July 9, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Romans 13)

Submitted by Cynthia P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 13:7-8

  • What do I owe the various people to whom I am connected? 

My leaders – love, respect, honor, submission, ownership and a share in the burdens that they carry so that I can help lighten their load

My husband – love, respect, honor, submission, nice tone

My students and staff under my care – prayers, taking my own spiritual life seriously and being rooted in God’s word so that I can properly lead them by the Spirit, time, vision for each of them so that I can properly lead them

My peers – loyalty, love/concern, prayers

My family – prayers, respect

Our entire church – servitude to do whatever it takes to build it up, financial support, prayers

Non-Christians – zeal and passion for the gospel, best efforts to reach them through winsomeness and creativity and solid commitment to the gospel

  • How would a person’s relationships change if he went from thinking about what people in his life owe him, to what he owes to the people around him?

A person’s relationships would change if he went from thinking about what people in his life owe him, to what he owes to the people around him in the sense that there would be no room for complaining about people at all.  Instead of having a “what’s wrong with them” mentality, or being demanding that people cater to his needs or even respond the way he wants, he would have a “what can I do to love them” attitude.  Concretely, he would be a much happier person to be around, always eager to serve and love others, instead of demanding and grumpy.

  • Which of these two attitudes typically characterize me?  How can I specifically begin to give people in my life what I owe them?

I think instinctively the attitude that typically characterizes me is that of thinking that people around me owe me things.  I think this comes out most specifically around my spouse, wanting him to treat me a particular way, to serve me, be nice to me, say nice things to me.  How often I think more about how he’s not being the kind of husband I want and how he should change instead of thinking about ways I can be a better wife, how I can serve him, respect him more.  Just the sheer amount of thoughts that go into the former as compared to the latter show me that I am still operating with the mentality of what others owe me instead of what I owe others.

I can specifically begin to give people in my life what I owe them by carrying out the list of things that I mentioned in the first question – praying for people, thinking about their needs, serving them.  For one, since my spouse is currently sick at home, part of giving him what I owe him is to make him soup and help nurture him back to full health.  Owing my leaders greater ownership and share in their burdens include being all there for meetings, to engage my mind and be alert and think about our ministry and how best to meet the needs.  And the command to pray for people in my life is something that I can very concretely do every morning at North Loop since I have the luxury of not working, to take the time out every morning after my DT to go through the list of people and pray for them by name and through their specific issues and needs.

Romans 13:8-10

  • Reflect on the truth that love is the fulfillment of the law.  Why is this so amazing? How does this change the way I view people in my life?

The fact that love is the fulfillment of the law is so amazing because there are so many things written in the laws that one can easily get overwhelmed by all of it if we treat it like a list of dos and donts.  But it’s amazing that with the command to love, it’ll sum it all up and if I genuinely love, it’ll take care of fulfilling all of the laws.  This changes the way I view people in my life because I can see them as a way out of my own sinfulness.  People are not nuisances or additional burdens to me but they can free me from my own sinfulness.  I NEED people.  I need people to save me from myself.

  • Reflect on the truth that all of the commandments are summed up in the command to love my neighbor, and the truth that, when I sin, I am doing “harm to [my] neighbor.”  How does this motivate me to become a person of greater love and greater obedience to God’s commandments?

This motivates me to become a person of greater love and greater obedience to God’s commandments because I don’t want to do “harm to [my] neighbor.”  I don’t live in a vacuum but what I do really affects others.  Especially being someone in my position and age in our ministry, I know that what I do really affects others and affects the next generation.  If I sin, it affects those directly in my life because then I can’t properly teach them and raise them up and I can end up hurting them and watering down the gospel and discouraging them or teaching them wrong things.  But in addition to that, I can also affect everybody at our church who look to me as an older example or who would be greatly discouraged to see me living in sin.  And so it’s something that I need to approach with much fear and trembling.  Of course, it’s not to say that I won’t sin or need to try and keep up some kind of holy image, but that fear of stumbling others does motivate me to become a person of greater love and obedience to God’s commandments.

Submitted by Chris P. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 13:1-5

  • What is the state of my relationship with those who have authority in my life?

