Romans 12:9-21

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.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” 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 on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Observation

  • Our love is to be genuine.
  • We are to hate evil.
  • We are to hate evil as strongly as possible.
  • We are to cling to what is good.
  • We are to love each other with a brotherly love.
  • We are to show each other honor.
  • We are to honor others more than they honor us.
  • We are to be extremely eager and determined.
  • We are to show strong feeling in our service to the Lord.
  • We are to rejoice in the hope that we have.
  • We are to be patient during trials and problems.
  • We are to pray constantly.
  • We are to contribute to the needs of our fellow Christian brothers.
  • We are to seek out ways to demonstrate hospitality.
  • We are to bless those who persecute us.
  • We are to not to curse those who persecute us.
  • We are to rejoice with people who are rejoicing.
  • We are to weep with those who are morning.
  • We are to get alone with each other.
  • We are not to have an insulting attitude towards others people by think we are better, smarter, or more important than other people.
  • We are to associate with the lowly.
  • We are not to think we are wise.
  • We are not to seek revenge.
  • We should strive to do what everyone thinks is right.
  • We are to live in peace with everyone as much as we can.
  • We are never to avenge ourselves
  • We are to leave revenge to God.
  • Vengeance belongs to God.
  • God is the one who will repay evil.
  • We are for care for our enemies by feeding and giving drink to them when they have need.
  • In doing good to our enemies we will cause them to suffer for the evil they have done.
  • We are not to allow evil to overtake us.
  • We are to overtake evil with good.

Interpretation

We believe we are basically good. We believe we are basically loving and kind. We believe the times we do not show mercy is in the cause of justice. We think we are justified in withholding love from those who do not deserve it or will abuse it. This is the way the culture we live in has taught us to think. We forget that Paul started this chapter by saying that we were not to be conformed to the thought patterns of this world but we are to transform our thinking so we can understand the will of God.

This chapter becomes clear when we remember the context of what has preceded it. God has shown us love and mercy when we did not deserve it. We have and continue to abuse His love. Yet He continues to grant us mercy. If we understand that, how can our response be less? But it often is. As Paul said earlier the works of the law do not bring our salvation. Therefore, any good works we perform are the result of the grace and mercy we have received.

How do we express our love toward God in a practical way? We express it by loving each other with a brotherly love. Paul seemly sets up a competition. “Outdo one another in showing love.” You are trying to outdo me. I am trying to outdo you. That is what can truly be called a friendly competition. There truly are no losers.

Paul says not to be lazy in our exuberance. We are to be passionate in our service to God. Business and career consultants, even time management consultants all tell us to set goals. We are told to put a picture of what you are working for on your mirror or refrigerator. That will continually remind us of our goal. We are even told what types of goals are good goals. They are specific, and measurable. We are to set goals and continually work toward greater and greater goals. That is not what Paul is saying here. We are not striving for a goal. We strive to  serve our God. Service to God manifests itself in service to others. This is not a goal to achieve but a service to render. Our time on earth is short. There is no time to waste. Therefore, Paul exhorts us to not be slothful and to work. Work at your vocation, Work at doing your best. Work in at loving and serving. To paraphrase “The Man of La Mancha,” The mission of each true Christian, his duty, nay, privilege is to serve God and others. But as this is beyond our strength we must be in constant prayer, asking that God bolster our hearts and strength us so we do not fail.

Paul tells us to let our love be genuine. The love we show is not to be a false love, a put on act; it is to be a genuine love. That does not mean that love is not something we do not need to work at. Genuine love is not a gooey feeling either. Genuine love is outward focused. False love is inward focused. What is so often called genuine love is not because it focuses on how our feelings. We often describe love as: “I feel warm inside.” “I get a tingly feeling inside.” “My heart skips a beat.” All these statements reflect an inward focus. Paul describes genuine love as outward focused. It feels what others feel. It blesses others even when they curse you. It hates evil. It not only hates evil it abhors it.

Genuine love helps those in need and seeks out ways to show hospitality. Genuine love does not mean love without effort. We often need to work at making our love genuine. This is demonstrated in the short list Paul give on how genuine behaves:

  • Blessing those who persecute you
  • Sharing in each other’s grief and joy
  • Living in harmony with everyone
  • Associate with the lowly
  • Not to be think of yourself as wise
  • Be humble and not proud even of your humility
  • Not avenge yourself but leave it to God
  • Care for your enemies needs
  • Overcoming evil with good

Anyone who thinks they can do all those things themselves has never tried and/or is lying to themselves. This list is totally contrary to the our nature. It is God who, by His word, restrains us from evil and subdues our bitterness.

Application

Christ took our sins and burdens on himself. What better way can we imitate Christ than by taking the burdens of others, rejoicing when they rejoice and weeping when they weep. We should, as much as possible, sympathize with each other regardless of our own situation. We should transfer to ourselves the feelings of each other, regardless whether it is grief or joy.

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