“Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid . . .” V for Vendetta
Bam. Gotcha. Quite a dark thought, isn’t it: That we could be conformed and oppressed by media, by the news, by Facebook, by twitter, by a politician. We are subjected every day to philosophies and world systems and perspectives that shape us. Are they shaping us into the servant Christ or are we being conformed by the spirit of the age?
“Well, sister Cranford, CHRISTIANS could never have issues of being conformed to the World.”
Really, what about Germany 1933-1945. We will avert our eyes and stay holy. WE WILL AGREE WITH THE GOVERNMENT. We will play quiet little church and we will stuff our ears to the cries of the oppressed.
The church at Rome faced similar problems. The government wanted citizens to pledge allegiance, even so much as calling Caesar a God, and believing in the nation state as their savior- demanding military service which may or may not have included a little man-boy love for the sake of initiation. The Romans walked down dirty roads full of alluring prostitutes and the opportunity to buy the finest new clothes or coolest imported technology. They could quickly dip into the temple and sacrifice something, ate a little barbeque and have a quickie with the temple hooker if they so desired. They could hang out all night eat everything at New Roma Buffet, get trashed on some good ole Vino and head to the vomitorium before repeating the process. The society of Rome was a party waiting to happen. You could get a little child on the streets- you could have your way and toss them later. And it was all good in the hood, do what you want! It was a society in pursuit of the orgasm, in pursuit of a full belly, in pursuit of all the right people. All the right friends in all the right places oh yeah we’re going down!
It was the society of SELF! The Church at Rome allowed some of this foul stuff to creep into their ranks. These great Apostles presented themselves, always comparing each other. So called “super holy anointed people” that everyone wanted to chillax with. They were the rock stars of the church. They lauded it about. They carried their gifts like badges of approval from God. They tried to one up each other and call each other sinners. They’d get angry that one apostle had a brew at the pub, while the other apostle prided himself on how pure he’d been with his various abstainence from meat and ritual baths.
“How many demons did you cast out today? 7”
“Well, I healed four blind peeps.”
“well, I have not tasted vino nor eaten meat.”
It was a proverbial pissing contest. Who could outrank one another in God’s House? Who could be the shiz-nit for the whole assembly to see? Bitterness. Jealousy- the promotion of self. Maybe a little lying was involved, some gossip…
“Oh, brother so and so was down at the vomitorium last night. I saw him eating sacrificed barbeque at the Rib Shacum. He was also with that girl who wears vermillion and saffron and paints her eyes and they were shopping at the secretum victorium, you know the store with the pink bags.”
Oh the church mess. It was only a problem in Rome, huh?
That was what Paul had to deal with.
Paul wrote his letter from Corinth. He had been hearing about all the great things happening in Rome in the church homes, and in the assemblies, but he wasn’t present. So he wrote a little letter, and handed it over to Phoebe to take to Rome.
How could he speak to these people as an authority? They hardly knew him, and they had their own super hero apostles to contend with. He chose a position of humility when he addressed them.
1Therefore (A)I urge you, brethren,
Here Paul addresses Christians- both Jewish and Gentile believers. He had just summed up all the theological doctrinal issues and he was ready to start preaching on their daily practices. But he humbles himself. He urges, he pleads, he…begs… and he calls them affectionately brothers and sisters…
by the mercies of God, to (B)present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.
The Roman Culture was completely aware of sacrificial systems. If you were a Jew you had previously understood the Temple system- if you were a pagan you understood the temple system of Gentiles. It wasn’t a strange thing to kill animals to please gods (with a little G) to the gentiles. Now, the Roman believers didn’t need to sacrifice to get God’s mercy. They had it before. They were justified by faith. Yet, Paul was calling them to holy living and a logical service to God. It wasn’t about outward holiness codes. It was about really considering the cost, being a sacrifice. Living a humbled life. It was like- a master’s commission Human Video- Hand, Hand, head. ( Go ahead and act this last sentence out, with one hand being stretched, the other opposite and the head left to fall on the chest…if you were ever in an Assemblies of God Youth Group you’ll recognize it.)
but for realz,
Living each day, taking up your cross, being humble.
Paul was not suggesting here that the world or creation was bad, NO God seeks to redeem creation– GO GREEN- he said it was Good in Genesis! The word here is better translated the spirit of this age. The pursuit of happiness. Conservative traditionalists think the whole world is evil and we should make little bubbles of utopian societies. Morally living right, pew sitting- not being salt and light to a broken world. And the libertine Christians forget that we are strangers and aliens here to teach a different way and to display the Kingdom of God.
The world Paul speaks of is our selfish desires..
Is it wrong to get what you want? Is your basis selfishness? Why did the Romans chase positions of importance in the church? Why did they want the finest clothes, and the coolest gadgets? Is it wrong to have nice things? No. But your life isn’t about all the crap you can collect before you die. I mean, Geez watch hoarders. Dead cats, and beer bottles ring a bell?
