Increasing the inheritance of the Church through Incorporation. We continue our Epiphany season series on our status as fellow heirs in the same Body as partakers of the promise of Christ as Ephesians 3 outlines. So far, in the word “heirs” we have looked at how we are made holy or set apart by God. We have looked to the call to exhort each other to endure through encouragement in Christ. This week, we will see how God increases us through increasing our inheritance as the Church through incorporation, bringing us into His Church with the status as full sons and daughters; three words starting with the letter I. We will meditate upon these three through the next part of Romans 12, verses 16-21.
Harmony. Romans 12:16-18
God grants us increase of the inheritance through incorporation by His harmony and peace. As we read in Romans 12:16, “Live in harmony with one another.” Later in verse 18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Harmony means being of the same mind, unity. When anything acts divided, it is disharmonious. Jesus Christ provides harmony in all He did for us. Before in our status as fallen, we acted as if the increase was up to us, that inheritance was something we had to earn, and that being made part of God had to be bought back by us. When apart from God, we believe that only we can achieve harmony and peace through our strength and our work.
Harmony Fosters Increase
Christ brings us back into true harmony in all aspects of life, internally and externally. This harmony in Jesus Christ fosters the increase in our lives through our life and connection in the Body of Christ. The more we let go of the notion that it is about me and my work to increase, the freer we will become to actually live increased lives of faith, hope, and love. As St. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.”
The peace of Christ upon us brings the increase God wills. James 3:18 states, “And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Further, Ephesians 2:14 states, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” This peace frees us from trying to figure it out on our own. This peace frees us from securing our own peace. Trying to find our own peace ends badly. True peace in Jesus Christ brings increase both in our own lives through building us up to endure as well as the Church. This increase given through Christ’s peace is not measured by how the world measures increase. It is measured in Christ’s Work for us. The peaceful benefits of His Work for us are bestowed upon us in the measure He deems right for us. This peace is such at being content in our status as God’s children to wait upon Him through His grace. It is not a passive waiting. It is waiting full of prayer, worship, and love. This is true peace to bring increase in a proper manner.
Harmony is achieved in the implementation of inheritance
Harmony is achieved in the implementation of inheritance. By virtue of what Jesus accomplished, the inheritance is set firmly and eternally in place. We often forget that determination of inheritance is not up to us. Often in human relations, inheritances have very little to do with the desires of the children of the parent writing the Will. We often approach God with the thought that we have something to say or do with the inheritance He provides.
When approaching God and His inheritance bestowed to us, we take the end of Romans 12:16 into account, “Never be wise in your own sight.” Often when we come up with unhealthy ideas about our standing in Christ, it is due to pride. God implements our inheritance. When we deny this, harmony lacks. When we seek to take shortcuts to God’s grace through seizing what we think is ours, we will lack in unity and peace.
This inheritance given by the harmony achieved in the work of Jesus Christ is truly wonderful. It is not fleeting and temporary like worldly inheritances. Inheritance of eternal life is just that, eternal and blessed. As we read in Psalm 16:6, “The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” When we can become content in what Jesus has accomplished for us in granting us this great inheritance, we will find increasing harmony and unity within ourselves and with each other in the Church.
Harmony is restored and maintained with Incorporation into the Body of Christ.
Harmony is restored and maintained with incorporation into the Body of Christ. Increasing in the inheritance provided by Christ is seen with incorporation into the Church. God brings people into His inheritance by this formal means.
What do we mean when we use the word incorporation in the context of the Church? It means to bring from one status or kingdom to a new status or kingdom. As Anglicans that use a Classical Book of Common Prayer, we encounter this use of the word “incorporate” in two places. First, we are very familiar with its use in the Post-Communion Prayer in the Communion Service. Second and connected with the use in the Communion service is the Sacrament of Holy Baptism as found in the Prayer Book. In our Baptismal service, we yield hearty thanks to God that it has pleased Him “to incorporate him or her into thy Holy Church.” The imagery of Incorporation comes to us from the Biblical references concerning those brought into Christ’s Church as being grafted in as branches into a tree or vine, brought into the sheepfold, and so forth.
Such language grates against our selfish motivations of autonomy. We want to be in control. We tend to prefer language that is instant, quick, and painless. Engrafting language of bringing into a fold or herd with other sheep takes time and requires all that occurs with growth. The initial moment at Baptism means a lifetime of subsequent growth into a deeper and deeper relationship with Christ through His Body the Church. As our lesson in Romans 12:16 related, such language of our entrance and growth into the Church entails this, “Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.” These terms of increase, inheritance, and incorporation through the harmony of Jesus Christ pulls us from our comfort zones to embrace Christ and each other.
Never Avenge Yourselves. Romans 12:19-21
Harmony practically finds expression in the last part of Romans 12, verses 19-21, to never avenge yourselves. When we are at harmony in Christ by His power and love, we will no longer find the need to act the way this world acts in terms of vengeance. All of life from our baptisms until the Lord calls us home in Him is the growth out of the chaos that vengeance brings to a deeper harmony in His love.