My relationship with those who have authority in my life has changed a lot over the years. Back in high school and in college I had fearful relationships with those who have authority in my life. I used to feel really diminished and afraid. Every time I was talking with a leader at church or to a professor or a teacher at school, I felt scared and intimidated. I would fumble over words and just generally felt scared about how they saw me. I also had a lot of suspicion towards authority figures. I would question their motives and merits for no good reason. I think a lot of that came from a combination of insecurity and lack of confidence on my part and a certain kind of rebellious attitude toward authority figures I picked up from media and my teenage years.  It’s always so easy to be critical and pick apart at all the weaknesses of someone in authority. It’s so easy to point out all the flaws and all the reasons why I wouldn’t respect that person in authority; seeing their insecurity, their inconsistency, their habits…. Because nobody is perfect and everyone has weaknesses, I think I held on to an attitude of I’ll respect someone if he is truly worthy of respect, but I had such an elevated view of myself that I didn’t truly respect people of authority. I would be critical of their ways even though face to face I would feel intimidated and afraid of them.

When I read this text, it is so contrary to what my attitude had been and what a lot of guys feel today. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities” (v1). Nobody wants to submit to anyone or anything else nowadays. Everyone wants to be his own authority. What really started to change this kind of attitude in me over the years has been my increasing sense of awareness of who I am. As I started to look at myself with sober judgment and started to look at my own capacity and my own abilities, more and more I saw how I wasn’t the awesome person that I thought I was. It’s so easy to be critical of someone in authority, but when I am put in that same position and I now need to be the one handling the decisions or handling the responsibilities, all of a sudden I realize how difficult it is and how all the ways in which I was critical before was unfair. I think as my view of myself changed from arrogance to starting to see a little bit clearer picture of myself, more and more I began to see people in authority much more differently. I started to see how difficult position of authority is, and I began to see how compared to what I would do, they were actually doing a much better job. As I saw myself with more and more sober judgment my critical attitude no longer seemed to make sense. When I see people who have authority, I really value their hard work and their tough assignment of making judgment calls and thinking of broader consequences. Government, authority at school, or my church leaders…the older I get the more I see how complex such leadership is with all the difficulties of unforeseen problems. I appreciate them a lot more.

Romans 13:7-8

  • What do I owe the various people to whom I am connected? 

To my leaders I owe them respect and love. I owe them gratitude for their works of service and sacrifice. I owe them gratitude for sticking with me despite all my sins and all my inconsistencies. I owe them honor for the sacrifice that they have made in their lives, the things that they said “no” to in order to build a church that kept the Word of God alive so that I would experience it and come to know God.

To my peers I owe them my love and loyalty. When they are in trouble or when they need help I owe them my body to be by their side. I owe them my prayers and my concerns. I owe them my love and gratitude for all the ways in which they have helped me to stick to seeking God and eventually come to know him.

To people that I lead, I owe them my works of service. I owe them my prayers. I owe them my thoughts and concerns. I owe them a good witness of the gospel that I have received. I owe them my sacrifice as I have received.

To my parents, I owe them gratitude and honor for loving me so much and taking care of me all these years. I owe them my love.

To my wife, I owe her my devotion and love. I owe her faithfulness as I have promised and I owe her care.

  • How would a person’s relationships change if he went from thinking about what people in his life owe him, to what he owes to the people around him?

I think the person’s relationship would change from one of victim mentality and insecurity to one of life giving love. When a person is thinking about what people in his life owe him, he is bound to feel like a victim of neglect. He’ll always complain and think about all the ways in which other people failed to give to him. He would look at his parents with complaint, would look at his leaders with blame, would look at his peers with frustration and would look at his wife with a lot of hurt. Constantly thinking of what others failed to do, there would be NO LOVE flowing out of such a person. He would also be really insecure and would constantly question other’s love for him. He would be insecure and feel like he needs to somehow get the attention of others to come to him.

A person who focuses on what he owes to the people around him would be very different. There are so many people to love. There are so many people to whom we owe love. When we look at life this way we can look around and have an endless supply of people to give to. There is an endless supply of people to serve, cherish and love. That person’s relationships would thrive. It would take off as love would flow out of such a person.

