I like social media. For more than 10 years, I have regularly utilized social media networks to engage people near and far. I’ve met so many great friends and I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a variety of awesome conversations. Overall, I’d like to think that social media has impacted my life in many positive ways. However, as of late, I’ve seen a side of social media that I am not particularly fond of. Many voices that probably should have remained silent, now have a platform to spew ugliness around like it’s confetti. Tact and caution in conversation is often thrown out the window under the guise of “free speech.” Relevancy appears to trump necessity in most conversations, and the list goes on. People have so much to say, and most have commenced to sharing their opinions in a “guns blazing” manner. While I respect one’s right to freely share their thoughts and views, I can’t help but cringe every time I see a Facebook thread with 200+ comments filled with facetious, condescending undertones and snide jabs.
Before I proceed any further, let me simply acknowledge that I, too, am guilty. Oftentimes, I get caught up in the hype of things. “I can’t believe she said that?” or “He is being misleading, I need to address this.” Or (as much as I hate to admit it) sometimes I am simply so annoyed and frustrated that I feel the pressure to “clapback” in a way that asserts myself as anything but a coward. Reading the aforementioned makes me terribly ashamed. Why? Because, as a Christian, I know that I have been called to live differently. I have been called to pursue peace, especially with those who are brothers and sisters in Christ. And even if it means taking a hit at my pride. But instead of pursuing peace, I have frequently found myself feeding directly into contentious conversations...hook, line, and sinker.
In the latter part of his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul provides instructions on Christian living. The whole of Christian life can be summed up in the first two verses of the Chapter 12.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Beginning at verse 16, Paul writes, “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 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.” Hmmm...just a few verses in and already, I am deeply convicted.
Recently I tweeted, “Morning musings: When I lend my voice to certain issues, my concern is not with whose allegiance I will gain or lose. I’m more concerned with God being pleased. As long as my motives are God-centered/honoring, then I’m less than concerned with how ppl feel about me…” Sounds good, huh? Yeah, I thought so too until I gained a true understanding of what “God-centered/honoring” really looks like. See, I wrote that tweet prior to reading those Scriptures. And at the time of writing I felt justified in my writings because it made sense to me. I had defined “God-centered/honoring" on my own terms and had rationalized all that I say (and post, and tweet) as such. I felt as if my motives were genuine until I read what God actually said in His Word. Isn’t it amazing how we can think that we are doing what is right and honorable, but then God totally wrecks us by showing that we’re enthralled in our own vain pursuits, and more selfish than what we’d like to imagine? *Pardon me while I drink this tall glass of humility.*
In verse 1, the word “present” (παρίσταμαι - paristamai), is a verb and in this sense it means “to offer - to make available or accessible; provide or furnish.”(1) In essence, Paul is urging us to commit ourselves to being completely available and at God’s disposal in all areas of life. In his book, The Message of Romans, John Stott eloquently frames the conversation for Christian sacrificial living:
"Paul made it plain, in his exposure of human depravity in 3:13ff., that it reveals itself through our bodies, in tongues which practise deceit and lips which spread poison, in mouths which are full of cursing and bitterness, in feet which are swift to shed blood, and in eyes which look away from God. Conversely, Christian sanctity shows itself in the deeds of the body. So we are to offer the different parts of our bodies not to sin as ‘instruments of wickedness’ but to God as ‘instruments of righteousness’ (6:13, 16, 19). Then our feet will walk in his paths, our lips will speak the truth and spread the gospel, our tongues will bring healing, our hands will lift up those who have fallen, and perform many mundane tasks as well like cooking and cleaning, typing and mending; our arms will embrace the lonely and the unloved, our ears will listen to the cries of the distressed, and our eyes will look humbly and patiently towards God." (2)
The message is so simple. If we truly belong to God, then we will consistently use our bodies for all that is good, purposeful, and honorable before God. The Christian life should be one marked by daily rendering of our bodies and our lives in faithful obedience to God. In Christ, our selfish pursuits are now obsolete. We should be motivated to sacrifice not because we are attempting to portray a pious persona, but because we have truly died to living for ourselves. Our sacrificial living should be evident in every way: thought, speech and deed.
Harmonious living, Pursuing Peace
At the outset of verse 16, Paul reinforces his exhortations against behaviors that promote disunity amongst people. The usage of phrases like “do not be haughty” and “never be wise in your own sight” coupled with the greek term φρονέω -phroneō (3), which means “think”, illustrates that Paul is further underscoring that true Christian love and fellowship is absent of selfishness. In a nutshell, Paul is saying that we ought not to think so much, or so highly of ourselves, but rather we should think one in the same and aim to live harmoniously with one another. Operating in harmony and in true Christian fellowship means that you give of yourself completely without reservation for self. Practically speaking, this could mean making sacrifices in a variety of ways: how we act when something/someone on social media has offended us, how we assert our right to free speech and free expression in our posts and tweets, and even how we yield to our emotions when we’ve been deeply hurt by someone’s words. This is a hard truth. Many of us will draw the line on living harmoniously once our rights and emotions appear to be infringed upon. And while these Scriptures is not a blanket statement for allowing people to sin against you, they are a part God’s truth and must be deeply considered. To this point, verse 18 provides the glue for my overall message today. Paul urges the Romans to pursue peace, as much as they possibly can, with others. And I also echo his sentiments; to myself, and to you too.
As Christians, we are obligated to endeavor endlessly in attaining and maintaining peace in our personal relations with other people. We need more humility. We need more patience. We need more grace. We must strip ourselves of everything that stands against the mission of living harmoniously with our brothers and sisters in Christ, especially when we disagree. We must kill all the sinful tendencies that we like to hoard as a means of self-preservation. We must truly seek to do the God-honorable thing (as defined by Him, not ourselves). Check your motives, friends. I understand that many of us are passionate about our particular positions on certain social issues. I most certainly am. But pursuing my passions must not come at the expense of disunity within the body of Christ. And I am not saying that we should simply bury everything we think and feel as if that will create a utopia-like environment. My point is that in all things we must simply aim to live and love just as Christ did. So today, I encourage you to put your offense aside. Seek peace. Seek to love. Seek to honor God in your personal relations with others. Before you engage in another conversation, please consider why pursuing peace is a paramount endeavor. It is truly what God has called us to do!
1. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
2. Stott, J. R. W. (2001). The message of Romans: God’s good news for the world (p. 322). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
3. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.