What the Renewed Mind Does (Romans 12:14-16)
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live 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 about them and act toward them (Romans 12:2).
Paul begins with the hardest category 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 knee-jerk reaction when someone cuts us off while driving in our car might be to conjure up 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 is bringing in a favorable disposition toward those who haven’t earned it. It is a gracious disposition which leads to ask God to do good to those who do not do good to us. And, we can do verse 14 when we know that verse 19 is coming. 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 continues with “those who rejoice” and “those who weep.” How are believers called to respond to other believers when they find themselves in either of these categories? We are 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 our physical bodies. When our ears hear a wonderful performance of Handel’s Messiah, and our minds perceive its goodness, our hearts fill up, our eyes tear up, our throats choke up, our legs stand up, and our 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 sobs with another member at the news of a miscarriage. And one member lifts up a shout of joy with another member, even when one gets the recognition another was secretly hoping for.
Next, Paul calls us to move away from hierarchy to humility. What is translated as “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 to not 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). And 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. Those who have it find it easy to befriend lowly people and tasks. This Spirit-wrought reality empowers all Paul is calling us to in these verses, as well as the verses before and after.
How might you prepare to bless your persecutors, whenever they may come? How might you begin by seeking a renewed mind, and praying for a gracious disposition, toward those who cut you off while driving (or some other place you feel ill will toward you from others, whether real or only perceived)?
At what times do you find it difficult to “weep” or “rejoice” with another person? How could you grow closer to that person so that you begin to feel the one another reality that is there because of your fellowship in Christ? How might that deeper relationship help you weep or rejoice with that person?
In what places have you seen yourself as high and others as low? How might remembering our humble and exalted Savior reorient your thinking and actions in those places?