9 Love should be shown without pretending. Hate evil, and hold on to what is good. 10 Love each other like the members of your family. Be the best at showing honor to each other. 11 Don’t hesitate to be enthusiastic—be on fire in the Spirit as you serve the Lord! 12 Be happy in your hope, stand your ground when you’re in trouble, and devote yourselves to prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of God’s people, and welcome strangers into your home. 14 Bless people who harass you—bless and don’t curse them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and cry with those who are crying. 16 Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. Instead, associate with people who have no status. Don’t think that you’re so smart.
Romans 12 lays out some of the core values of the early Christian community: authenticity, integrity, joy, perseverance, prayer, generosity, hospitality, graciousness, solidarity, egalitarianism, humility. All that in seven verses. It’s a lot to live up to.
But the vision of the community that results when we get these things right – it’s priceless. It’s exactly what we all need. We need that kind of welcome. That kind of grace. That kind of support.
Now I’m not so naive as to believe that this kind of community can only be found in the church. In fact, part of the reason why churches are shrinking is that people have gone to church looking for this kind of community and not found it. Maybe you’ve had that experience yourself. It’s not something that can be faked. It’s got to be real and genuine in the hearts of the people. Humans automatically recognize it when we see it. And we see through it when it’s given lip service only.
In the secular world, we say that leaders set the tone and shape the culture of the organization. A community built around Jesus has to share the values of Jesus. Only when we live out these values does the church become the kind of community worthy of the name Christian.
By Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
How has a community been life-saving for you? Where did you find it?
What’s one concrete way you can help to build this kind of community – in your family, workplace and in our church?