Romans 12:15-16: Sympathy, Harmony and Humility
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Our oneness in the body of Christ is not a reality that we create but rather a reality that we recognise; it is not something that we work towards but rather something that we live out of. Our unity with Christ and one another is not our accomplishment but a gift. Our task as believers is to realise what we are and live out what we are, the burden of creating unity is not laid upon us, merely being what we are in Christ. This is the unity of grace not law. Our task then is not to create an administrative uniformity, for unity already exists, rather we are to demonstrate what we already are.
The unity that we have by the Spirit is a unity that pictures the unity in the Godhead. Father, Son and Holy Spirit personify unity in diversity, three persons in one being. There is nothing exactly like the Trinity, however we have been made by the Spirit to be united to Christ and united to one another in similar community of love to put on display something of the love of God in our own unity. This unity is pictured beautifully for us in baptism. When we are plunged under the waters of baptism we are picturing our union with Christ, but this union with Christ is also a baptism into the name of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, speaking about our new union with God and our entering into a love relationship with God. Baptism is also a baptism by the Spirit into the body of Christ. We are picturing in baptism not only our union and fellowship with God but with all those who are also part of the body of Christ.
Now as we come to Romans 12:15-16 we are coming to the end of a section where Paul has been talking about our holiness as living sacrifices in relation to the church. Paul began Rom. 12 with a call to live as living sacrifices in response to the superabundant grace of God. He told us that we do this by renewing or minds, v2. But before he launched into the first way in which he wanted us to pursue holiness, namely by loving the body of Christ, he first spoke of our need for humility, v3. Then in v4-5 he spoke about what we are as the church, a body, and called upon us to serve faithfully with our gifts, v6-8. In v9-13 he speaks about the life of love that we are to live out in the community of the church. In verse 14 you will notice that Paul changes gear and speaks about loving our enemies, but then in v15-16 he goes back to one anothering, but then in 17-21 returns to the topic of loving our enemies. The most likely reason for this change of topics is because of a verbal connection. In v13 it literally reads, pursue hospitality, and v14 literally reads bless those who pursue you. But Paul hasn’t said all he wants to say on loving one another as Christians so before he gets back to talking about loving enemies he gives us one last set of thoughts about body life and loving one another as Christians in v15-16. ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.’
There are three ideas here that wrap up Paul’s call to be holy in our loving service of one another in the church: sympathy, harmony and humility.