Are You Listening?

Romans 12:9-13: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

The book of Romans, in which the Apostle Paul lays out the fundamental plan of salvation to the early church in Rome, is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Paul was writing to the church in Rome, which was made up of mostly Gentile believers. It appears that there was a substantial minority of Jewish Christians in the Rome church also and Paul was seeking to explain the relationship between Jew and Gentile in God’s overall plan of redemption. The Jewish believers were being rejected by the larger Gentile group in the church because the Jewish believers still felt constrained to observe dietary law and sacred days. [1]

In our scripture passage for today, Paul is writing about how believers should care for and act toward each other. Paul is encouraging the early church in Rome to live out their faith and their concern for each other with their actions. Your actions become apparent by how you: honor one another above yourself, share with God’s people who are in need, bless those who say bad things about you, rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  You begin to live in harmony with one another, you live out a life that is humble, not being proud or conceited.

In verse 10, Paul writes that we should “honor one another above ourselves (yourselves).” At first glance, you can almost read over these five important words – honor one another above yourselves. As a believer, do you find that it is difficult to honor your fellow believer above your own self? In order to do that, we must become better at listening, and many of us have not yet mastered that skill. We need to be more intentional, to stop talking, and simply listen to our fellow believers. We need to hear their triumphs and their tragedies, their dreams and their worries, their walk of faith with God and their struggles with sin. We all have a tendency to talk about ourselves and our own problems and worries. Paul is saying to us that there comes a time when we just need to be quiet and take the time to listen to the worries and struggles of our brother or sister in Christ.

Peter comes to mind as a perfect example of someone who should be listening instead of talking. The gospel writer Luke tells the story of the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain. Jesus takes Peter, John and James with him to the mountain top to pray. And as Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became very bright. Luke tells us that Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but they became fully awake and saw the glory of Jesus and also Moses and Elijah standing there with Jesus.  Peter then speaks to Jesus and says something about putting up three shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. The gospel writer Luke tells us that “He (Peter) did not know what he was saying.”  Then God’s voice comes out of a cloud that had appeared and surrounded them, and the voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9:34-35)

When we meet and speak to people in church and ask them how they are doing, they almost always reply that they are fine. That’s the expected answer; we would be very surprised if they began to give us a laundry list of all their worries and all of their problems. As believers however, we have an obligation to fully invest ourselves in each others lives.  We need to be willing to open up to each other and most importantly; we need to be prepared to listen to each other.

Paul words most certainly speak to each of us today. As followers of Christ, we must practice sincere love towards each other, we must rejoice and mourn with each other, we must try to live in harmony with each other and we must honor one another above ourselves and our own selfish interests. These are not just words that we say – these words must be lived out in our actions and in our encounters with each other. They must become a part of our lives together as believers and in our daily walk with God.

[1]Zondervan NIV Study Bible, 2002 Edition


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