Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
It is very easy for us to fall into the habit of reading the Bible a chapter at a time. That’s well and good. It brings much more context than reading a verse here and a sentence there. Yet sometimes we find the chapter breaks are not entirely sense breaks. That is the case here in Romans. If we begin our reading at Romans 12:1 wemay fail to see that the text is built on the idea which came at the end of chapter 11. So we read 11:33-12:8.
The passage begins with a meditation on the wonders of God. Who has ever given God advice? Granted, most of us have. But he never needed it or wanted it. He simply endures it patiently. Who can understand the depths of God’s wisdom? Nobody can. All we have in this world comes from the God of all mercy. So then we read on into chapter 12.
Because of God’s mercy, as he has given us gifts, we put them to use. This is consistently for the good of the rest of the world. One Christian teacher I respect a good deal wrote an article about elections, saying that we should “vote for the other guy.” That isn’t the other candidate. It is the candidate who will help and serve our neighbor. If we are to love and serve our neighbor as ourselves, we should seek that other person’s good. This is exactly what these different gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Romans 12:3-8 do. They serve our neighbors. They think of others. They speak for their benefit. They care for others. They build up the whole body of Christ, rather than just building us up individually.
How can we serve our neighbor? That’s a great question. The answers are as many and varied as our neighbors and their situations. But in what context do we serve our neighbor? We serve our neighbor in the light of God’s mercy, bringing mercy and grace to every person in every place. This is what Romans 12 calls being “sober minded.” It brings good to our world.
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