We often refer to joining the military as answering the call to serve our country. Every person who hears that call is forced to make a very serious decision. The very act of putting on a uniform means that person has accepted the possibility that they might die defending us. They choose to put our safety ahead of their own. And joining the military means a radical change in lifestyle. You join a community. Youre taught to submit and work cooperatively with others. You develop special skills that others on your team will depend on. Youre trained to endure hardship and in the process form deep loyalties toward one another, to such a degree that many are willing to risk their own lives to rescue one of their own who is injured or has been captured.
In this passage Paul makes it clear that God expects this same level of commitment from us toward His Church. Following Jesus places profound demands upon us. Whats asked of us is no less, and in many ways more, than whats asked of a soldier. We, too, are called to commit ourselves to one another and have courage under fire. We, too, accept the possibility that we might die fulfilling our duty. We, too, must learn to submit and work together as a team. We, too, have special skills given to us which others in our team depend on. We, too, must learn to endure hardship and in the process form deep loyalties, to the point that we will risk our own lives to rescue one whos injured or been captured. And like those in the military we do all this to save others. In our case, peoples eternity depends on us fulfilling our duty.
What does Paul say? (Ro 12:10-16)
As we listen to Pauls instructions lets remember hes speaking to a church that is divided by controversy and persecuted by a hostile culture. He says to them:
(v10) In brotherly love, love one another like family
(v10) In honor, prefer one another
(v11) In zeal serve the Lord, dont become inactive, but keep burning in spirit
(v12) In hope, rejoice by maintaining an eternal perspective
(v12) In affliction, patiently endure
(v12) In prayer, stay strong, dont quit
(v13) In regard to the needs of impoverished believers, generously share what you
have with them (koinonia, Ac 2:42, 44, 45; 2Co 8:4; 9:13)
In regards to widows, the sick and the homeless, actively find and shelter them
(Mt 25:38; 1Ti 3:2; Titus 1:8; Heb 13:2)
(v14) Bless those who persecute you, dont curse them
(v15) Open up and share your lives with each other, both the good times and the
(v16) Care for everyone in your church equitably, give the same level of care to
those from humble circumstances as you do to your distinguished members
Dont let worldly thinking control the way you value people
What is a church?
A church is a community of people with an assignment. We gather to worship and hear Gods Word, but we dont exist just to serve ourselves. God saves, heals and strengthens us with the understanding that we will take our assigned place in His church to help save, heal and strengthen those who are lost. And the terrible truth that some dont have the courage to face is that if I dont do my part there may be people who never find God. Jesus relies on each of us to listen to Him, obey Him and work together in harmony so that through our combined efforts He can reach many lost and hurting people. So loving each other, being committed to each other, caring for each other arent just nice things to do, they are absolutely vital. Peoples destiny is at stake. This is why Paul commands us to be committed to one another as if we were flesh and blood members of the same family.
Americans are fiercely independent so passages like these are hard for us to hear. I think we have a difficult time believing Paul really means what he says. Were not sure a level of relationship like this can even exist in a society like ours, so in our minds we dismiss his words as something that in reality isnt possible anymore
at least not for people like us. But the urgency in Pauls tone is a warning to us. If it really is impossible for Americans to commit themselves to a church and love one another like family then we will continue to decline. The forces arrayed against us are too strong for well-intentioned individuals to stand alone against the storm. But thankfully it only takes a small, committed minority to turn the tide.
Gideons army (Judges 7:1-8; 16-23)
Many years ago God took me to this passage in the Bible to show me what He wanted for this church. Probably for the past 15 years I have addressed every New Members Class and have told them what Im about to tell you. First let me remind you of the story of Gideons army and then let me tell you what God said.
The crisis: Jdg 6:1-6
The enemy: 135,000 sons of the east (6:3; 8:10)
The reduction: 32,000; 10,000: 300 militia
1) Fearless faith (v.3)
- Willing to die for my people
- I know what will happen if I do nothing
2) Alert (vs.4-7)
- Listening, watching, ready to act
- I wont let down my guard; I listen carefully
The fact is even the 32,000 didnt stand a chance. They were vastly outnumbered by a far better equipped and trained army. To win this battle God had to do a miracle, and He wanted to use His people to perform it. So He sifted the troops down to those who were willing to die to save their people, and those who were alert, watching and listening. God knew that what He was about to ask them to do was absolutely crazy, and only this kind of person would obey orders and keep rank. And with that 300 He delivered an entire nation for 40 years (Jdg 8:28).
Called to serve
Heres what the Lord said to me through this: I can do more with a few whose hearts are committed than with many who are not. So I tell each membership class: Im not here to sell you on becoming a member. Youre welcome to park in our parking lot and sit in our chairs without becoming a member. What Im asking you is to seek your heart. Has God called you here:
1) To this people, to become a functioning member of this community of believers?
2) To this place, to labor with us in this harvest field?
3) At this time, for this season of your life. Will you stay until God sends you to another assignment?
In other words, is Jesus giving you to us and us to you? Will you put down roots, build relationships, love flawed people? Will you help us fulfill our assignment to save the lost, heal the sick, comfort the brokenhearted and set free those who are oppressed?
Renewing our commitment
We take our commitment to one another so seriously we renew it every year. Each member has the option to sign or not sign so no one is trapped by promises they dont want to keep anymore. Each year we refresh our commitment to one another and our call to this harvest field. And each year that committed community functions like a body under the headship of Jesus Christ, and each year thousands of lives, all over the world are touched because they do.
So how will I respond to this call? Am I willing to join a community of people who commit to each other like family? Whose hearts are focused on honoring others rather than themselves? Am I willing to carry my part of the load? To endure persecution? To keep praying? To generously share what I have with the poor? To become vulnerable and open my heart to others? To laugh and cry with people? To throw aside the worlds way of thinking and truly loving all who are my brothers and sisters in Christ?
How many people would have to say yes to change this community? To change our nation? Pauls words are radical but God needs some radical people so He can change the world.
1) Has God placed you in a community of committed people? If yes, tell us who, if no, tell us why.
2) As you look down Pauls statements from verses 10 through 16, which one speaks the most directly to you today?
3) Who is the most radical Christian you know?