Romans 12: How to Live

The three previous chapters in Romans have been educational for believing and unbelieving Jews and Gentiles. The information went a long way towards explaining Christ in the context of the old law. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul spoke to Israelites using figures and examples that were meaningful to Jews, while also helping Gentiles by explaining the history of the relationship between God and His chosen people. These explanations were leading up to the climax at the end of chapter eleven, where Paul recognizes God’s divinity, sanctity of judgment, and glory. Having arrived at the conclusion, chapter twelve is a “therefore statement,” enlightening believers in Christ on the best ways to conduct themselves as children of God under the new gospel. There is both spiritual and practical guidance. There is direction on how to interact with believers and unbelievers. The wise, profound one-liners in this chapter present a paradigm, a philosophy on how to live as a Christian, ancient or modern, it makes no difference. One could even make the leap to say that Paul, as an apostle, is elaborating on the teaching of Christ, boiling the platitudes of God’s Son down to advice that is at once applicable, accessible. The encouragement and advice given in Romans chapter twelve is simple and in agreement with the Words of Jesus Christ.

Let us review these statements, along with their lessons and implications:

  • Present your bodies as living sacrifices (v. 1)
    • Where physical animal sacrifices were once what God desired, now we are called to sacrifice ourselves on the altar of God. This spiritual sacrifice involves us daily foregoing those things that we want for ourselves in exchange for what God would have us do for Him. 
  • Be not conformed to the world, but be transformed (v. 2)
    • Do not align yourself with worldly values, but heeding the Words of Christ and the commandments of God, allow yourself to live in conflict with the worldly standards, principles, and morals, which are very often opposite to the holy statues of God.
  • Do not think of yourself more highly than you should (v. 3)
    • Humility is key. When we are convinced of our own greatness, our sense of morality is warped as we tend to base our judgment on our internal standards instead of practicing the divine teachings of God. 
  • Understand your function in God’s kingdom (v. 4-5)
    • Know yourself. Understand what your talents are and use them with purpose in service of the Kingdom of God. 
  • Use your talents appropriately (v. 6-8)
    • Apply your abilities in the proper context, not forsaking their benefit to others, seeking opportunities to increase and abound in God’s work with excellence.  
  • Love one another sincerely (v. 9)
    • Treat fellow believers with authentic love, relenting from showy displays that lack honesty.
  • Reject evil and embrace goodness (v. 9)
    • Be purposeful about recognizing goodness and evil. Actively value good and reject evil. This can be both an internal exercise done privately as well as one that is done publicly in the presence of believers and unbelievers.
  • Serve the Lord by tirelessly serving others in affection and love (v. 10-11)
    • Have a happy spirit when serving others in the faith. Do not tire of it and serve them as if doing service to the Lord, which you are.
  • React to life’s situations appropriately (v. 12)
    • When there is hope, rejoice
    • When there are trials, be patient
    • Pray continually
    • Live so that you automatically have the right reactions to life’s challenges. This requires patience, practice and prayer.
  • Give and be hospitable to needy believers (v. 13)
    • Be aware of the needs of others in the body of Christ. Be ready to give them what they need out of your abundance and share your belongings, your wealth, your blessings, and your home.
  • Conduct yourself and your relationships appropriately (v. 14-21)
    • Do not be evil to those that are evil to you
    • Visibly value the good things in life
    • Endeavor to live in peace with all men
    • Do not take revenge, for it is the dominion of God
    • Be kind and have mercy on your enemies
    • When evil intrudes, react with goodness
    • We are often called to react opposite to what our natural reactions would be. God desires for us to rise above our sinful and selfish natures. We should understand that God’s place in our lives and in the lives of others supersedes our desire to take revenge and exact harsh judgment (active or mental) on those that have caused us pain, worry, or insult. We need to practice the reflex of goodness when we are hurt by others. Our default setting as children of God is to trust in the Lord to manage our relationships and ourselves. 

When we follow the guidance of these eleven statements, we are doing the hard work on the ground where God has already established the perfect pathways and methods that will give us the best version of our lives, and the best version of ourselves.

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