(For an explanation of the meaning of “Ordinary Time,” please see “Introducing Ordinary Time” under the tab “Ordinary Time, Year II: Acts & The Letters.”)
Fleshing Out What It Means to Be a Living Sacrifice
Here in the rest of chapter twelve is the fleshing out of what it means to be a living sacrifice. I suppose a devotion could be given to each verse, but you are just as capable as I am to understand each of these exhortations.
Paul begins by calling us to humility, which has been a theme throughout this letter when one considers that we cannot fulfill the law but must be justified by faith alone, and that we must have the Holy Spirit within us to even begin to live a holy life. Paul calls us to think about ourselves “with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This is difficult to understand but in light of the fact that he begins by discussing the need for humility and then goes on talking about each believer’s giftedness and function in the body (i.e., local church), Paul seems to be saying that each believer should stay within the bounds of the function of his gift. So if your gift is exhortation, then exhort other believers and do not seek to exercise a gift you do not have; if your gift is teaching, then teach according to God’s word and be content. And always be thankful for the gifts God has given to others for the building up of the church, the purpose for which God gives gifts.
The rest of the passage is given to those sundry exhortations I mentioned above. I might suggest spending time meditating on each exhortation and thinking how you might fulfill it. How might you make love sincere today? Where in your life have you harbored evil which you need to bring to the light and detest, and what good is there to which you need to cling and improve? Are you experiencing tribulation at the present moment? How might you endure it with patience? How might you show hospitality to the saints? to anyone? No, you can’t work on all these at once but perhaps by working on one at a time, you might add to your virtue.
Verses fourteen and following seem to fall along the lines of living peaceably with others, even those who abuse us. We feed them, clothe them, and help them however we can. Perhaps they will repent. But God knows our limitations; therefore he tells us, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Some will not allow you to live peaceable with them, and there is nothing you can do about that. So Christians love their enemies and let God handle the rest. The chapter sums itself up best: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” This is really just the teaching of Jesus, which is what we expect from one of his apostles.