November 24, 2019
Romans 12 is like the guide to living a Christian life; it’s the blueprint, so to speak, for living as Christians through the challenges of this world. Last week, when we ordained elders, they promised to serve with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love—and that’s very much what Paul calls us all to do as Christians.
First, we’re called to serve with energy and imagination.
- Romans 12:11 NRSV: Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.[e] 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
The word “ardent” in our English translation is a word we don’t often hear any more. The dictionary definition is enthusiastic or passionate, and it comes from an Old English word for meaning “burning.” It’s a description of someone on fire with the Holy Spirit! So, would you describe yourself as an ardent, burning, Christian? Or are you lagging in zeal?
This is not just a gentle suggestion: this is our Scriptural demand, to be ardent in spirit, to be enthusiastic, passionate Christians!
Here’s one story you may never have heard: Amy Carmichael was an Irish woman who traveled to India to do missionary work, and became involved with moving children out of child prostitution. She rescued over 500 girls and women from prostitution during her life and created an organization that survives to this day. To disguise herself on rescue missions, she wore Indian dress and dyed her skin brown using coffee. Now that’s energy, intelligence, imagination, and love!
So if you are not enthusiastic about your faith, how can you get there? I learned recently that :
Enthusiasm comes from the Greek en meaning in and Theos meaning God.
- Enthusiasm = En + Theos = In God
The more in God you are, the more enthusiastic you are! So, if you aren’t ardent in Spirit, are you prioritizing your prayer and Bible study and protecting that time every day? And if that time isn’t growing your relationship with God, are you trying new forms of prayer, new resources and Bible studies to improve your relationship with the Lord? Are you taking opportunities throughout the day to offer up a short prayer or to be renewed in spirit? Are you spending time with people who uplift, comfort, and challenge you in your faith and in your life? Are you showing up in church? Are you in God? Are you enthused?
Or are you like the church in Laodicea:
- Revelation 3:16 Because you are neither hot nor cold, I spit you out of my mouth.
Be an enthusiastic Christian; don’t be lukewarm.
We’re called to serve with energy and also with intelligence.
- Romans 12:17 NRSV Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[g] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
There are lots of ways in which we’re called to use our brains as Christians. One thing I appreciate about our Presbyterian and Reformed heritage is that we don’t check our minds at the door. We believe that intellectual engagement brings us closer to God, not further away.
But today I’d like to talk about intelligence not just as we tend to speak of it, intellectual capacity, academic knowledge, but also about intelligence as emotional and spiritual intelligence. Today we get into our study of Taming the Tongue as we prepare for Christmas by experiencing God’s quiet amidst the chaos of our culture. What this amounts to is getting out of God’s way; making space for God.
- Try taking three seconds before responding to any comment this week.
When we are intelligent enough to make space for God in conversations, we allow others to think about what they’ve just said and whether it was helpful or hurtful, truthful or dishonest. We also allow ourselves a moment to think before we just react.
What the Scripture encourages us to do is to allow the natural consequences of others’ actions to reach them. The law of sowing and reaping is very powerful; as Christians, we’re called not to get in the way of God by enabling sin, which is removing the natural consequences of sin, or by taking vengeance ourselves, which usurps God’s authority and is an attempt to place ourselves in God’s role.
Make space for God. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. This is emotional and spiritual intelligence.
Finally, we’re called to serve with love:
- Romans 12:9 NRSV–Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
He also calls us to show compassion:
- Romans 12:15 NRSV–Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
I’ve heard it said that if there’s someone who you just can’t understand, walk a mile in her shoes; and that’s what Paul is saying here. Let me tell you one place where nobody will weep with you; cheerleading camp.
It may not surprise you that I was a cheerleader in middle and high school and I went to cheerleading camp. There is a cheer for every situation in cheerleading camp. When you get up in the morning the cheer is G-double O-D-M-O-R-N-I-N-G, GOOD MORNING, HEY HEY, GOOD MORNING! Well, my first boyfriend broke up with me the day before I left for cheerleading camp. Everybody was trying to “cheer” me up. The constant pep talks even began to sound like a cheer: Hey hey, it’s ok, he’ll regret he dumped you someday! I finally managed to weasel away from the team and hide in the cabin by myself, I began to cry in the way that only an adolescent girl who’s been dumped can do. I was totally lost in my tears when I heard the footsteps of another cheerleader I barely knew: Her name was Erin. I was so embarrassed when I turned around but Erin, she didn’t say a word. She put her arms around me, and she let me cry. Erin never tried to tell me it would be ok. Erin didn’t give me an explanation. Erin just wept with me. She stepped into my shoes. Erin taught me that to do this, to step into someone’s shoes, is the highest form of love. It is the love that God showed us, when God stepped into our shoes, when God took on human form. And chose a life without privilege, a life of poverty and persecution. And a painful, public execution as his death. God knew that to love us was to go there, was to feel that. So God chose to walk with us and because God is walking with us, somehow, miraculously we can begin to walk together.
Energy, intelligence, imagination, and love. That’s what we’re called to. Don’t be lukewarm; love with everything you’ve got.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.