Paul’s appeal in Romans 12 is that the gospel create its distinct culture within us and in the church. Every culture has borders, and borders mean neighbors with a different culture. Neighbors are:
1. Members of our own family or household. There are border issues in every family.
2. Members of Covenant church ( or your church). There are border issues in every fellowship.
3. Those in your life who do not know and trust Christ. There are border issues of belief and unbelief.
So, Border life is challenging. And faced with those challenges people choose one of three options:
1. close the borders
2. erase the borders
3. cross the borders and make friends.
In Romans 12:14-16 Paul coaches us for life along these borders. We who are carriers of the culture of the gospel are to cross the borders into the lives and into the cultures of others.
How do we live along the borders of relationships?
1. We always bless
The culture of the gospel is a culture of blessing. In Ephesians 1 Paul tells Christians that they have been blessed with “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies”: We are blessed by the words of the gospel — they are coming true; We are blessed by the deeds of the gospel — they are changing our lives! Along the borders of relationships (Christian and non) we’re always launching fusillades of grace, overtures of blessing. Always blessing along the borders of your marriage transforms your marriage. Always blessing along the borders of fellowship in the church transforms the fellowship of the church. Always blessing those who don’t know Christ, who don’t even like you, may in fact show the way to life eternal.
2. We join our neighbors in their circumstances
The culture of the gospel is not local, we can take it with us wherever we go, so that frees us to move into the lives of others. How much? So much that we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. In identifying so much with people whose borders are next to our, we simply are living out what Christ has lived for us:
He became a stranger (John 1:10-11) so we welcome the strangers. He became poor (2 Cor 8:9), so we move in with the poor. He became sad (Isaiah 53), so we sink ourselves in their sorrow. He became sin (2 cor. 5:21) so we could be the friends of sinners without being afraid of their sins.
Saturday night we received a text from friends in Dothan (AL) asking for prayer for an injured nurse serving in Haiti and for our friends’ daughter, who is serving with her, sleeping on the roof of the local police station — and loving it. That’s joining our neighbors in their circumstances.
The ultimate joy is that we love our neighbors along the borders so dearly that our greatest rejoicing is when they come to Christ and our greatest weeping is when they don’t.
3. We think with our neighbors
The gospel gets in our heads. We begin to think alike, not high-minded, enjoying the simplest thinkers among us, never claiming to be the “wise man”. We train ourselves to engage in our neighbor’s way of thinking. Our job is to listen well and engage our spouse, our fellows and our enemies in the way they think, and why they think that way. Then we will know how and when the gospel can enter the culture of their lives.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe and it is creating a culture in us that is powerful when transmitted across cultural boundaries by always blessing, joining our neighbors in their circumstances and learning to think with them.
“God, so grow the gospel in us that we cross the borders of our lives into the lives of others so that Christ may draw and win them, through us, to Himself. AMEN”