26th September 2023
Read (Romans 12v14-16)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Solitary pursuits are necessary in anyone's life - there are times that we need to head off alone for an afternoon of fishing and there are moments that we need some "alone time" for an hour in a coffee shop. However, while the Christian life has it's solitary moments, it is mostly to be lived in community with our fellow Christians and this isn't always straight forward.
In every walk of life there are those with whom we share a strained relationship and this can sometimes develop into outright hostility. How do you respond to the girl who endlessly slanders you? What do you say in response to lies that have been whispered about you? What is your reaction to the aggression from a former friend? Paul says we are to bless those who persecute us. The Apostle gives us no room to meet slander with slander or lie with lie or punch with punch. We are to bless and not curse those who persecute us. We are to pray for our slanderer, we are to see the good of the liar and we are to seek the wellbeing of the one who threatens.
Thankfully, life in any community isn't always confrontational. Paul reminds us to "rejoice with those who rejoice" and we shouldn't shun those wonderful moments of celebration that often pepper life. There is great delight in celebrating with a newly married couple and embracing those who are filled with joy over answered prayer. The Christian life is not humourless and dour but we can and should rejoice in due season.
Nevertheless, we understand that life isn't always going to be filled with sunshine and rainbows. Just as there will be days of rejoicing, so too there will be days of sadness. Once more Paul counsels us that we should be prepared to weep alongside those who weep. I've heard many famous preachers sharing something called the "prosperity gospel" but tragically it is no gospel at all. The "prosperity gospel" says that the Christian will never know days of trouble but only God given prosperity but this message is false, dangerous and not the reality in any true church. The true picture is that we will certainly rejoice but we will also experience our fair share of weeping.
As we endure the highs and lows of life we are to strive to live in harmony with one another (v16). This is an incredible challenge as every Christian church will be a diverse body of radically different people. In every fellowship there are various likes and dislikes alongside personality types which won't always mesh together. Yet this is no excuse for division but we are to do our utmost to dwell together in unity. This effort is only helped when we adopt a humble attitude which doesn't believe that we alone have all wisdom. Instead we must be prepared to associate with those who we might previously have seen as unimportant.
The local church can be compared to traversing a busy airport. If you are on your own then it is a relatively straightforward task to get yourself through passport control and eventually onto a plane. But imagine the effort required to make sure that several hundred people have their passports ready and no one gets left behind in duty free. Membership of the local church is not a solitary pursuit but a community endeavour where there is no room for a "me first" mentality. That's certainly a challenge but one which has been given to us by Christ Himself - He loves His Bride and we should too.
Q54 What is required in the third commandment? The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.