Friday, January 10, 2014

Living in Harmony (Romans 12:16)

“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16, NASB95)

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12:16, ESV)

Between the New American Standard Bible, the King James (Authorized Version), New King James, English Standard Version, and the New International Version we find the beginning of verse 16 translated in one of two ways. It is either, “Be of the same mind” or “Live in harmony.” The key to each of these translations being correct and saying the same thing or being in harmony (not contradiction) with each other is that the Greek words used have the meaning of a multiple of people thinking as one. This is the meaning of harmony—being of the same mind.

And in order to do this we have to regard each other as important and not allowing ourselves or anyone else to indulge in a puffed up mentality. Sure, there may be individuals in the group who have studied more, or who may have a greater understanding or interest in a particular topic, but there should be great caution given to not having a ‘preferred’ group and those who ‘don’t know anything.’ The injunction is that we are not to consider in our thoughts or act in our actions as if we are any better because we know more of anything, even knowing more of God’s Word.

In 1 Corinthians there was an issue of some believers not eating the meat that was sold in the markets because it was associated with the meat being offered up in the temples for the worship of other gods. But for others it was not an issue. From this there arose dissension or divided minds. Some knew that these false deities did not exist and therefore had no hold on the market meat, but others struggled still under the misunderstanding or emotional ties to what they once participated in. Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 8:

"(1) Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. (2) If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know; (3) but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him. (4) Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. (5) For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, (6) yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (7) However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. (8) But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. (9) But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (10) For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols? (11) For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. (12) And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (13) Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.” (1 Corinthians 8, NASB95)

The Corinthians believers could have pushed their accurate knowledge of God and the non-existence of false gods and walked over the believers who struggled with eating that same meat, but it would not have been the most loving thing to do. Paul told them in this case that it is really no skin off their nose whether they ate the meat or not, so why make a big deal of it and hurt your brothers in Christ. He told them to not let their knowledge get in the way of their love. This did not mean setting aside truth, but it did mean walking compassionately with people who were growing in truth and preserving the oneness that they had in Christ.

There is so much as Christians that we can bicker over that really doesn’t matter and in so doing increase division and hurt. A few chapters after this discussion of temple meat Paul wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7, NASB95)

Jesus in His prayer before His disciples in the upper room on the night He was arrested included these words to God the Father, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:22–23, NASB95)

Oneness is a big deal to God. We know that our God is One as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and through salvation in Christ we have been made to know oneness with each other. As such we are called to be of the same mind as Christ, and in so doing be like minded, living in harmony with each other.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:1–11, NASB95)

“Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind [live in harmony] with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:5–7, NASB95)

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