July 8, 2014.
“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 and seek to show hospitality.”
As I am reading through the bible again, today I should get to this section of Romans. Chapter 12 is a popular chapter for many Christians to go to because it opens with a passage that talks about how were are to present our bodies as living sacrifices of worship and ends with a sermon-on-the-mount-esk bless those who curse you passage. But this is the section between the opening and the closing that I think gets overlooked often just because of the powerhouse chapter in which it is included. There are a lot of teachings that Paul packs in this little section that, if not examined closely, might be overlooked on a quick read through. Lets take it little by little and apply the word of God to our lives.
“Let love be genuine”
Simple, right? Wrong. At least in my experience. It is almost surprising to me how well we can fake love. Love is not what you typically see it portrayed as in our society. It’s not simply a good, warm feeling inside. It is a choice. It is a sacrifice. It is genuine care about another person. When Paul says “let love be genuine,” he is implying that love can be faked, and a fake love is not the Christian way, no matter how good it looks.
“Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
This is a teaching that we don’t like to follow. “Just love everyone, and it will all be good. God loves you, so just don’t worry about your sins. He will save you.” Indeed he will, and already has, if we accept his invitation. We can not ride the line of sin, seeing how close we can get without falling in, and still be pleasing God. Abhor what is evil. That is a strong word. It does not need to be overlooked. Abhor what is evil. We have painted sin to be a trivial thing, glossing over it or even approving of it in some cases. Friends, this ought not to be. Isaiah gave this warning to the children of Israel, who had done much like we have:
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”
Sin is evil, and we do not need to underestimate its power over us. But more than that, it is not enough just to abhor evil; we must also hold fast to what is good. God is not interested in a lukewarm Christian. “Well, I don’t drink or smoke or sleep around with a bunch of people, so I’m good.” It is good to avoid sin, yes, but the most moral people on this earth who do not follow Christ are still lost. That’s hard for people, even Christians, to accept.
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
We must hold fast to that which is good and not be apathetic towards the Christian walk.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
The fact that Paul had to write this here seems to me that they needed to improve in this area. When he writes to the church at Thessalonica, he says “you have no need that I write to you about brotherly love.” That’s some reputation right there. But unfortunately, as we also are today, brotherly affection is not always present. This is probably due to the fact that it can be hard to get along with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Think about your biological family. How well do you get along with all of them? Some do well, but many do not. As Christians, we too are a family, and with family comes some growing issues that we need to work through.
One way to work on this is to “outdo one another in showing honor.” I like how Paul follows this charge of brotherly affection with showing honor. If there is one thing that we are to try to do better than those around us, it is sacrificing for those around us. Showing honor. This will boost church family moral and make it easier to get along with the people we should be closest too.
“Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Ah yes, zeal and fervor. Many people today knock on zeal. They attribute zeal to the Pharisees and shy away from it. But Paul was never one to shy away from zeal. Before he became a Christian, Paul was very zealous for the Jewish faith (and yes, he was a Pharisee). When he became a Christian, this aspect did not change. Even a causal reading through the book of Acts will display his zeal throughout his life. We too are to be zealous. People remember the rebukes that Jesus said to the Pharisees, but they do not often remember what Jesus told the people concerning the Pharisees:
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He wasn’t saying that every thing they did was wrong. He was saying that they were doing it for the wrong reasons, not motivated by love but by greed and want of power, and the Lord searches the heart. The Pharisees upheld the law. Jesus too upheld the law in all aspects. We are under the law of Christ, and our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. Let us always serve the Lord.
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Do you rejoice much as a Christian? Do you have hope? I am sometimes lacking in these two areas. Don’t even get me started on patience and prayer. But Paul puts rejoicing, hope, patience and prayer all in one phrase here. I would conclude that there is an intimate link between these concepts. I think that link is prayer. It’s hard to rejoice, have hope or be patient if we are not talking to the Father, reminding ourselves of the big picture and looking ahead to the promises.
Read this phrase again, and as you do, imagine what a person who practiced this would look like. Imagine their demeanor and how they carry themselves. Imagine their personality. Imagine if that person was you. What would you change? How would you be different? Now, try to become that person.
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
I’ve said it many times before, but I am going to keep on saying it: we are made for each other. We were not intended to stand alone. Notice how Paul here calls for our interconnection and helping one another. Seek to show hospitality, not just when the opportunity arises on its own. We live in a society where people don’t ask for things that they need simply because it is an embarrassing thing to have to ask. But one thing is for sure, we all need something. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s how we are designed. Even the people who you think have it most together need something. Sometimes, they are the ones that need it the most. Seek to show hospitality.
There is a lot to digest in these four short verses, so I would suggest you read though the passage several times and perhaps keep this post bookmarked as a reminder. Don’t just read it once, say “yeah, that would be good to do,” and then forget about it. Not because of my words, but because of our Lord’s word. These are instructions on how to be a Christian and spread the gospel to the lost. They are more than suggestions. Let us do our best to apply them to our lives. I believe we will find joy when we do.
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 12.
Be strong and courageous.