Vengeance destroys Increase
Romans 12:19 states, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Vengeance destroys increase. When we resort to getting back at people that harmed us, we will find ourselves in a continual cycle of revenge. Over time, all energies are focused on how to best advance self over others. This is the way of this wicked world.
The good of Christ fosters increase
Our Lord Jesus Christ died for our vengeful ways. The religious elite out of jealousy and revenge for the threat He posed to their power had Him killed. In dying for us, He took our vengeance upon Himself and defeated it with sacrificial love. When tempted to seek vengeance, we instead look upon the goodness of Christ in defeating our NEED for revenge. We see this born out at the Cross-where Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Instead of calling His disciples after His resurrection to do as worldly leaders do to seek restitution for harm, He called them to go throughout the world to convert the nations, increase. The world when slighted seeks to deal a harsher blow than what was absorbed. Christ and His Body the Church when slighted turns the other cheek and loves their enemies. The world when slighted seeks to deal a harsher blow through assassinating a Paul for persecuting the Church. Christ and His Body the Church when persecuted converts a Paul in response to his persecution to become a peaceful and faithful preacher of the Gospel to convert the nations. The tool of this world in response to attacks is to destroy. The tool of Christ in response to attacks is to convert and increase the Kingdom of God.
Vengeance disowns or destroys inheritance
Vengeance through taking matters into our own hands disowns or destroys inheritance. Such seeks to destroy and to cut people off from each other. Vengeance spirals out of control to destroy. Vengeance feeds our basest sin nature to perpetuate destruction. It seeks to disown us from what God grants us in inheriting His Kingdom.
The good of Christ heals and restores inheritance
While this world in vengeance seeks to destroy, Jesus in His goodness restores our inheritance through taking all the world could muster in destroying Him. The vengeful powers sought to end God’s rule through killing His only begotten Son. They thought they were destroying the godly inheritance. Instead, Jesus defeated death through the resurrection and thus healed and restored the inheritance we DESTROYED in the Fall in the Garden. Jesus did not come into the world in vengeance. Rather, He perfectly lived out Romans 12:21, in which we as God’s children that have inherited eternal life are also called to do through His help, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Vengeance breaks apart the unity of incorporation
Vengeance breaks apart the unity of incorporation. It is like an axe or chainsaw to the unity of the tree we are grafted into, cutting off one branch and limb at a time. Often in the midst of suffering from vengeance, we are sometimes blinded to what is occurring through being manipulated into thinking the sinful revenge is necessary. Vengeance seeks to undermine our status as the children of God, bought by the dear price of the death of Jesus Christ. Often, we will hear manipulators seek through all sorts of methods to get us to questions our status of incorporation into the Body of Christ.
Such also seeks to destroy unity and harmony. When one group of the Church is made to feel as second-class citizens or that they are no longer welcome, it is usually through a spirit of revenge. We must fiercely resist this constant temptation in the name of Christ.
The good of Christ goes contrary to the world to incorporate peoples from the whole earth into His Church
The good of Christ goes contrary to the world to incorporate peoples from the whole earth into His Church. As we read in Isaiah 56:7, “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Vengeance seeks to make self first, nation first, or other worldly schemes first. Such only results in breaking up our status as Christians, as members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ. Christ calls us to the point that He in indwelling our hearts transforms us from being disharmonious to His full harmony. In such, we no longer fear what people can do to our bodies as we often do in a spirit of vengeance. Rather, the good of Christ in our hearts moves us from sinful fear of people and peoples to a godly resolve to reach all peoples of the earth with the message of the Gospel.
Such calls us instead of seeking vengeance through putting self first to seek Christ and His Kingdom first through what we read in Romans 12:20, “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals of fire on his head.’” We live in a world though that seeks through preserving worldly status to break up the nature of the Church and the people Christ seeks through saying if your enemy is hungry, let him starve for that will keep us powerful. If he is thirsty, let him die of thirst for that will keep us powerful. Instead of letting God do His work of salvation through us as His obedient instruments in His time; we seek to heap physical means of vengeful death upon our enemies. The goodness of Christ stops a persecutor of the Church to become a follower of Christ through conversion. The way of this world is to stop the persecutor on the road to Damascus with physical death by any means available. The goodness of Jesus Christ restores and heals what we through sin seek to break apart through spreading His Church throughout the earth to His glory.
Jesus brings us harmony within and without through connections to His Body the Church. Such brings increase into His inheritance through full incorporation into His Kingdom. Jesus brings us out of the sinful means we often turn to fix our problems through His love, mercy, and grace that transforms us from a people of revenge to a people of Christ like love. May we ever submit to Christ as our increase, as our inheritance, through incorporation into His mystical Body, the Church. Amen.