Romans 12:16 NET - Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited.
Romans 12:16 lays out three essentials for church health and how to live strong as Christians:
Psalm 133:1 NASB - Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
Unity is a powerful force seen in the Old and New Testaments. God had to confuse languages at Babel because of the power of human unity when used to disobey Him. Unity (one accord) was the mindset and practice of the early church when the Day of Pentecost miracle occurred and as the number of disciples multiplied greatly. The importance of unity also be understood by looking at it’s opposite. Division and discord among the family of God are severely condemned by God in Scripture. The Apostle Paul even considered it to be an offense that deserves excommunication from the church after a second warning (Titus 3:10). But when a Christian home, ministry, or church (or churches) are living in unity - it unleashes a powerful force for good, for health, for growth, and for the miraculous. God’s power flows through Christians in unity with one another.
Philippians 2:3-4 NLT - Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Humility is required for unity. God’s people must learn to live above the culture that values one’s individual desire above everything else. It’s not about you. Humility, it is said, is not thinking less of yourself - humility is thinking of yourself less! Strong Christians live with a humble mindset that only invites greater grace and anointing upon their lives. A church culture that does not practice nor encourage arrogance, egotism, self-centeredness, self-aggrandizement, and a “me-first” mindset will be a powerful and growing part of Christ’s body. Here’s the paradox: in order to practice greater humility with one another, we need to genuinely praise and celebrate (honor) one another. Honor up, honor down, honor all around. Many people become wrongly egotistical just trying to survive emotionally because nobody ever honors them. When we honor and authentically celebrate one another, we give each other the opportunity to actually practice humility while also receiving life-giving love from each other. This is not easy for many of us because the culture of Christ is so different than what we are used to seeing. We may not have grown up receiving proper honor, so it’s not a language we speak easily. Or, we may have been indoctrinated in a self-esteem culture that wrongly believes we are entitled to praise or honor even for poor performance or character. Jesus honored John the Baptist right after John’s largest recorded faith failure. It is Christ living and working in us that will allow us to learn to speak the language of honoring one another - and to receive it with humility rather than conceit. Humility is expressed by esteeming others in the church rather than ourselves, but it is worth it since God promised we would give more grace in response to humbling ourselves. Better to be recognized in Heaven than recognized on Earth.
James 2:8-9 NLT - Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.
Romans 12:16 says to “associate with the lowly.” Who in the church might you consider “beneath you” (more lowly) and why? Is it because of their poverty? Their ethnicity? Their wardrobe? Their lack of a “cool factor”? Their age? Their appearance? Their personality quirks? Their emotional neediness? Their newness to church? What makes them a less desirable associate to you? And what do you think God thinks about it all?
The “one another” (Greek: allelon) commands in the New Testament are impossible to obey without associating with others in the church - including people who require extra grace or patience. Association is not the same as being best friends, being closest confidantes, or being the most fun to be around. Associating with one another - despite real differences - is a hallmark of how to live strong as a Christian. If we were honest, there are many family members we associate with on a regular basis that we would not prefer to hang around if we didn’t have family obligations. Our Father in Heaven has given us similar family obligations regarding association with one another - particularly if you consider them to be in a lowlier state. In some cases, that association helps eliminate sins of prejudice or fear of what others think.
When we value the Christian principles of unity, humility, and association with one another, isn’t that what absolutely everyone in the world expects God’s Church to look like? Regardless of what others may or may not do, will you be intentional in your PRAYERS FOR and PRACTICING OF these 3 values?