Menu Close
31st January 2021

Daily Choice

Passage: Romans 12

DAILY CHOICE: A Sermon on Romans Chapter 12

Verses 1-2
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Do you realise that only a few of Jesus’ first followers actually became missionaries, travelling the world in his service? The vast majority simply carried on working as farmers, merchants, carpenters, living in their own homes with their own families just like you and me. So what difference did being a Christian make to them?

Every day we have to make choices about what we do, what we say, how we will react to a situation. And all these small choices add up to big differences in what we end up doing with our lives and in the person we become. Paul, then, is inviting us to offer our bodies, our day to day lives as an act of worship to God. Worship is not just about hymns and prayers and -in Paul’s day- offering sacrifices.
Worship is about honouring God in everything we do. As we honour God in all things, so we are transformed. Faith makes us what we are. We become the person God intended us to be.

In the first part of the book, Paul has been explaining what the Christian faith is all about. This can be quite complex, but I would sum it all up as, “we are sinners saved by grace.” That does not mean self-hatred- I am a miserable sinner and no good to anyone. Being a sinner is simply being human, fallible, imperfect, having an outlook shaped by your experience of life, which may not have been all good. Admitting “I am a sinner” is being realistic about yourself.
But adding “saved by grace” makes life look a whole lot better. My story does not begin and end with my fallibility but with God’s saving grace. Everything in life then-even you- becomes “holy,” as in filled with the powerful loving grace of God.
Ian Hislop once said that his magazine- Private Eye- was the only magazine which does not leave you hating yourself. He added that it left you hating everybody else… Think of all we read, all we absorb on social media, all we are told which leaves us despising ourselves and the world we live in. “Not anymore,” says Paul to the new Christians, “you will now live 24/7 by God’s grace. ”

Verses 3-8
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 measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is contributing to the needs of others, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

“The measure of faith God has given you” and most of us think that God has not given us enough and we can think of loads of people with more faith than we have got. Yes? Actually, that is not what this verse is saying. The word “measure” is being used as in cooking ingredients: the measure of sugar, the measure of flour- each has to be right for the cake to work.
It is not about quantity of faith but about each of us being given the gifts and the faith God needs us to have in order to make his church and kingdom work effectively.

Let’s have a look at the gifts: prophesy, as in wisdom and insight; serving, doing what you can for the sake of the church and the world; teaching, helping others to understand what faith and life are all about; encouraging-apparently there was, maybe still is, a Naval regulation- no officer shall speak discouragingly to any other officer about any undertaking in which he/she is engaged. That might be a good rule in the church, too…..
Contributing- giving generously and distributing what is given wisely;
leadership- taking responsibility; mercy- caring for the vulnerable and doing so cheerfully, so that they do not feel a burden.

Being a sinner saved by grace means that you do not compare yourself with other people. You are you and God loves you. The gifts you have are charismata- gifts of the Holy Spirit, given by God.
So, on the one hand there is no place for that sense of personal superiority which leads to arrogance. And on the other hand, there is no room for false modesty or diffidence (I’ll just make a mess of everything )If God has given you a gift then God intends you to use it, God needs you to use it and God empowers you to use it.
Remember Alice in Wonderland eating and drinking some stuff which made her grow impossibly large and some which made her ridiculously small? Life can do that to us. We can make ourselves far too large or far too small. Living as a sinner saved by grace, puts life and you into proportion.

Verses 9-13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

We move on now to the most crucial gift of love. Paul is talking love in its very widest and deepest expression. We need to be in love with life; in love with God; in love with others; in love even with ourselves. Paul speaks of love in terms of passion, fervour and energy. He has no time for people who are lukewarm in their faith, shrug their shoulders over life, keep at a safe distance from others and give up on themselves. Being a sinner saved by grace sets you free to love with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.

Paul spells out what this means:
It means that your love is real; not just a ruse to gain praise.
It means that you hate evil. You are shocked by wrongdoing and will take no part in it. Not only will you avoid evil, but actively do good.
You will be alive with spiritual fervour. And this does not mean that you will only ever “talk religion” and “do church.” But you will be fired up by God’s grace so that all of life is holy and precious to you.
You will be joyful in hope. There is a saying that, “There are no hopeless situations in life; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.” And don’t we need to hear that right now?
You will be patient in affliction, not as in smiling brightly when you are trying not to scream but as in resisting self-pity and bitterness.
You will be faithful in prayer; because you know that you cannot get through life as you would like to live it without the help of God.
You will share with those in need because, as you have received from God, so you are glad to give out.
You will practise hospitality- welcoming the stranger; making a space for those different to ourselves; listening to and learning from others’ stories. Some very passionate-seeming church communities can nevertheless be very inhospitable if you do not fit the blueprint.

Perfect love, the Bible says, casts out fear. Most of our reluctance to love is down to fear; fear of rejection; fear of failure. But, as sinners saved by grace, we are free to love life, love God, love others, love even ourselves.

Verses 14-21
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 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.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s justice, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.

In the time of St Paul, Christianity was very much a minority religion, which was looked on with suspicion by many people, rather as it is in the UK today.
And Paul is anxious that Christians, whilst standing out in society for their faith, stand out for the right reasons and not for the wrong ones. This final section shows where living differently as a Christian really kicks in.

No revenge. We are not talking playground stuff here- even if he did kick you deliberately, you should still not have kicked him back and started a fight… We are talking living in an oppressive regime; where freedom of speech and even peaceful protest are stamped out brutally. We are talking a society in which the babies of slaves were left out to die; in which popular entertainment lay in watching lions tear apart young people thought to be enemies of the state. Despite the appearance of being a highly civilised society, the Roman Empire was a “dog eat dog” world.

Paul did not want Christians deliberately to put themselves in danger but he is asking that they demonstrate an alternative way of living. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Become comrades, create community both in good times and bad. Don’t give in to the culture of back-stabbing, of racial hatred, of seething resentment and social divide.
Be seen to be doing what is right. Do active good even in a bad culture. Live in peace so far as possible. No, you should not turn a blind eye to evil but nor should you compound it by giving way to hatred and violence yourselves. Forgive those who hurt you and you will turn the tables on them because their evil will then be rendered null and void. Overcome evil with good.
As a sinner saved by grace- you are called to live by the standards and ideals of Christ Jesus. And, by God’s grace, hour by hour, choice by choice, you then become the person God intended you to be.