We recently finished up our series on the Fruit of the Spirit, taking a close look at the chief characteristics that Christians are meant to emulate in order to be more like Christ. Now that that series has come to a close, you and I decided to talk through Romans 12, an awesome chapter of Scripture in which Christians can find powerful wisdom on how living by the Spirit (and, therefore, bearing good spiritual fruit!) should look. To start, let’s take a look at what Romans 12:1-2 says:
“1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
These verses are some of my favorite verses in the Bible. It is really hard to even look at Romans 12 without first reading Romans 1-11, and I strongly suggest anyone who hasn’t read through Romans before does so, but Romans 12 fits oddly perfectly after a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. In the first verse, Paul puts out a call to all believers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. What does that mean? We’re not talking about human sacrifice here, when a human would die in sacrifice for God, but the exact opposite. Being a living sacrifice for God means to live for God, taking captive every moment, every breath, every thought, every action for the purposes of the Spirit rather than the purposes of the flesh.
I think it is rather appropriate that we started to dive into these verses at the current moment of American culture. As I am writing this article there are protests and riots happening in every major city of the country. People are in the streets crying out peacefully against evil and sinful forces like police brutality and racism, while others are reaping destruction out of rage or selfish desires. Other people sit on the sidelines, defending acts of violence or theft of rioters and looters as acceptable because of the injustices that have been committed. Other people sit in judgment and anger, calling for retribution against those rioters and looters for creating unrest and disorder.
In a time as controversial and divisive as this, it is of immeasurable importance for Christians to take inventory of the fruit they are bearing. In Romans 12:2 Christians are called to reject worldly behaviors and attitudes and adopt the transformative mindset of the Spirit. All members of the global Church, the Body of Christ, have the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit has a power that can completely transform how we think–the thing is, we have to let it happen. We cannot let rage take over how we interact with other people and at the same time let the Spirit transform us. We cannot let sorrow overcome our capacity for patience and self control and at the same time let the Spirit transform us. We cannot trust God to be perfect in wisdom and then reject Christ’s call the turn the other cheek in pursuit of our own forms of deeply flawed, human justice.
I wonder what you think of these matters, and where you think Christians should be putting their energy right now. What is the role of the Christian when the world is trembling under the weight of its own sins? How do we answer Scripture’s call to defend the oppressed at the same time as remaining shining lights of peace and love as Christ demands of us?
What does being transformed by the Spirit look like in the modern world?
NOTE: In our new series, Josh and Ryan will be talking through Romans 12 a few verses at a time in a back and forth conversation where the second post each week is a response to the first. It is a new format that we are trying out and that we hope you enjoy! May God use these conversations for His glory!