Friday, May 14, 2010

R12: Are you building relationships?

Real community is when the real you meets real needs for the right reasons in the right way. This follows the outline of Romans 12:9-13. We've already talked about taking off our masks and exposing the real you. Now, how do we meet those "real needs"?

Romans 12:10 reads, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves." Easier said than done. Devoted is a strong word. With respect to relationships within the church, this is more than asking someone, "hey, how ya doin?" It is even more than opening your home to your closest friends. It is more aligned with the love you would have towards your family. In fact, the first sentence is redundant in its original Greek. "Devoted" is translated from the familiar philadelphia, which we often see translated as brotherly love which is instead translated later in the sentence from the root philos. Repetition adds emphasis. So in other words, in case you didn't get it the first time, I'll repeat myself. Kinda like saying, "do good by being good." Philos is the word used for familial love as well as close friendships. Devotion in this case raises our relationships within our church to the same level as family. This verse forces us to ask ourselves to go to the same lengths to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ as we would to serve our brothers and sisters in blood and/or name.

Like I said, easier said than done. How many of your brothers or sisters in Christ have hurt you in some way? We so easily turn our backs on them and those scars never heal. Conversely, we grow up fighting with our siblings, pulling hair, stealing toys, tattling to parents when our sister isn't staying on her side of the car. We hurt and we get hurt. But we don't just stop being brother and sister at that point. Sadly, siblings may drift apart as they grow older, but while they are under the same roof, despite the hurt they are still bonded together. We are under the same roof with our brothers and sisters in the faith. Yet we treat them differently. This verse teaches that this should not be the case.

The second sentence is required to fulfill the first. We need to be humble. We need to consider the needs of others ahead of our own. As an aside, this can be dangerous if taken to extremes. One of my biggest weaknesses is to serve to such an extent that I neglect my needs to the point of starvation. I get irritable, withdrawn, and lose whatever motivation I may have had. "But I'm doing it for the Lord! The Bible commands me to live this way!" No, it doesn't. Others' needs should be above our own, but not to the point of neglecting ourselves. I'm grateful for one brother who always encourages me to go do something fun for myself because he knows I won't unless I'm told. My wife has learned this too and will often poke and prod me to do something for myself when she sees me get this way. A better definition instead would be (thanks again to Chip), "serving is giving someone what they really need, when they deserve it least, at great personal cost." Have you ever served in that way? This isn't burning yourself out as I am tempted to do. It is sacrificing for the benefit of another. Chip uses the example of helping someone with their rent when he knew he wouldn't be able to pay his own. It's easy to give a buck to the person begging for food or change outside of a restaurant after we've already eaten our full. What about buying that person a meal with the money you were going to spend on yourself? That is much harder.

A great example of this devotion and honor is illustrated in the movie The Blind Side. Can you imagine taking someone into your home like that? I love the part when Sandra Bullock's character is getting grilled by her girlfriends. "This isn't a 'white guilt' thing is it?" Then a half-repentant, "that's great, your changing this boy's life!" To which Sandra replies, "No, he's changing mine." While that sounds hokey and expected in a movie to make a cheesy, sappy point, it is still true. True devotion and honor will change your life. Sacrificing your needs to meet the needs of someone else shouldn't burn you out. If it does, you're doing it wrong. Instead it should fill you with a sense of joy in the Holy Spirit knowing you're doing God's will.

The best example is obviously Jesus,
"who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)

"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8) This death is the foundation of our faith and while it serves to cleanse us of our sins, it also serves an example of how to live. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) This is devotion. This is honor. This leads to authentic community.

Think: What hit home in this chapter?
Reflect: Who comes to mind when you think of someone who has honored you and been devoted to you? How do you feel about them?
Understand: What person or situation are you aware of that would qualify as a real need? Who is hurting who needs help?
Surrender: You may not be the one to meet the need that you listed above; but tell God you are willing to make a real sacrifice to meet that need if that is His will.
Take Action: Get out of your comfort zone and convenient zone this week. Help one person in a way that "really costs you something."
Motivation: Download the full-length audio message How to Experience Authentic Community at R12 online. [R12 button to the right, serving tab, free resources at the bottom]
Encourage someone: Who has met a real need in your life in the past? Whether it was loaning you money, telling you the truth, helping heal your marriage, or driving your kids to practice... let them know how grateful you are to Christ for them.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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