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Romans 12:3-8 - Homilies By C.h. Irwin

Diversity and unity in the Church of Christ.

The subject of union among the various branches of the Church of Christ is one to which much attention has of late years been turned. The efforts of the Evangelical Alliance have been largely directed to secure a more brotherly relationship and more hearty co-operation between the different denominations of Christians. Some Christians desire an organic union of all sections of the Church, but the passage before us indicates that there may be outward diversity along with inward and real unity.

I. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE BODY . "We have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office" ( Romans 12:4 ). There we have diversity. What diversity there is between the organs of hearing and seeing, tasting and touching, speaking and smelling! What a complex organism is that of heart and brain, and veins and arteries, and nerves and sinews! Yet there too we have unity. There is one body. One life throbs in all the parts.

II. DIVERSITY AND UNITY IN THE CHURCH . "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" ( Romans 12:5 ). There we have diversity. There is room for diversity in the Church of Christ—for varied forms of worship, for varied views of doctrine, for varied methods of Church government. A dull uniformity is undesirable. "Acts of Uniformity" only made more diversity, and produced discord instead of unity. When the Church of England had no room for John Wesley, she only prepared the way for a larger secession from the ranks of her membership. So, too, in individual congregations, there is room for varied gifts and activities. There, also, we have unity. "One body, and every one members one of another." There is the unity of the Spirit, the unity that arises from the common bond of faith in Christ and love to him, of obedience to the same Divine law, and of the inspiring hope of the same heaven.

III. TWO PRACTICAL LESSONS .

1. A lesson of humility. "For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly' (verse 3). The recognition of the fact that there are varied gifts in the Church of Christ will prevent any one from being unduly proud of any gifts he may possess, or any work he may have done. All the members of the body have need of one another. There is a place for the humble and unlearned workers in the Church of Christ, just as much as for the wealthy and the cultured and the learned.

2. A lesson of concentration. Division of labour and concentration of individuals upon particular branches is one of the great principles of modern manufacturing and commerce. St. Paul applies the same principle to Christian work. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness." There are three special spheres of Christian work.

Romans 12:9-21 (omitting Romans 12:11 and Romans 12:12 , for which see below)

The Christian's duty to his fellow-men.

In these closing verses of this chapter the apostle sets before us the duty of a Christian man. It is a picture of what the Christian ought to be. What a world it would be if these precepts were carried out, if even every Christian was careful to observe them! Six features the apostle mentions which should characterize our dealings with others.

I. SINCERITY . "Let love be without dissimulation" ( Romans 12:9 ). Unreality, falsehood, insincerity, untruthfulness,—these are prevalent evils in our day. They weaken all confidence between man and man. They destroy domestic peace, social intercourse, and commercial morality. Truthfulness and sincerity are much needed.

II. DISCRIMINATION . "Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good" ( Romans 12:9 ). The spirit of indifference is another prevalent evil of our time. "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil." Dr. Arnold at Rugby, trying to elevate the standard of character there, found this difficulty—indifference about evil. He said, "What I want to see in the school, and what I cannot find, is an abhorrence of evil; I always think of the psalm, 'Neither doth he abhor that which is evil.'" We want more discrimination. The young especially need to discriminate in their friendships, and to choose the society of good men and good women.

III. GENEROSITY . "Distributing to the necessity of saints" ( Romans 12:13 ). In exercising generosity, God's people, our brethren in Christ, should have the first claim upon us. But we are not to limit our attentions to them. "Given to hospitality," we shall show kindness to strangers, just because they are strangers and are away from home and friends. How truly the Christian religion teaches men consideration for others!

IV. SYMPATHY . "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep" ( Romans 12:15 ). Sympathy is a Christ-like quality. Sympathy for the perishing brought Jesus Christ to earth. Sympathy sent Henry Martyn to Persia, Adoniram Judson to Burmah, David Brainerd to the Red Indians, David Livingstone and Bishop Hannington to Africa. Sympathy led Mr. E. J. Mather to brave the dangers of the deep in order to do something for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the deep-sea fishermen of the North Sea. We want more sympathy for those near us—for the poor, the sick, the suffering, the careless, at our own doors. We need to learn also how to sympathize with innocent enjoyment. The mission of the Christian Church is not a mission of amusement, but it can show that it does not frown upon, and can thoroughly enter into, the innocent pleasures and recreations of life. We are not only to "weep with them that weep," but also "rejoice with them that do rejoice."

V. HUMILITY . "Mind not high things, but condescend to man of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." There is too mush pride even in the Church of Christ—pride of rank, pride of wealth, pride of learning. The condition of things so severely satirized and rebuked in the second chapter of James is still too common in the Christian Church. The Church of Christ needs to condescend a little more than it does "to men of low estate." Christian ministers need to think more of the humbler members of their congregations, while they do not neglect the spiritual welfare of the rich. A little more of the humility of Christ would make the Church of Christ and. the ministers of religion more respected among the working classes and the poor.

VI. PEACEFULNESS . "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (verse 18). This peaceful relation may be secured:

1. By not cherishing a vindictive spirit. "Recompense to no man evil for evil" (verse 17). "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves" (verse 19). Offenders against peace would do little harm if they did not find others only too ready to take offence. What an example is that of Cranmer!—

To do him any wrong was to beget

A kindness from him; for his heart was rich,

Of such fine mould, that if you sowed therein

The seed of hate, it blossomed charity."

2. By meeting enmity with kindness. "Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not" (verse 14). "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." Your kindness will be like coals of fire to melt his hardened heart, just as Jacob's prudent act of kindness, following on his prayer, turned away the anger of his injured brother Esau. So we may destroy our enemies, as the Chinese emperor is said to have done, by making them our friends. Thus we shall "overcome evil with good."—C.H.I.

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