February 5, 2011: Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:16 Devotional Sharing
Submitted by Chris Lee, Gracepoint Berkeley
How can a person have “sober judgment” about himself, and what relationship does this have with the close community described in this passage? – We can have sober judgment about ourselves by receiving objective truth about ourselves which we ourselves are unable to see. We are blind to many aspects of ourselves because we are simply unaware, and because we are reluctant to squarely face areas that are too unpleasant for us. These objective truths must come from outside of us, from people who know us well. This is where we need the close community. We need people who have plenty of opportunities to observe objective truths about me. We need people who can see my life over long period of time, observe my way of life, and communicate truth to us. However, this must be done in the context of loving relationships. Without it, because of the twistedness in us caused by sin, we can receive difficult truths as attacks on us even when it’s spoken out genuine concern. We need to be assured that truth is being spoken to us because it really matters for our lives and for our relationships with others. Also, without being in a close community, people can withhold truth from us. Sometimes it’s not easy speaking truth to others because there is no guarantee that it will be received well. In such situations, it would be tempting to withhold the full truth. We need a close, loving community that cares enough to tell whole truth because it’s essential for close community.
Identify points of contrast between Genesis 4’s description of Cain and his descendants as a picture of life falling apart outside of God, and the picture presented here of the community made possible by the reversal of sin’s ravages. – In Genesis 4, Cain and his descendants became more and more isolated, living life by self and for self. It began with Cain’s jealousy and murderous thoughts towards his brother. Then he became afraid of others that they might treat him the same way he treated his brother. He physically retreated and isolated himself when he built a city to protect himself. His descendants sought significance and meaning in life through their own accomplishments. In such a way of life, any situation where others can potentially make demands on us becomes a threat. Any time we have to divert resources from ourselves to someone else, we become unsettled. It’s a life of continuous anxiety. In the course of such life, even the ‘joy’ that people experience is so isolated and alone, and that is no joy, for it cannot be shared with anyone else. In the community of faith, where relationships matter a lot, a reversal is possible. Because we are one body and each member belongs to all the others, we cannot disregard others in our decisions and actions. The moment we cut off ourselves from others, we see detrimental effects on the health and strength of the body. If we pursue our own agenda, that’s terribly deflating for others who want to build this community up to what it was supposed to be. What we do inevitably affects the rest of the body, since we are connected. In this community, as we allow the needs of others to make demands on us, we can begin to chip away at this isolated life. We begin to taste the fulfillment of serving others, the joy of being a blessing to them in some way. We also begin to experience the freedom that comes with releasing the grip on our lives. However, for me to experience this reversal, I must battle the Cain within me, which says, “Do what you have to do, but save a part of yourself for yourself, pace yourself.” These are words that lead to no benefit for anybody – walls go up around me, and there is no connection with others, no life. I must uproot the Cain in me by affirming and embracing my role in this community. I must commit to respond to the needs by making sure I give my fully, as described by these words in verse 8 – generously, diligently, cheerfully.
Submitted by Jeannie Lee, Gracepoint Berkeley:
Romans 12:4-5 (Friday’s DT)
4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
One of the things that hit me from this week was from Romans 12:4-5, verses I had memorized years ago in Survival Kit 1. The thing that always challenges me about these verses is the phrase, “each member belongs to all the others.” Each time I read these verses, I have to pause and think about how much am I living these verses out. We live in a close-knit community and are often praised for how close we are, how we are actively trying to live out the Acts 2 fellowship; our fellowships are named a2f and Koinonia (greek for fellowship). If each member belongs to all the others, that means I belong to my brothers and sisters, including my time, my energy, my house, my children, and that they belong to me, meaning I’d better know what their needs are, and I’d better be owning them. I had to examine myself to see how much I actually take ownership over and also how much I allow others to take ownership over my life, and commit once again to personally own my younger brothers and sisters, not to be afraid of speaking the truth in love, not being afraid to bring up uncomfortable issues if need be, not being afraid to impose myself on them, whether it be for a meal, or to talk, or to impose myself to be a listening ear, to probe more deeply when necessary; there are many ways others can belong to me and I can belong to others.
Another point that stuck out to me this week was Tuesday’s DT on Matthew and Ephesians. One of the questions was, “What is the foundation of the church, according to the Matthew and Ephesians passages?” And my answer was, the confession of the saints that Jesus is Savior and Lord, those who gather in the name of Jesus, and the foundation of the apostles and prophets. The Ephesians 4 passage also ended with, “16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” I thought about each person’s role in the building up of the church, how each part needs to strive to attain to unity in the faith, in the knowledge of the Son of God, and to continually grow, so that the body would be a living vibrant active community of faith. I see so many people who tragically are stuck in a “little old me” mentality, thinking that, “What can I do anyway,” “I can’t contribute much,” or “I’m not needed,” “No one will even notice if I’m not there,” when it clearly says, each part needs to do its work, and that we are all members of God’s household! And that we are being built together, to achieve unity and to grow together! What an amazing picture! There is no time or room to remain in insecurity or to have a “little old me” complex. We need to be the church that advances upon the gates of Hades! I committed again through these passages and DTs to be someone who helps to hold together the body, and to look for ways to build it up, rather than to be disjointed and remain in unfruitful isolated thoughts.