Yesterday, I was honored to co-preach with Alameda’s Connections Minister, Payton Minzenmayer. Our sermon was part of a current sermon series called “Transformed,” in which we are looking at the various characteristics of a person whose life has been transformed by Jesus Christ. You can view or listen to those sermons here.
One aspect of a transformed life is that our relationships reflect what we believe about Jesus because we have ordered our lives around the “age to come” instead of “this present age.” Those terms were used by the apostle Paul to communicate two opposite approaches to life. The “present age” is characterized by rebellion against God and the corruption that results from that rebellion. The “age to come” describes the new life God gives that brings forth justice, joy, and peace. Paul believed that this “age to come” had already begun through the death and resurrection of Jesus, thus followers of Christ ought to operate from this truth in all aspects of their lives.
Paul shows us how to do this in our relationships in Romans 12. There, we discover five ways to create healthy relationships that mirror the gospel of Christ and point people to the “age to come.”
Make God Your Primary Relationship (Romans 12:1-2)
In order to for us to comprehend the true meaning and purpose of relationships, we must begin with the most primary relationship of all – the one that establishes our purpose for being in the world.
Use Your Gifts to Serve Others (Romans 12:3-8)
Gary Thomas once wrote, “To be a Christian is to be a self-volunteering servant. It is not sufficient to merely voice our assent to a few choice doctrines. We are called to act in such a way that we put others above ourselves. We are expressly forbidden from exalting ourselves for the sole purpose of furthering our own comfort or fame.”
As transformed followers of Christ, our relationships are not to be used as a platform to further our agenda; rather, they are to be seen as the context through which we are able to share the love, grace, and mercy of Jesus by selflessly serving the people in our lives.
Lead with Love (Romans 12:9-13)
Transformed love is a love that causes us to be devoted to one another, to honor each other, to be patient with each other, to serve and practice hospitality, and to give our lives to each other. To lead with love is to take a posture toward our relationships that fosters the kind of healthy environment that makes people feel safe and valued.
Seek to be a Blessing (Romans 12:14-20)
The Bible tells us that we are blessed by God to bless others, and our relationships provide the best place to start living out that expectation. Our relationships should be a picture that displays to the rest of the world the unity, peace, reconciliation, joy, and authentic love that Jesus Christ makes possible.
So, ask yourself these questions: (1) How can I be a blessing to my spouse in this season of our lives?; (2) How can I bless my children this week?; (3) How can I be a blessing to my friends?; and (4) How can I bless my neighbors this month?
Overcome Evil with Good (Romans 12:21)
A truly transformed follower of Jesus Christ submits his or her desire for retribution to the Lordship of Christ and learns how to overcome evil with good through acts of kindness, service, mercy, and love. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Some people have unhealthy relationships because they keep replicating bad relational habits. And maybe that’s all that was modeled for them. But Jesus gives us a new model for our relationships. He gives us an alternative to the selfish attitudes that contaminate and corrupt our relationships.
By following Jesus, we can transform our relationships into ones that provide a faithful witness to the world of Christ’s life-changing gospel.