Summary: Exposition of Rom 12:9-21 regarding fellowship within the body of Christ
Text: Rom 12:9-21, Fellowship is More Than Food, part 2, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/28/07, PM
A. Opening illustration: In C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, he says there are four basic kinds of love. He gives them their Greek names: agape -- the God-like self-giving love even toward enemies; philia -- the love of friendship and camaraderie; eros -- the love of romance and desire and sexual attraction; and storge -- the love of affection that arises through natural attachment, a child, a dog, a favorite old shabby sweater, a spot in the woods.
B. Background to passage: same as this morning’s
C. Main thought: It is beyond the scope of this message to deal with the entirety of the text, but we will stick with the heading, and pull out six things that we need to work toward for genuine biblical fellowship. We will do three this morning, and three more tonight.
A. Sympathize and empathize (v. 15)
1. Paul teaches the concept that when one member in the body hurts or triumphs, we all hurt or triumph with it. As members of the same family, we rejoice when our brothers or sisters are rejoicing (by the way, this is the more difficult of the two). As members of the same body, when a finger is broken the whole body hurts. To sympathize means to try to understand people situations, and to empathize means to feel what they feel. There is an implied and understood concept of intimacy within the body. Not fake relationships, friendliness, and courtesy, but real life, deep issues, bearing your heart, sharing fears and hurts kind of intimacy.
3. Illustration: Several weeks before graduation, Bill approached Mark and asked him if he remembered that day they met when Mark helped him with all of his stuff. Mark nodded as he remembered. Bill then asked, “Did you ever wonder why I was carrying so many things that day?” Without pausing for an answer, Bill explained he had cleaned out his locker and was going home to take his life. He had been storing away sleeping pills and was headed home to end it all when Mark happened along to help him out. The verb usually used to speak of this compassion is splanchnizomai which speaks of the bowels of mercies, meaning an intense pain from within the gut for another’s pain, When there is pain and suffering enters into the life of a family member, they all suffer together—whether it is time in the hospital, helping fix meals, crying together. Tell about the man who had the hurt finger and everywhere he touches hurts, Mark and Derek are two brethren at LSCC whose wives have abandoned them. They have become close. They call each other almost daily, hold one another accountable emotionally, and listen to one another. "Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
4. We need other people; other people need you, especially in times of weeping and rejoicing. This means that you have to know what is going on in other people’s lives! Not getting close enough to get hurt is not an option. We are commanded to love and to care for other people in the body. You are not promised never to get hurt, rejected, or misunderstood. And this too will probably cost you time. But we are all called to be ministers, priest’s one to another for Christ. To begin with we need to ask God to help us care for others. Ask him to help you begin to be less self-centered, and more able to be affected by other people’s pain. Then we have to be willing and vulnerable to allow people to see the real us. Then we have to participate in activities that promote relationship growth. And the same kind of compassion that causes us to empathize with others in there emotional pain will help us have compassion for their spiritual needs, as they wander about as sheep without a shepherd.
B. Slay partiality and pride (v. 16)
1. Paul makes three statements here that are related to how we treat other people. First he says that we should “think the same thoughts toward each other.” There is some discussion among the commentators as to whether he is speaking strictly of unity and mind-set, or if Paul is saying not to exhibit partiality. I think combined with the next two phrases it is the later. He is saying think toward each other the same way. Then he says to associate with the lowly or humble, and not to think too much of your own wisdom and intelligence. And so I believe that all three of these things address an attitude that we all wrestle with—pride which leads to partiality and prejudice.