For the last 8 months, I have been working through an in-depth study of the book of Romans with a group of young adults coming from all different backgrounds. I love this group (BSF – they have groups meeting all over the globe, you can check them out here!) because the focus is Scripture. No denominational bent with opposing doctrines. No opinions. Just straight up – what does God say in His Word and how are we supposed to let that Truth affect our lives in this world that seems to get a little (understatement?) crazier every day.
To be frank, the whole book has been challenging. I mean, Romans is like, the book of all books for Christians. There’s the Roman Road – a sequence of verses that many consider a guide to walk through sharing the good news of the gospel with others. It’s written by Paul – one of the major players of the Christian faith, a totally sold out follower of Christ who had a redemption story like no other. Hardest of all, the book is theologically heavy and covers all aspects of being a follower of Christ – from clearly outlining God’s plan for salvation to giving guidelines for living to those who walk that path. If you truly study it with an open heart and a desire for the Lord to teach you, you are bound to bump up on something that rubs you the wrong way. Because none of us are without areas of potential improvement…as much as we hate to admit that.
This week, we are studying Romans 12:9-21 – The Marks of a True Christian.
Let me just say, it stopped me in my tracks.
One thing that has stood out to me throughout the entire study is how many topics God does give us a toolbox/handbook for (whichever metaphor you prefer) – topics that we think He just left us out in the dark to figure out.
I mean, how many times in our culture do you hear about people seeking “purpose” or “meaning” in life? In the church world, we call it “God’s will” and we act like it’s some mystery that he cruelly hides from us and sends us on this chase to find.
Turns out, in God gives us glimpses, directions, and examples of His will in Romans 12:1-2, John 14:15, 2 Corinthians 10:5, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7, James 5:13-16, 1 Peter 2:15, 1 Peter 3:17, 1 Peter 4:1-11, and many others I’m sure!
Maybe – are we using an “ignorance is bliss” attitude to justify finding “meaning” in things that we know our culture loves, but we also know God isn’t a huge fan of?
I had another one of those a-ha moments while studying this passage, when Paul spends 13 whole verses describing the character traits of a person who is truly seeking to “be transformed by the renewing of their mind” (Rom. 12:2).
Being the person that I am, loving lists and cut-and-dry, black-and-white guidelines and expectations, I decided to translate this list of traits into my own words. Please, keep in mind: I whole-heartedly believe that Scripture is God-breathed. That it’s living and that it’s one of the primary tools God uses to speak to us here on earth today. Therefore, don’t deny yourself the opportunity to hear from God and grow closer to Him by taking my word for it – grab your Bible or pull up an app on your phone and see for yourself!
Nevertheless, I found it helpful to break it down and now I’m committing to really consider which of these areas (and there are several…) where I am not fully allowing God to change to my heart and mind. I will never be perfect. But for as long as God let’s me walk around here, experience this life, and be His light in the midst of so much darkness, I want to keep growing closer to and becoming more like Him. And I want the same for you, too!
According to Romans 12:9-21, these are the character traits of a true Christ-follower, in my own words:
- Genuinely love others. Be sincere and show love actively.
- Hate evil. Don’t tolerate or excuse it.
- Fight for good and hold onto it for dear life where it exists.
- Love others as if they were my favorite family member or closest friend. Or better yet, myself.
- Be devoted and authentic.
- Outdo everyone I know in honoring, respecting, and loving others. But not for my own pat on the back.
- Don’t serve the Lord with a lazy, begrudging, obligatory attitude. Be enthusiastic about it – it’s my privilege!
- Rejoice – always.
- Don’t let my hope waver.
- Be patient – especially through the hard times.
- Don’t give up on prayer – do it constantly. Continually seek wisdom, guidance, and strength from the Lord through prayer.
- When my brother- or sister-in-Christ needs help – be the first to offer.
- Seek to be hospitable and caring every chance I get.
- Bless, be kind, and hope for goodness for those who don’t do the same for me.
- Don’t wish bad things for those who treat me poorly. Don’t be indifferent toward them either.
- When someone is on the mountaintop, be up there with them!
- When someone is stuck in their darkest day, be down in the crap with them.
- Live in harmony with the people around me – seek to be the peace keeper.
- Don’t be arrogant, self-righteous, conceited, or exclusive.
- Give my precious time to the people whom others say have no value.
- Don’t think I’m some hot shot who knows it all. #sitdownbehumble.
- When someone is hateful toward me, don’t give them what they “deserve.”
- Consciously think about what makes God look best – what is right, gracious, kind, and in the best interest of others? As His witness, actively choose to behave in that way.
- If there is dissent around me instead of peace, be sure that it wasn’t my fault – I didn’t cause it and I can’t do anything more to fix it.
- Never do something to “get even.”
- Remember: Vengeance is God’s, not mine. And He will get justice, that’s a promise.
- Show unconditional kindness to the people I want to show that kindness to the least.
- Evil and hate are strong and powerful. But through a growing relationship with the Lord, seek to earnestly transform my heart and mind and develop these qualities of character. Don’t conform to all the people around me who have no sincere interest in doing the same.
Do any of these strike a chord with you? I pray for myself, and for you, that the Lord would continue to show His unconditional kindness, love, and grace for us, helping us to be more like Him every day and welcoming us back with open arms every time we try to walk the other way.