Horrible People Believe in Jesus (Reading Romans 12:3-21)

Paul has made a transition in his writing. He moves from dealing with difficult doctrines to now living them in an even more difficult world. With this transition Paul acknowledges a constant theme of the Bible; knowledge is not enough. Spiritual knowledge without practice is a damning deception of the soul. Professing Christ without following Christ is not saving faith. This is why a person can believe in Jesus and yet remain a horrible person. We must journey away from horrible.

It is ironic then that Paul’s first imperative for practicing the Christian life is to think about the self (12:3). Horrible people think only of themselves. All things are in reference to their own comforts, preferences, agendas, and perceptions of the world. Sadly, but churches are full of horrible people. All decisions of the church are in reference to them. When things do not go according to plan whether it is for their family, their child, or their agenda, horrible people show the rest of the church how close they are to Jesus. The distance between the two can be measured in mileposts.

Horrible people believing in Jesus are a problem in the church because horrible people believing in Jesus have always gone to church. Horrible people believing in Jesus will always be a problem in the church. People believe in Jesus and continue to be horrible because they cannot see past themselves. This being the case, I believe then, that Paul has picked the perfect place to start for behavior modification. Since most of us are already there, why not think about ourselves?

Paul’s principle of self focus is foreign and unexpected. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment (Rom. 12:3a).” The Christian life demands a hard, sober look at the self. A sober look at the self is sobering.

We must all acknowledge that we have a propensity toward horrible. Horrible comes easy. Focus on the self – even easier. Sober judgment of self requires the grace of God. Paul acknowledges this. Sobering up the self will be yet another lonely journey into selfishness if it is not directed by the grace of God. The journey Paul begins here leads down a precarious path. The sober look at self is not merely for the good of self, self-esteem, or self improvement, but it is a sober look at self for the sake of getting along with the rest of the horrible people who believe in Jesus. This theme will become apparent:

vv. 4-5 – We are not the same. By the grace of God most everyone is completely different than you. Without sober judgment of self we are given to believe diversity is horrible. The person drunk on self believes more people should be like them.

vv. 9-13 – Hypocrisy is easier. The first stop on the journey toward a sober self is in “Genuine.” Having to deal with those things that would muddle true community can be a horrible experience. People are difficult to deal with and so are hypocrites. Sometimes it is hard to tell hypocrites apart from people. They look the same. As difficult as dealing with hypocrisy may be it is worth the journey. “Genuine (v. 9)” is a beautiful place.

vv. 14-21 – Bless the rest. Horrible people are in dire need of grace. Since everyone on the journey toward a sober self is pretty much horrible grace must flow freely. I love what Paul says in v. 18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” You can’t trust horrible people to make the journey easier. You must carry the load yourself! The free flow of grace all depends on you! I laugh as I write this and acknowledge the comedic value of Paul. Paul knows perfectly well how to address horrible people. Start with the self.

Thank you Jesus for your grace toward horrible people; I need it and I will take it upon myself to make sure other people get some too! We both know they need it :) !


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