"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you" (Romans 12:3).
Every day, inside the visible church, there are those who reject this warning from the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans. They don't mean to do it, but they give in to the temptation to elevate themselves above their brothers and sisters in Christ, and the result is that they separate themselves from the wise counsel of others and miss the joy of true Christian fellowship that comes along with accountability. Let me explain ...
In the twelfth chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul begins to apply the truth of the Gospel to the way we live together as the body of Christ. He begins in the first two verses by reminding us of the mercy of God in saving us from our sins, and then calls believers to offer themselves as living sacrifices of thanksgiving, no longer conforming to the patterns of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we know God's will and do it. Then he immediately turns to the relationship we have with each other as members of the one body of Christ.
The greatest hindrance to Christ-like love is pride in oneself. Paul certainly could have boasted, as he explains in other places. But he continually knows his own sin and his own weakness. As the Spirit works in us, these should be obvious to each of us. Apart from God, we are nothing. So Paul tells the believers not to think of themselves more highly than they ought, but rather, to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith God has given them. Any gift or ability that you or I or any believer has that glorifies God and builds up His body is a gift from God. How can you boast or brag about possessing a particular gift or ability when it comes from God? Yet, people seem to do that all the time!
Paul's illustration in verses 3-8 make the point that the body of Christ is like our physical body. He explains this further in I Corinthians 12. We NEED each other, so why do we tear each other down? Not everyone does the same thing, but each part is needed nonetheless. Jesus made it clear that in His body, the Church, the greatest ones would be the servants of all the others. Even those who are called to lead must do so by serving the body in love. When that happens, it a a beautiful picture painted by the very Spirit of God at work in His children. In families and churches where people have their minds on pleasing God and serving Jesus, pride is not an issue. It's not about US, it's about Jesus Christ! It's not about making a name for ourselves, but about making a name for our God!
When a congregation or individuals lose sight of that goal, SELF rears its ugly head and grace and mercy and forgiveness are left far behind. People become critical and are never happy with anything or anyone. Soon they become bitter and angry, and then gossip and slander are not far behind. Once in that frame of mind, they raise themselves up as judges of all things, claiming to do so because "God told me this," or "the Spirit spoke to me about that," or by using language that makes them appear more spiritual than those who are earnestly trying to live by God's Word and follow His commands.
The result is that relationships are broken, congregations are torn apart, and sheep are scattered because they have been thrown into confusion. "I thought the church was supposed to be a place where people loved each other and where there is patience and kindness." This doesn't mean that truth is not to be spoken. We can never sacrifice truth on the altar of "getting along." But Paul says it best when he says, "speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (Ephesians 4:15-16).
There is no perfect congregation, and no perfect leaders and no perfect people! Each of us needs to show others the grace that we ourselves have received, and then use our gifts to build the body up, not tear it down. In doing so, God will be glorified and people will be drawn to the light!!