That stuff conforms our minds, wraps them up in barb wire cages. We can’t see the eternal because we question if our boobs are big enough, if our wallet is fat enough, if our Iphone has the right apps, if I drink the trendiest vegan water crap, and if we party like a G-6.
How can we not buy into the spirit of this age? The systems of the world? Perhaps we should consult the bible more than we do face book, or Fox News, or NPR, or Vogue, Or comedy central or the apple store. Don’t be legalistic. Media is fun, but it wars for your mind.
3For through (G)the grace given to me I say to everyone among you (H)not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to (I)each a measure of faith.
We must take a daily inventory. Not self-condemnation, but a daily dose of Holy Spirit guided introspection. What are my motives? Why do I want to tell Brother Bob he’s going to hell? Why do I want to argue about politics? Why am I trying to get Doctor Wood to eat at Gem of India with me? Is it about me. ME ME ME. Kill yourself. Kill myself. Live for others. I need to see others before I see me. I need to think about the meth-head on Kansas Expressway eating god knows what out of the dumpster. I need to think about sally Sunday school before I rip her a new one because she doesn’t understand eschatology the way my brightly educated pompous self does. I need to think about Uncle Ned and his hunting regiment that happens every deer season before I explode on Facebook about gun rights. Am I promoting me or am I looking after the good of the body. AM I BEING PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE? I am not saying we should never confront or be a prophet, but dang dude, what are we trying to do? Heal or hurt? If you are trying to heal then speak in love, but if you just want to one up another brother in Christ than YOU ARE WRONG.
4For (J)just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,
There are so many different kinds of peeps in the Body of Christ. There are neo-hippy emergent types, and conservative suit wearing tea party types, and there are bells and smells chicks, and there are jumping Massai warrior holy rollers. There are those of us who listen the Gaither Trio band on Tbn every Sunday night, and there are those of us who like U2. We are all unified under Christ. Why do we need to argue about styles of music or the color of carpet or liturgy or what car you drive or what shoes you sport or how long your hair is or who drinks beer or who follows the maker’s diet, who keeps kosher, who uses banners in praise and worship, who is an old creationist, and whose a fundi? What does it matter?
And we all have different gifts, not better gifts, not quantitative gifts, no qualitative gifts. Different.
6Since we have gifts that (M)differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly:
if (N)prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
If your gonna prophesy than be expected to have the council of elders question you later. Prophecy, not like the weirdos on TBN telling everyone that they will have a car if people will only give 1500 a month. yikes! Prophecy should be encouraging. It should lift the body up. So if you have faith, then do it!
8or he who (Q)exhorts, in his exhortation;
Paul is saying do these things if you are called to do them. Service means a myriad of things here: it could be the media crew at a church working with technology, it could mean the Young Man who works on the grass in his John Deere hoodie, maybe it’s the lady who squeezes grape juice into the plastic shot glasses, it could mean the church accountant who works diligently to keep the books balanced. SERVE!!! TEACH!!! EXHORT!!! Do it because God has gifted you, and you are to serve in humility the body of Christ.
If you are going sign some big old checks, than do it heartily and happy. Be your church’s Santa Claus, give and enjoy it.
If you are called to lead than work hard! Don’t slack, keep on keeping on!
If you are called to outreach and compassion ministries than smile and don’t gripe about having to do it or the way people smell, or the crack whore with three teeth who always wants you to give here money.
Here’s what Eugene Peterson Paraphrase’s:
-8If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Man. We can’t be conformed any longer to the SELF. We gotta kill ourselves, we gotta live for one another. I need to humbly recognize my peeps in the body and love them. I need to be humble enough to allow for them to bless the church. It’s not about how holy you seem or how big of a role you play on Sunday mornings,
It’s about your dedication to God, and your dedication to the peeps around you,
As a humble
Kill Yourself, Kill your selfish pride, Live in humility, live for others!
Creator and sustainer of the universe,
Have mercy on us! Help us to recognize that we aren’t all that. Help us to sacrifice ourselves daily. Help us not to stomp on other brands of Christianity- or other religions even! Forgive us for our foolish-pride. Forgive us for our know-it-all gotta beat other people up attitude. Help us to get over our need for the spot-light. Forgive us for “networking” for our own selves, may we seek to build others us. Help us to love one another. Help us not to be conformed to the spirit of this age, the spirit of me, the spirit of my wants, the spirit of self-propagation. Help us to see the eternal!
Help us to see others. Help us to have the eyes of Jesus. Help us to support everyone around us! Empower us to utilize our gifts for your Glory.
And God, humble us.
We pray this in the name of the resurrected Christ.