Romans 12:16-17a

Agree With One Another

Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall

Rom. 12:16a (Holman) Be in agreement with one another.

This statement gives us a broad overview of how are are to act toward others. The next three phrases in this verse will help us thwart faults that could keep this first statement from becoming a reality in our lives.

Agree with one another. Live in harmony. A oneness of mind should exist among God’s children. Rancorous disagreement must be avoided at all cost. Within the family of believers, a spirit of union must be nurtured and cherished.

Whatever form of church government we might decide to choose, peace, kindness, and goodwill are indispensable. Otherwise, a local church will have no positive influence over unbelievers.

Embracing common objects, dreams, and desires strengthens a church. Agreement brings victory. Nelson, after one of his great victories, sent word explaining the reason for it: “I had the happiness to command a band of brothers.”

We must try not to clash with, contradict, or offend one another. Let’s strive to be in agreement. The goal is for us to be of one mind among ourselves. The rest of verse 16 tells us how to achieve this overriding objective.

Rom. 12:16b Do not be proud;

Do not have high-minded ambitions. Strive not for accolades this world reveres. A believer should not be trying to achieve personal honor, social preferment, or riches. We must not value the world’s pomp and glitter.

Avoid the aristocratic tendency. Do not aspire for higher positions. Hyper-personal-ambition is glorified in our world. “Get ahead. Go to the top. Watch out for #1. Get the other guy before he gets you.” It is hard to fight this prevailing spirit of our age, but we must. Selfish ambitions spawn division in the fellowship.

Selfish ambition produces another ill side effect. It grieves the Lord. John complained of Diotrephes, he “loves to have the pre-eminence” (3 JN 9). This is a serious offense, because in all things Christ must have pre-eminence (COL 1:18). When Christ is first in our lives, we will stop trying to be first in the fellowship.

Rom. 12:16c . . .instead, associate with the humble.

Do not be haughty or snobbish. Instead, readily associate with humble folk. We are to withdraw from high-minded social ambitions and associate with the lowly. Every vestige of social conceit must be destroyed. Few things harm churches more than little cliques that associate only with themselves. This results in a chilling exclusiveness. Every time we gather with friends, invite someone “new” to join us. Be inclusive, not exclusive.

It is easy to look down on lowly people, but a successful church is open and friendly to everyone. Its members accommodate themselves to people who are lonely and different. A church that can fulfill this admonition from Paul will make itself shine brightly in the darkness of a selfish world.

This trait made the early church shine like a diamond in the trashy wreckage of the Roman world. When a rich new convert made his first visit to a Christian service, the worship leader pointed to a seat, saying, “Sit there, please.” The wealthy man looked at the seat and, seeing one of his slaves in the next seat, immediately said, “I cannot sit there, for that would be to sit beside my slave.”

The leader was undaunted. The man’s conversion needed to be confirmed, “Sit there, please.” “Surely not beside my slave.” “Sit there, please.” Finally, the rich man crossed the room, sat by his slave, and gave him the kiss of peace.

This illustrates what Christianity did in the Roman world. The Church became the only place where masters and slaves sat and ate together. God help us still to be a place where earthly distinctions mean nothing.

Love shows lowliness, and is ever ready to help those beneath it. Do not shun the lonely or less influential. Ever feel drawn to them. Do not be ashamed of the poor and lowly. God looks on them and loves them. We must do the same.

David, though destined to be a king, did not hesitate to take castaways, exiles, and debtors as his companions. Oglethorpe did the same settling Georgia.

The Pilgrims and Puritans were deemed vagabonds. No one wanted them, so they came to a new land and sowed the seeds of America. Common people flocked to Jesus. His main problems came from the rich, sophisticated, and respectable.

“Not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. By and large, noblemen rejected Jesus. It is a sad day when any church directs its focus solely toward the class of people who snubbed their noses at Jesus.

We must try to reach all people. Beware any church that puts its exclusive focus on reaching the influential. Often, such a church is not trying to reach hearts as much as it is trying to reach pocketbooks.

We must accommodate ourselves to those who are outcasts. Love sees worth in rags as well as in silk. A jewel is a jewel, even when it is dirty.

When Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, it was an object lesson demonstrating the attitude he meant for us to always have: no task is too menial to be done; no person is too lowly or poor to be loved. Think nothing below us but sin. Stoop to help the fallen and do not grudge the effort.

Rom. 12:16d Do not be wise in your own estimation.

This is drawn from Proverbs 3:7a, “Be not wise in thine eyes.” Do not over-estimate our own intellectual worth. Never assume we have nothing to learn. The Bible sees more hope for a fool than for those wise in their own eyes (PR 26:12).

The person who thinks he is smarter than everybody else is offensive, and destroys unity. God help us to be willing to learn from others.

Romans 12:17a Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

When someone is unkind to us, to respond with unkindness only adds fuel to the flame of bad feeling. Harshness always increases friction. One who is cruel to another breaks the peace; the one who is cruel in return perpetuates the breach.

Returning “evil for evil” is natural, easy to do. The Devil will help us do it. We don’t even have to pray. It is a reflex action. It comes automatically because it achieves things our selfish natures want. It satisfies injured feelings, punishes the wrongdoer, and warns them that no more offenses will be tolerated from them.

I admit, all these reasons look good on the surface, and even sound logical. However, none is valid because none moves us toward accomplishing God’s will.

God desires ever-increasing love between persons. Repaying evil for evil increases alienation, not reconciliation. Retaliation is always a spiritual failure.

If our assailant is a friend, our only hope for keeping them a friend lies in this verse. If our antagonist is an enemy, this verse has our only hope for making them a friend, which must ever be your goal.

God left us here not to win arguments, but to win people. A cursed, humiliated, and defeated enemy is still an enemy. The person we knocked to the floor is what we want to win. To strike them is tantamount to damaging the very trophy we hope to attain.