Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. ¹⁵Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. ¹⁶Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. —Romans 12:14-16
These verses are not about you. If you are a believer in Jesus, these verses are for you but they are not about you. What I mean is that they are about others and the way we who are being transformed by the renewal of our minds should think and act toward them (Romans 12:2).
Paul begins with the most challenging group in this section: “those who persecute you.” These are the people who don’t believe in Jesus and don’t play nice with the people who do. How are believers called to respond to them? The natural reaction when someone cuts us off while driving in our car might be to utter a curse. How in the world will we be able to bless those whose persecution threatens to cut us off from worldly blessings, from loved ones, or even from life itself? The renewed mind makes possible a favorable disposition toward those who haven’t earned it. Only a grace-shaped disposition can ask God to do good to those who do not do good to us. We can obey verse 14 when we know the promise of verse 19: God’s vengeance will be poured out on our persecutors, or it will have been poured out on Jesus on their behalf if they repent and turn to him.
Paul moves next to “those who rejoice” and “those who weep.” How are believers called to respond to other believers in these categories? We're called to go there with them. If we truly “are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Romans 12:5), we will feel what others feel. Think about your physical body. When your ears hear a wonderful performance of Handel’s Messiah, and your mind perceive its goodness, your heart fills up, your eyes tear up, your throat chokes up, your legs stand up, and your hands come together in applause. One member of the physical body is affected by what is happening to the other members. In much the same way, one member of the body of Christ cries with another member at the news of a miscarriage. And one member raises a shout of joy with another member, even when it's for recognition the other was secretly hoping for.
Finally, Paul calls us to move from hierarchy to humility. Here “live in harmony” literally means think the same way or have the same mind toward one another (see Philippians 2:5). How are believers called to think toward one another? We are called not to be “haughty” or “wise in [our] own sight.” We are prone to seat ourselves high and others low. But he who is exalted above all humbled Himself and became obedient to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Then He was raised on the third day. We who have died with Him and have been raised with Him now have nothing to prove. We have no ladder to climb. We can lay hierarchy and self-exaltation aside. The renewed mind goes low, befriending lowly people and tasks.
All that Paul is calling us to in these verses, as well as those before and after, would feel overwhelming if it were up to us. Thanks be to God, these realities are not our own doing, but the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Prepare to bless your persecutors by seeking a renewed mind and praying for a gracious disposition toward those who frustrate you in daily life (in traffic, at the market, at the post office or DMV, etc.)
Do you find it difficult to weep or rejoice with others? How might you grow your fellowship with them in Christ so that it’s more natural to enter into their suffering and rejoicing?
When are you tempted to see yourself as exalted and others as low? Meditate on the humble and exalted Savior to reorient your thinking and actions in those situations.
Gil McConnell is lead pastor of Meadow creek Church in Andover, MN. He earned degrees from Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, and served for 14 years as the Pastor for Children & Family Discipleship at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Mounds View, MN. The Lord called him to serve His church at Meadow Creek in 2019. He and his wife JoAnna have five children and love to help people find their joy in Jesus. He also enjoys God's gifts of music, laughter, and time with his family.