  • Which of these two attitudes typically characterize me?  How can I specifically begin to give people in my life what I owe them?

I complain a lot. I think people who don’t see me that much would not think this of me, but if anyone spent more than a day with me, they’d know that I’m a complainer and a whiner. I’m somewhat tactful about it, but in my head I know that I complain a lot and I calculate. I look at people who I feel like should respect me and feel insecure and rejected when I don’t receive respect from them. I look at people whom I feel should be affectionate towards me and if they aren’t then I feel rejected. The person who thinks about what others owe me typically characterizes me.

I can specifically begin to give people in my life what I owe them by first thinking about what I owe to others. One concrete way to do that is to stop complaining. Even if it is just stopping complaining verbally I think this alone will just get my attention off of “what others owe me.” I think that is the first step. I need to stop complaining about not getting enough sleep, about why people aren’t responding to me, about why I need to do more set up. If I just stop complaining verbally about it, then it’ll help me to keep my mind from dwelling on it. Instead of this what I need to do is to think about what I owe others. And one concrete way to do that is to just thank people more often. When there is a special occasion to show gratitude, I need to stop being lazy or awkward and write expressions of gratitude and show my appreciation for the people in my life who have given me so much.

Submitted by Jackie H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Romans 13:1-5

  • What is the state of my relationship with those who have authority in my life?

Focusing on my relationship with my spiritual leaders, my natural response to them used to be and sometimes still is rebelliousness. I just want to strike out on my own, making my own decisions, being my own “authority,” thinking that I know what’s best and “I am my own person.”  And this nature of rebellion has created tension/conflicts with those who had authorities in my life, especially my spiritual leaders, and has made guiding and shaping me difficult and has stunted my growth as a disciple of Christ. After some intentional efforts of denying my rebellious nature and submitting to my spiritual leaders, I have benefited time and again from their gems of wisdom and guidance in life and in spiritual matters. I have come to “test and approve” God’s will of placing spiritual leaders in my life not to harm me but to help me through the different junctures and challenging times of my life. So I have been growing in willingness and desire to deny my rebellious nature, to learn to be humble and open to receive and submit to the authority of my spiritual leaders.

Another aspect of the state of my relationship with my spiritual leader is an element of fear and desire for approval. Occasionally I get self-conscious of the things I do and fearful of what my leaders think of me. When I am image-conscious and performance-oriented, I am no longer a free person that can openly relate with my spiritual leaders. And there’s a barrier between us; my relationship with my leaders is affected because I can’t be myself and be free from anxiety and thoughts of looking good before them. And during those moments of self-conscious approval seeking, I need to remind myself of the role of my spiritual leaders which is to shape me to be a person of greater maturity and integrity, correct my twisted thinking and worldly values, and re-direct me onto the right path. And the reality is that unless I open up to them, be honest and let myself be known, they cannot help me and shape me. And remembering what my leaders had done for me in the past, which is to help me with God’s wisdom and love, I am assured again that trusting them, opening up to them and depending on them is God’s will for me and is the best option. Therefore, when I feel the anxiety of earning my leaders’ approval, I commit to trusting their love and heart for me and actually take initiative in approaching them instead of trying to hide but to focus on pleasing God and having integrity instead of doing the “right things” to earn approval. And that way, I may relate with my leaders with freedom and sincerity, not putting them on a pedestal but let them see me as who I am.

Romans 13:7-8

  • What do I owe the various people to whom I am connected? 

My staff—love and care, initiative and effort to connect, a cheerful heart, cooperative attitude, servanthood and hard work, volunteerism, generosity, encouragement and spurring on

My leaders—trust, love and care, honesty, submission, respect, prayers, timely and open communication

My parents – love, respect, being responsible of my details of my personal life and finances, witness of blameless Christian disciple

My coworkers – cheerful and cooperative attitude, witness of love and upright character, good work done at work, the gospel

My roommates- loving care, time spent connecting and deepening relationships, servanthood, ownership over our house, diligence in doing chores, cooking/getting meds and food for them when they are sick, a cheerful and encouraging presence at home.

