Wednesday, May 26, 2010

R12:Do you know when you look most like Jesus?

"Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." (Romans 12:14) Yesterday we defined "blessing" as desiring God's best for someone. When it comes to those who have hurt us, we cannot have that desire without first making a decision to forgive. That, by itself, does not fully cleanse our hearts of bitterness, but it begins the process. You may still have negative feelings and attitudes, you are allowed to still hurt, but you decide not to let those feelings rule over you.

So you've decided to forgive and you're begrudgingly desiring God's best for this person (by the way, the best way to get to this point is through prayer, prayer, and more prayer), now what? Romans 12 continues, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." (v 15-16) I've always taken these verses as a stand-alone description of our relationships in general, but in context they are commands on how to relate to those who have hurt us.

It's one thing to half-heartedly pray for God's blessings in someone's life. It an entirely different attitude to genuinely be happy when those blessings come to fruition. This continues the "scrubbing" process in our souls. Of course this is hard and is likely impossible without the Holy Spirit intervening on our behalf, but we are still commanded to have this attitude.

You've likely been here before: you are passed over for a promotion by someone you do not like; there is a promotion party that everyone is invited to; you don't go. Romans 12:15 commands us to go, put a smile on our face, and sincerely wish the best for this person. How much easier is it to stay behind in your cubicle and allow your hurt to stew.

Chip Ingram gives other examples in his book that better describe this not from an individual disciple perspective, but from the perspective of the corporate church as a whole. Think of the reputation Christians, or rather our churches, have: judgemental, only wanting our money, corrupt and/or filled with cronyism, full of double-standards, hypocritical, lacking grace, and so on, and so on. Think about the real-life spiritual warfare that is going on outside our churches walls: homosexuality, single parenthood, teenage pregnancy, addiction, and poverty. Are rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourning with those who are mourning in these circumstances? More, are you "willing to associate with" these people? If not, your attitude is not "the same as that of Christ Jesus, who" lived his life among the tax collectors and prostitutes and forgave the very ones who beat, insulted, and ultimately killed him. "By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35)

Bringing this back home, where if you haven't faced this situation yet, you will someday: My family is presently suffering the inevitable loss of the family matriarch. On Sunday family from all over came to her house to pay their last respects, share memories and tears, and try to have closure. But beneath the surface ran a current of resentment, competitiveness, and pride. Behind every "how are you doing?" was an unspoken "you don't deserve your share of the inheritance." Behind every "I'm glad you were here for her" was the question, "why didn't you ever call?" I've been through this before, and I'll likely go through it again. It is sad that we let petty grievances prevent us from "mourning with those who mourn." But this is a real battle in a real situation.

Regardless of any attitude or feeling, when we, as disciples of Christ, enter into those circumstances, we must obey Paul's command. If we do, we show the real Jesus to those who may not know him or don't know him well enough. And "all men will know..." to the Glory of the Father.

Think: What in this [post] spoke to you?
Reflect: What aspect of this teaching from Romans 12 was hardest for you to accept? Why?
Understand: What would it look like in your situation to rejoice (or weep) with the very one who treated you wrongly?
Surrender: Ask God to show you how he wants you to apply this truth in your life in view of your specific circumstances.
Take Action: Choose from the list of actions on events on pages 234 and 235 and bless you enemies this week. [These are life-events such as marriage, the birth of a baby, the recovery from an illness, etc on the rejoicing side, and death, illness, troubles at home, etc on the mourning side of Romans 12:15]
Motivation: Download the audio message How to Overcome the Evil Aimed at You at r12 online [click the r12 button to the right, select the Supernaturally tab and find this message under Free Resources]
Encourage Someone: Think of someone who has been betrayed or wounded and share r12 with them like [was done with Chip in the book].

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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