Romans 12

1 An animal sacrifice was killed when it was offered up to God. It was a costly offering that the giver knew would never be returned.

Because Jesus died for our sins, our sacrifices to God no longer involve death. Instead, we are to give offerings that can only be given as we live. These "sacrifices" are worship and love. We are to offer our worship and love to God and love to other people. These sacrifices can be considered costly because we must give up our selfish desires for the good of others and our relationship with God. Our sacrifices of love may be misunderstood or rejected by people, and so we can not expect a return on them in this lifetime. However, we do have the incredible promise of an everlasting reward with God. We should thus give these sacrifices gladly, knowing that our worship and love are not in vain.

2 It is very tempting to try to "fit in" with everyone else. People often take exception to those who are different, especially if that difference makes them feel guilty. However, we are called to be different from the world because the world is opposed to God. It is far more important to please God than people, so we must break out of the mold of this world.

With our salvation comes a new way of thinking. The Spirit of God teaches us how to behave in a revolutionary way. He does not merely modify our behavior; He gives us a new mind. Only with this new mind can we have a pleasing relationship with God. It is also only with this new mind and motivation that our good behavior can be pleasing to God.

3 When we have God's perspective, we see our status in proper ways. We must recognize that we are forever indebted to God. We have nothing that He did not give us. We must also recognize that we are no better than anyone else is in God's eyes. Each person is equally in need of His salvation, and each Christian has equal access to God.
4 This does not mean that all people are given the same abilities. Some people may be given talents that we consider more important than others, but we must not forget that contributions need to be made from all members if the Church is to function properly.

Jesus was able to fulfill all these aspects of ministry perfectly because He was perfect. We, even though we are saved, are not perfect beings; neither do we have the infinite capability of Jesus. However, by giving people different abilities we can work together to continue Jesus' ministry. His Spirit moves the Church and it acts as His physical body in this world.

5 We can not succeed as the body of Christ if we have members that are failing to contribute their talents. Therefore, our success depends on the success of those around us. We must encourage one another to do the best they can with what they have wherever they are. There is no telling how God might use a person no matter how significant their contribution might seem.
6 Prophecy is speaking God's word. Typically, we think of this as the revelation of future events, but it can also include exhortation and the revealing of secrets.

Those who have more faith in God are more likely to be used by Him for this or any number of other purposes. This should not be grounds for either arrogance or jealousy. We should accept how God can use us now and seek to increase our faith (i.e., trust) in Him.

7 Ministry involves meeting the physical and spiritual needs of others. This includes a number of activities from preaching to helping with the poor or even conversations that encourage others to a closer relationship with God. Teaching is a specialized form of ministry.
8 Several interpersonal skills are considered spiritual gifts from God.

Exhortation involves not only showing a person an error in his ways, but also convincing him to change his behavior. This takes great love and skill so that the one corrected is encouraged rather than offended.

Some people find giving generously with a glad heart easier than others do. This does not mean that those who do not "like" to give should not do so, but it does mean that those who do like to give should be encouraged to do so.

Leadership is a skill that few people have. This is why churches often end up with a hierarchical structure. We are all equal in the eyes of God, but leaders have the ability to organize people effectively to meet God's expectations of the Church. We can encourage our leaders by contributing ideas and by following their lead.

The gift of mercy includes great compassion and empathy. Such a person has a cheerful heart even in the most discouraging of circumstances.

9 Love must not be pretended affection; it must be genuine concern for the welfare of others. God's love in us makes it possible to love the "unlovable."

The two greatest commandments are to love God and people. We should avoid and detest any activity that violates our commitment to God or the spiritual well being of others. The Ten Commandments are examples of how to abhor evil and cling to good.

10 Genuine love and affection are not self-seeking. We should encourage our fellow believers to excel in good works and their personal relationship with God. We should be quick to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of our Christian brothers and sisters.
11 This should be a Christian's attitude.
12 This should be a Christian's private spiritual live.
13 These should be some of a Christian's activities among other Christians.
14 This should be one of a Christian's responses to worldly abuse.
15 A Christian should be genuinely empathetic with fellow believers.
16 Kindness, love, encouragement, etc. are to be shared with all believers. There is not a single person in the Christian community who is too lowly to associate with. There is no one so different that genuine love is impossible to cultivate.

Knowledge and wisdom are useful tools, but they can not substitute for a heart that is sensitive to God's voice. There is no one so wise within a Christian community that he can not learn from others. God often uses other people to encourage and rebuke us. We must be sensitive to God's message no matter who it comes from.

17 Revenge, whether aggressive or passive aggressive, does not solve anything. If someone commits a wrong against you, seek to be reconciled. Revenge tends to feed on itself, get out of control, and will ultimately destroy relationships.

There are some things that are considered good by all people, including non-Christians. Truth and selflessness are among these. Of course, as Christians we should be practicing these things anyway. We are to excel at doing good because we are empowered by God, who is good.

18 Christians should strive to have peaceable relationships with all people inside and outside the Christian community. Most of the principles that apply in relationships between Christians can be effective in our relationships with others. However, some non-Christians will violently oppose us because we are Christians, even if we are outstanding citizens in every respect. Others, being still enslaved to their sin, will not be capable of forgiveness, love, etc. With non-Christians, it may not be possible to make peace. We are obligated to try, but if it does not happen we must let it go and pray that God would intervene in that person's life.
19 Along with verse 17, Christians should remember that not every debt needs to be settled in this lifetime. God is the ultimate judge, and He will settle all accounts in a truly just manner. With personal disputes, it is best to be reconciled in this life because of the relationships involved. If that is not possible then we should wait on God.

Some have used this verse to apply to federal and capital offenses as well. That stretch is tenuous since Christians obligated to uphold the civil laws of the country we live in as long as it does not interfere with our relationship with God or the spreading of His Gospel. God gives the federal government the authority to prosecute and punish those who are a danger to society. If a federal crime affects us, we can forgive the perpetrator ourselves, but the criminal's actions has consequences which he must come to terms with. We should try to convince convicted criminals to find forgiveness in God as we would any other person, but our society demands that certain crimes be punished in particular ways.

20 If someone has wronged us, we should not avoid him or treat him badly. Instead, we should be good to them as the opportunities present themselves. Hopefully, the offender's conscious will be kindled and he will accept the invitation to be reconciled. If not, he may have to face the consequences of his actions from God.
21 When we are touched by evil circumstances in our lives, we should not respond in an evil way. Instead, we should respond in a loving and caring way. This can defuse many problems and go a long way to establishing good relationships with others. This kind of response may also open the door to witnessing to others about Jesus and how He makes it possible to respond in this manner.