Ask yourself:
 “What is the relational temperature of my local church – my Jesus community?” Is it hot, warm, cool, or cold? The answer to your question touches on the health of your community. 


There are various answers.


You may be part of a Jesus community that is alive, loving and nurturing, biblically-grounded, and missional. That’s great!


However, you may attend a multi-service mega-church in which you feel like you’re going to a concert – thousands attending to hear uplifting music and a solid message, but minimal relationship. Not so great.


One woman perceptively told me that her smaller church was ‘friendly’ but it was impossible to make friends. Ouch!


Some followers of Jesus have given up on regular church attendance. Why?

Romans 12 touches the heart of what it is to live in that place of wholesome tension between faithfulness to our God and relevance to our Culture. 

The part we’ll survey in this blog deals with the marks of a healthy local community of followers of Jesus (12:9-16). It refers to life together. It talks about how we should relate to “one another” (12:10, 16) as “saints” (12:13).   

Here’s what Paul writes (Romans 12:9-16 ESV):

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.

 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

 14 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.

These are qualities that mark the relationships of a wholesome Jesus community.

There are about 20 identifiers of a church’s health beginning with genuine love. Let’s take a look at these briefly in groups.

  • Love, hate, and cleaving (12:9). No half measures here – these are strong words for and against.

First is genuine love. This is not the same as ‘nice’. Look at the description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. C. S. Lewis writes “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.”[1]

Second, is a hatred or abhorrence of evil.

Third, is cleaving, clinging, holding on tightly to what is good. 


  • One anothers (12:10). How do we relate to our brothers and sisters with whom we are in community?

First, “be good friends who love deeply.” Second, honor others with your “willingness to let the other [person] have credit,” or “practice playing the second fiddle.”[2]

  • Not lazy, ‘boil’, and serve (12:11). Often we tend to be hyper-active regarding our families, careers, and jobs and slack when it comes to our Jesus communities. One big down-side of a clergy-laity mindset is expecting others to provide the energy and labor that builds a wholesome Jesus community.

The word used for ‘fervent’ (zeō) also carries the idea of “stirred up emotionally, be enthusiastic/excited/on fire” – boiling in spirit by the Spirit.[3] Then there is “serve the Lord” – He is the best of masters, and it is Him we serve.

  • Rejoicing, enduring, and continuing (12:12). This requires us to honestly glimpse what is going on in our hearts.

First, is a joy that surges from the solid hope that we share the Lord’s future. What is the opposite of this? Perhaps it is continual pessimism, discouragement, and defeatism. No, the Lord is Lord; He is the Victor – He has already won!

Second, is enduring, or bearing up underneath, trials and temptations and disappointments – “don’t quit in hard times.” The third component of this trilogy is “steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer.”

  • Sharing, pursuing, and blessing (12:13-14).

We are to have a generosity toward the needs of our brothers and sisters. If we have devoted ourselves to God (12:1), that includes our bank accounts.

Second, is the intentional and inventive activity of hospitality. If the previous quality was providing money or other resources to the needs of others, this quality requires our direct personal involvement. The verb linked to hospitality may be translated extending or practicing hospitality – more literally, the word (diōkō) is ‘pursuing’ hospitality for others.

The next quality causes me a bit of concern.

Third, “bless those who persecute you.” Here the word diōkō is repeated and translated as “persecute” – pursuing to cause harm. Is it possible that a person within your Jesus community could persecute another follower of Jesus – maybe you?

 Unfortunately, I answer ‘yes’. Paul was persecuted, or pursued to cause harm, within the faith community (e.g., Philippians 1:15-18; 1 Corinthians 4:3-5). In over 40 years of life in Christ I have experienced two or three situations of being pursued by another Christian to cause harm. This shouldn’t happen. Perhaps the other Christian didn’t see it that way. Nevertheless it does happen – maybe it has happened to you. How are we to respond?

“Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.” In other words, speak well of the other Christian, do not speak negatively, or disparage, him or her. This is one of the most revolutionary statements in the New Testament,[4] and is reminiscent of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6:27-28.

  • Rejoicing and weeping with others (12:15). One rendering is “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.”[5]

This involves engaging your emotions deeply with the other person. Some of us tend to avoid such emotional engagement and vulnerability. Such genuine engagement is a mark of community health.

  • Harmony and humility (12:16). A healthy Jesus community is not a place of disharmony, divisions, or cliques. Nor is it a place for pride.

Paul points to an apparent division within the Corinthian Christian community between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ (1 Corinthians 11:17-22). The ‘haves’ ate and drank to the full while others went hungry. In Rome the division seems to have been ethnic (i.e., Jew vs. Gentile).

The Message renders these qualities simply as “Get along with each other; don’t be stuck up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.”


What next?

I remember being told by a much older Christian many years ago that if I ever found the “perfect church” I should stay away – otherwise it would no longer be “perfect.” Of course, there are no perfect churches because there are no perfect Christians. That was his point.


Nevertheless, our church communities should be moving toward greater health. What is the relational temperature of your Jesus community? In responding to this question I recommend the following four, maybe five, steps:

1.  On your own, or better, with someone else in your Jesus community, review the qualities of Romans 12:9-16. How do you think an informed observer would measure the relational temperature of your Jesus community (i.e., on a scale of hot to cold)?

2.  What qualities are present? How are these qualities present (i.e., how are they manifest)? What is the reason for them being present? 

3.  What qualities are absent (or less present)? What is the reason for their absence, or lessened presence? 

4.  How can you practice these qualities in community? How can you encourage others to practice these qualities in community? 

5.  If you are not consistently engaged in a Jesus community, ask yourself the reason(s) for your non-engagement. What does Romans 12:1-16 have to say about your reason(s), and your current situation?


Until next Friday,         


John, a brother 

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[1] C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York, NY: Harcourt Brace, 1971).

[2] Here and following I quote variously from J. B. Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English and Eugene Peterson’s The Message.

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, BECNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 665.

[4] Schreiner, 667.

[5] The Message.

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