August 27, 2020
This Scripture includes one of my favourite verses in the Bible: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
The Message paraphrase – which we occasionally use in church – puts a slightly new spin on it, which I find enlivening; “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Paul calls us to fix our attention on God, assuring us that if we do this, we will be changed. This change brings with it a recognition that we are all members of one body.
Using a familiar image, Paul reminds us (just as he did the Romans and others) that the body parts cannot stand alone. They cannot ignore one another. God makes each member an important part of a single system. Yes, we each have our gifts, but God gives us unity through the diversity of these gifts. These gifts are meant for one another.
It sounds obvious, because we have never known anything else, but God builds us for interdependence. (My mom preached this to me for many years before I came to see it for myself.) We suffer and celebrate together. God works through us for the good of one another, to build loving bonds. God forms us as one body. And this is no metaphor. In Acts 17:28 we are reminded that in God “we live, and move, and have our being.” In God we find unity. We cannot find it in the ‘patterns of our world’.
The Message again puts it beautifully, perhaps shedding new light on a familiar scripture; “Since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”
Thank you for the gift of unity through the diversity of our gifts, born of you. Help us to live into these many gifts, realizing their source, humbling our hearts and minds to work with others as one. With our attention fixed on you, may our inner change serve as a beacon of your light to a world hungering for your presence.
Romans 12: 1-8 The Message
Place Your Life Before God
1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what [God] wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
3 I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what [God] does for us, not by what we are and what we do for [God].
4-6 In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
6-8 If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Photo by D Kucharczyk
Devotional by James Aitchison