Walk This Way: Empathize

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

This week, we’re jumping back into Romans 12 to learn more about what it means to follow Jesus in our everyday lives.

walk_350My wife is one of the best empathizers I know. She is really good at walking after Jesus this way.

If you were with her right now and told her about something terrible that just happened to you, you would see what you were feeling in her face. She might take a step closer to you. You would feel understood. If you had good news, you might wonder if she was even happier about it than you are. And she might be.

Here’s the deal: She’s not faking it. Ever. She can’t turn it on and off. She just feels with people; it’s obvious in her eyes and her voice. It’s real.

Her Jesus-style empathy is so powerful, I’ve seen people unclench their whole bodies and personalities in just a few minutes. I’ve even seen people take a little step toward the Jesus she points to in her tears and her cheers.

I’m not as good at mourning with the mourners and partying with the happy people, but I’m learning. It’s how the Jesus people walk.

Think: Does seeing someone humiliated strike you more often as funny or as painful? Does watching someone win make you feel more jealous or excited for them? What’s in the way of your ability to rejoice and mourn with others?

Pray: Ask God to help you to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.

Do: Notice the Christians in your world this week who are good at feeling with those around them.

Walk This Way: Harmonize

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16)

Is it just me, or is this verse repeating itself? Is it just me, or is this very saying the same thing more than once? It’s like Paul thought we needed to hear it twice in order for this simple idea to penetrate our me-centric hearts.

walk_350Here’s one approach to life: Live to win. Protect what’s yours at all costs. Don’t let anyone get the better of you. You’ll never belong in the best crowd if you hang out with the lamest one. If no one is beneath you, then you’re on the bottom.

And here’s the Jesus way to walk: Live to help others win. Take yourself out of competition for most popular. Be good to everyone and too good for no one. Imagine how the least popular people will look in eternity when glorified, sinless, and living up to their full design specifications.

Think: How often would you say you have an actual goal of living in harmony with other people? How many people of low position on the world’s scale would say you’re their friend?

Pray: Ask God to help you to live in harmony with others. Ask him to help you not to be proud or conceited, but to be willing to hang out with people who rank low on the world’s scale.

Do: Make a quick list of three Christians you know who really seem to make a point to hang out with low-positioned people.

Walk This Way: Don’t Repay

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” (Romans 12:17)

Ooh. Ouch. Walking like Jesus is sounding weaker and weaker. It’s sounding like the fast lane to doormat-ville, like a guaranteed strategy for getting used and abused and disrespected.

walk_350Once the bad guys find out you’re not going to give back evil for evil, what’s to keep them from just rolling over you for the rest of your life? This is definitely not what the hero would do, right? Not for long. Not more than once or twice.

But, remember, our goal isn’t to become the action hero or the bringer of justice or even to protect ourselves from being mistreated. Our goal is to walk in the footsteps of the one who could have rained fire from the sky and instead went as a sheep to the slaughter – because he trusted his Father.

Yes, that’s hard – and it gets harder. Stay tuned.

Think: If someone asked you why Jesus didn’t pay back evil for evil, what would you tell them? Why should we want to be like him in this way?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to pay back evil for evil and to be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

Do: Try to think of any action heroes that do not repay evil for evil.

Walk This Way: Don’t Earn Conflict

“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)

Christians are so . . . .

walk_350How do you think most people would finish that sentence? How about your friends who are not Christians (if you have any)? How about the people in your school, at work, in your town, in your extended family?

One thing I’ve noticed about us Christians is that we tend to like talking about how Jesus said the world will hate us because it hated him. But we don’t tend to talk as much about verses like these that tell us we had better not give anyone any valid reasons to hate us.

These are commands: Be careful to do what is right (noble, beautiful, honorable) in the eyes of everyone. And make sure you are never the reason someone is not living at peace with you.

Think: Would most of the people in your life say that you tend to do what is noble or honorable most of the time? Would they say that you do your best to be at peace with everyone?

Pray: Ask God to help you to live at peace with everyone, as far as it depends on you.

Do: Make a quick list of two people you are not (or might not be) at peace with. Make a quick plan to make peace with each of them this week, as much as it depends on you.

Walk This Way: Refuse Revenge

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

God is not asking us to be okay with being treated badly – being insulted, being cheated, taking a beating, having loves ones killed or harmed or trashed in any way. Nobody is okay with that. Your Father isn’t asking you to become so spiritual that you can just turn off the part of you that wants to strike back.

walk_350He’s asking something far more terrifying. He’s saying that to walk like Jesus is to have the patience to wait for the day when He will repay injustice with the molten lava of his terrible anger.

That makes me think, “Whoa. Wait a minute. Do I really want that guy who took my parking spot – or even that conniving former friend who betrayed me – to suffer the vengeance of God? Yikes.”

I’m so glad it’s not up to me who gets forgiven for their hurtfulness (through their faith in Jesus’ experience of the crushing wrath of God) – as I have been – and who remains the object of God’s anger toward injustice and sin. That’s not my job, and I should not want it.

Think: Whose vengeance would be more just and painful, yours or God’s? Would you ever really want to be responsible for deciding who will experience God’s vengeance and who will be forgiven by His grace through faith in Christ?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to take revenge but to leave room for God’s wrath.

Do: Pay attention to your heart this week and notice when you feel like taking revenge.

Walk This Way: Overcome

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Defeat evil. Check. Okay, we’re done. We’ve spent two weeks looking at a list of bullet-point commands that describe what Christians do, what it means – specifically – to walk after Jesus.

walk_350This last one, though, sounds like something Uncle Ben would say to Peter Parker. It’s a heroic statement. After all these commands about setting ourselves aside for the good of others, about not getting even, about giving the bad guys drinks of water – we find out that the point is to defeat evil.

We’re not just following the selfless Son of God who died on the cross for our sin; we’re also following the powerful Son of God who defeated death. We’re following the King who will rule the universe forever.

Christians don’t let evil beat them by joining in the evil to win a false victory; they overwhelm evil by refusing to stop doing good, no matter what it costs. That’s how Jesus walked.

Think: Have you ever seen someone overcome evil by doing good? What might that look like in real life?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good.

Do: Read Romans 13 to learn more about walking like Jesus.