The Glorious Mundane: Romans 12

This is Part 6 of a series about my effort to memorize the entire book of Romans. Read the rest of the series here.

My progress so far

I’m continuing to slowly move forward in my monumental quest to memorize the entire book of Romans. I began this journey back in November, and since then I have waded through the jungles of Paul’s reasoning in chapters 1-7, scaled the Everest of the Bible in chapter 8, and made my way through the mysterious caverns of divine sovereignty in chapters 9-11. After pausing for a week to review and solidify what I had learned, I launched into the home stretch of practical application beginning in chapter 12. Yesterday, I finished memorizing chapter 12. I’ve now memorized 77.6% of Romans. The finish line is coming into view.

After the heights and depths of glorious doctrines like justification, sanctification, and election, I expected Romans 12 to feel like a bit of a letdown. Not that practical application isn’t important, of course. I just always put more stock in “meaty” theology than “fluffy” application.

Boy, was I wrong. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent more time on the doctrine of chapters 1-11, maybe I’m just seeing things with new eyes. But Romans 12 has never been sweeter, more breathtaking, more spectacular to me than it is now.

This is a different kind of glory than the first eleven chapters. This isn’t the soaring rhetoric of chapter 8, or the bracing logic of chapter 6, or the mysterious God of chapter 9. This is a softer glory, painted in pastels, more muted than the vivid colors of chapters 1-11. This is approachable beauty, accessible splendor, the mundane glory of the everyday infused with eternity.

I can’t get enough of it. The laundry list of the transformed Christian life in verses 9-18 is so ordinary, so routine, so down to earth, that it staggers me. This isn’t a “charge the front lines of the enemy in a blaze of heroism” way to follow Jesus. This is not the “do something great for God or die trying” version of discipleship that I often find so compelling. No, this is subtler and– surprisingly– even more compelling. Romans 12 is about following Jesus when the alarm clock goes off. When the kids are screaming. When the school project is due. When your friend snubs you. When you’re standing in line at the supermarket.

Put it in list form, and stand in awe of the lowly beauty of God’s vision for the Christian life:

Let love be genuine.

Abhor what is evil.

Hold fast to what is good.

Love one another with brotherly affection.

Outdo one another in showing honor.

Do not be slothful in zeal.

Be fervent in spirit.

Serve the Lord.

Rejoice in hope.

Be patient in tribulation.

Be constant in prayer.

Contribute to the needs of the saints.

Seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Weep with those who weep.

Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be haughty.

Associate with the lowly.

Never be wise in your own sight.

Repay no one evil for evil.

Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Isn’t it incredible? This is what humility looks like when it grows hands and feet, what love looks like when it embraces lowliness. This is the kind of life unnoticed by the world and applauded by heaven, the life whose gentleness makes it great. Oh to follow Jesus like this! How I want this kind of steel-infused meekness to define my life! Let me make this my New Year’s Resolution (it’s not too late!); let me tape this to the fridge as my daily to-do list and, with all my might and all the grace of the Spirit’s work within me, strive to live a life of such mundane glory.

Next: in Part 7, I review the lessons I’ve learned memorizing the book of Romans.

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