Friday, April 13, 2012

Priestly Serving Together

We live in such an individual-driven society that it is sometimes difficult to accurately understand what the apostolic writers are telling us. We are further hampered by the English language. Specifically, singular commands and plural commands often sound the same; the word “you” can be singular or plural.

Since we are Western, we often fall into the trap of reading commands as singular when they are actually plural. Romans 12:9-21 is a passage where this can easily happen. In these verses, Paul gives short command after command, and almost all are plural.

Paul is telling us that we serve as priests together:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 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 conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This sounds sort of like a laundry list to our ears. How in the world can we obey all these commands? We can’t if we try to do it alone.

Paul, to our benefit, isn’t thinking about us living up to these standards alone. Instead, the apostle is thinking about body life. Three times in these verses Paul uses the expression “one another.” His thought process is that we will carry out our priestly service right alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will live according to these high standards by helping one another do so.

By the power of the Holy Spirit and with the help of the church family, we can live in a manner that pleases God. This is what priests do. We offer sacrifices of praise in accordance with God’s standards. We do it together.

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