILITY .…. none of us deserve or have earned what Christ did for, we are all sinners saved by grace. So that rules out thinking of ourselves more highly than anyone else in the Body of Christ because we all equally needed and need the grace of God. As someone has said, the ground below the Cross, is even ground.
It does something else, evaluating our in the light of the Gospel creates a healthy SELF ESTEEM …. We realise when we look at our lives in the light of all that God has done for us in and through Christ that we are all equally valued and deeply loved. Standing at the foot of the cross none of us can deny, whatever others think of us, or we think of ourselves that God loved us enough to give his son for us .
So what I am suggesting is that measuring ourselves by the faith god has given us, faith in christ crucified rules out two things that stop us functioning in a healthy way as part of the body of Christ, Feelings of SUPERIORITY or INFERIORITY
The bottom line is that here in His Word, God is calling on us to see ourselves as He sees us
“Sinners saved by Grace” …. Those who all equally needed grace.
“beloved children” Those whom He loved so much He gave His one and only Son for.
We can’t build a healthy expression of the Body of Christ until we start seeing ourselves as our Heavenly Father sees us and until we have a “sane assesment” of ourselves, that is we don’t think too much or too little of ourselves. As far as Paul sees it, that’s the foundation of fellowship
So let me ask you, as you look at yourself in the light of the Gospel, which aspect do you need to work on personally to help build the part of the Body you are a member of?
Do you have to work on humility, do you have a tendency to look down on other people, or have you a higher opinion of your importance to the Body of Christ than you should have?
Do you need to work on having a healthier self esteem? Realising, you are deeply loved and accepted by God, no matter what you have done, no matter what others have done to you, no matter how you think about yourself. That is because reality is what God has done for you and thinks of you.