My peers – prayers, ownership over them, love, honesty, friendship, encouragement and spurring on, initiative to connect, servanthood

People I minister to — prayers, good example of as a disciple of Christ (faithfulness, character, maturity, love for God, zeal for the gospel, servanthood, etc), genuine love/heart/care for them, word of God, speaking truth, vision for them and path leading them to grow, encouragement

  • How would a person’s relationships change if he went from thinking about what people in his life owe him, to what he owes to the people around him?

A person’s relationships would become filled with richness, fullness and freedom to love if he went from thinking about what people owe him to what he owes to others. A person who is constantly thinking about how others have mistreated/shorted him and are indebted to him, he will keep a record of what is owed to him and grow disgruntled and frustrated with people around him. A person who is full of sense of entitlement and the “I am owed” attitude will not be happy because he is so focused on being paid back and served by others. This person is frustrated and frustrating to others; his relational world would be full of conflicts and tension and only be shrinking ever smaller. However, when the person changed to the mindset of “I owe,” his eyes are open to the many blessings and goodness from people in his life, and he is filled with a sense of indebtedness and gratitude to God and others. And it opens the person up to more people around him and leads him to appreciate people around him and desire to serve others instead of being served.

  • Which of these two attitudes typically characterize me?  How can I specifically begin to give people in my life what I owe them?

The attitude of “people owe me” characterizes me more. To begin to give people in my life what I owe them, I need to first get out of the self-focused mindset that I am always the one giving, such as “I am sacrificial” “I have done so much,” but really to begin noticing, paying attention, and naming specifically the ways that I have been blessed and served by others, and all that I have received undeservedly. I need to begin cultivating a habit of noticing what I have been given and cultivate a heart of gratitude for specific people in my life, such as God, my roommates, my parents, my peers, my leaders, my staff, my students, etc. and out of that grateful heart, I would learn to be more other-centered and get to the point of projecting out “what’s on the receiving end of myself”, and begin the process of giving to others what I owe them.

Romans 13:8-10

  • Reflect on the truth that love is the fulfillment of the law.  Why is this so amazing? How does this change the way I view people in my life?

Love indeed is the fulfillment of the law. When we love someone, we place ourselves in their shoes, we see and think from their perspective, and we empathize with their circumstances and feel for their hurt. Therefore, our love, which begins with other-centeredness, will soften our heart toward others, fill us with empathy and compassion, and curb our desires to seek personal satisfactions and selfish gain at the cost of others. Out of love, we cannot distance ourselves from the any consequences and hurts our actions could possibly cause in those we love. Therefore, as we focus on loving someone, it becomes more natural for us to think of his/her best interest instead of our own and all the “dos and donts” in the law will be fulfilled.

This changes the way I view people from competitors or people who make me feel bad about myself to people through whom I am given the opportunity to learn how to love and therefore through loving, fulfilling the requirements of God’s standards. In addition, instead of avoiding breaking the law by trying hard to curb my sinful nature with my own determination and willpower in different areas, i.e. the list of “donts,” I can just focus my mind and energy on just one simple thing, which is relating to people out of love, thinking of them, serving them, ministering to them out of love, which leads to fulfillment of the law.

  • Reflect on the truth that all of the commandments are summed up in the command to love my neighbor, and the truth that, when I sin, I am doing “harm to [my] neighbor.”  How does this motivate me to become a person of greater love and greater obedience to God’s commandments?

Sin is relationally defined and obedience is also in the context of relationships with others. Therefore, I cannot simply strive to fulfill God’s commandments and please God by trying to be a nice and virtuous person on my own. When I sin, I am placing myself in the center and above others and acting out with my best interest in mind; I am not a person of love and therefore am disobedient to God’s commandments. My sin does not affect just me, trapping me in this life wrapped up in myself, but my sin has rippling effects that harm others. Therefore, I need to acknowledge and project the consequences of my sin and strive to be other-centered, to place others above myself, and to empathize with others (those who would be on the receiving end of my sin) so that I could be rescued from my own self-centered, self-focused small life of death and experience freedom through obeying God’s calling to love others.

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