Who in your church would you prefer not to associate with? The poor woman who always talks your ear off and asks you for money and wants to give you a hug? The mentally challenged guy who always complains? Or the awkward, nerdy woman with the strange facial ticks? You know who I mean. The person you hope you can avoid on Sunday. The person you’d prefer not to have to talk to. Consider this verse:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight (Romans 12:16 ESV).
The NASB translates it this way:
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
The NASB is more accurate because the Greek word for “mind” is used twice in the verse.
So when Paul says “be of the same mind toward one another” or “do not be haughty in mind”, he means we should think of one another as equally valuable in Jesus’ sight. We should have the same mind toward everyone. In other words, I don’t look at one person and think he’s on the same plane with me and then look at another person and think he is below me, or that I’m better than him.
The word “haughty” can be translated “high-minded.” Don’t be high-minded toward others, thinking you are higher than or superior to others. We are to associate with all believers, even those who, in this world’s eyes, may be “lowly.”
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Here are some various Bible translations translations of the command to “Associate with the lowly”:
- “…be willing to associate with people of low position” (NIV)
- “…enjoy the company of ordinary folks” (LB)
- “…condescend to men of low estate” (KJV)
- “Associate with those who are humble” (NKJV)
- “…go about with humble folk” (NEB)
- “…accept humble duties” (TEV)….. a footnote reads, “make friends with humble people”
- “…make friends with those who seem unimportant” (NCV)
- “Mix with humble people” (SEB)
- “Make friends with nobodies” (Message)
William Barclay says, “The Christian Church was the only place where master and slave sat side by side. The Christian Church is still the place where all earthly distinctions are gone, for with God there is no respect of persons”.
A few months ago, an unbeliever asked me, “Would your church welcome anyone?” I said, “Yes! We want all kinds of people to come.” Then they said, “How about a homeless person? Would you welcome a homeless person?” I said “Yes! Definitely. We would welcome anyone.”
Every human being is valuable to Jesus. He created us in his own image. We shouldn’t look down on anyone. It’s so easy to look down on others and not want to associate with them. That woman isn’t in my social class. That guy smells horrible. Why does that punk wear his hair like that? That guy talks like a hick. That weird family homeschools. I can’t believe that family sends their kids to public school, or they don’t vaccinate or do vaccinate.
People in the world constantly look down on one another. When I was in high school, I was in a rock band called The Signets. When a rival band called The Gravitations would play at a dance, we’d go and stand off to the side, arms folded, judging the heck out of them. “That was the wrong chord” I’d yell to one of my bandmates above the loud music. “Yeah, and they’re doing it too slow.” I’d criticize the way they stood or the lead singer’s haircut. And when we’d play the Gravitations would be off to the side, looking down on us.
Jesus didn’t think like that. He was God, yet he wasn’t high-minded or haughty. He emptied himself and became a human being to save us. He associated with all kinds – tax collectors and prostitutes – the despised in society. We are to imitate Jesus – to regard each other with the same mind – to see every human as a valuable to God. And especially every believer. Believers are apple of God’s eye, and his treasured possession, and God rejoices over each one of his children with loud singing (Zeph 3:17).
Here’s what to do. Next Sunday, when you see that person you’d rather avoid, make a beeline to them. Welcome them. Talk to them. Associate with the lowly. Don’t be high-minded.