Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God--what is good and acceptable and perfect.3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function,5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. 9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 9 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
St Paul writes to a church that is struggling to understand that becoming a follower of the way of Jesus requires a fundamental change in attitude. Most of the Roman Church had grown up Jewish, and so assumed that people needed to be Jewish in order to follow Jesus. Paul opposes this: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Instead of following the exclusionary norms, traditions and habits of the Jewish community – allow the Spirit of God to lead you into new truths. Paul insists that all people are welcome into the community who follow Jesus: we, who are many, are one body in Christ.
As we learn from this early Christian church we who follow Jesus are challenged to be different from the normal patterns of human behaviour: our gifts and abilities are to be used to benefit everyone: we live to serve both “the saints” and those people who are far from sainthood; we respect both the important, and the lowly; we welcome both our family and the strangers; we love both those who love us in return and those who persecute us!
The Fourth Sunday in Lent
The Scripture passage for the day is drawn from Rueben Job and Norman Shawchuck, A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and other Servants, (Nashville, The Upper Room 1983), 123.
This reflection is from my own devotional exercises for the day