Romans 12:9-13 “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.”11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Romans chapter 12 is a powerful chapter describing the connection between belief and behavior. Paul starts in verses 1-2 by saying that the Christian mind is a transformed one, different from the pattern and practice of the world around us, that our lives are renewed through an ongoing relationship with the Redeemer. He then goes on in verses 3-8 to explain how that principle is worked out in the way we think about ourselves. Paul reminds us to be sober minded, having a balance in our thinking so that we don’t err too low or too high. Today we are often out of touch with reality when it comes to an honest evaluation of who we are in Christ. When we swing the pendulum wide in either direction we fail to strike an honest balance. Some swing to low and in putting themselves down fail to see the destruction that comes with self-debasement they end up living life at the bottom of the pit. Others swing high, elevate themselves to that dangerous and lofty but false status only to set themselves up to fail and fall to the bottom. Transformation starts in our thinking of who we are but Paul doesn’t stop there, He goes on in verse 9-13 to talk about how the transformed mind having an honest view of itself will begin to think about and treat others outside of itself. Today we often start by telling people to love others yet love for others really starts with how we view ourselves. How we view self impacts how we love others and an unbalanced view of self leads to an unbalanced love for others. Transformation isn’t just a principle but a practice that links both our thinking and our living. It culminates in sincere love which transforms us from the inside out as we learn first to love ourselves and then those around us. The reality of a transformed mind is demonstrated in an outflow of love, belief really does effects behavior and love always leads to life change. Paul uses an interesting word to describe the love that we are to have for others, “sincere”, in other words it must be the real deal. We live in a world full of hypocritical love where it is easier to pretend and act than be real and genuine. Our word “hypocrite” comes from the word that the Greeks of Paul’s day used to describe actors on a stage. They would put on masks to hide their real identity allowing them to play different parts in the same play. Paul speaks into the heart of relationships when he says they need to be real, we are not just playing a part we are touching a heart. Pretending to love is not a new problem as seen in the kiss that Judas shared with Jesus, pretending while he was plotting. Today we live in a world veiled with a plastic veneer of love, where we hear the whispering sweet talk only to be lured away and deceived by lust not love. Why is the world pretending, what is its real motive, to manipulate and take. The difference between lust and love is that lust is a taker and sham, where love is a giver and sharer. When it comes to loving others Paul reminds us that sincere love:
- Seeks what is spiritually best
It might seem strange for the first thing that is said about love to be that it hates what is evil and clinging to what is good. Yet how needed in a world where the pattern of love all around us is one of making easy, selfish choices. Just as morality has been thrown out the window in making individual choices in this post-modern world of ours, so “love” has been downgraded to a relationship of convenience, rather than a relationship that reflects God’s righteousness. Sincere love actively seeks a relationship with others that reflects the character of God and reveals His relationship with us. Purity in the way we behave together, politeness in the way we speak to one another, patience in the way we work out the priorities of our friendship. Loving others means that we will seek those things that are the best for others and their spiritual and moral well-being. This involves esteeming others through honoring them and focusing on their good while we spur them on to better and higher things. This aspect of loving others by honoring them is best seen in the way David treated Saul. Even though Saul was trying to kill David and David had already been anointed the next king of Israel he still treated Saul with absolute respect and dignity as the current king.
- Doesn’t Surrender
The pattern of worldly love is often fickle, hot one day cold and indifferent the next, in contrast, Christian love should be committed and reliable. Loving each other with genuine affection means to be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Today we have traded the consistent for the comfortable and convenient yet real love is there through thick and thin, through the good times and the bad. Jesus showed his devotion and love for His mother even through the agony of the cross asking John to take care of her. Sincere love doesn’t just drift along in life, but actively seeks ways to expressing itself. Real love is free to serve the Lord enthusiastically with a realization that we “get to” instead of the mentality of we “have to”. True love deploys to serve in all weather, realistically knowing that there will be tough times to come for all sorts of reasons whether spiritual, emotional or physical. Love is patient in affliction because it focuses on the joy that we have through our hope in God. As Christians we need to remember that we have some amazing promises made to us by an amazing God. This means that we can know with certainty that our life in the end does amount to something. What we do in this life will echo on in eternity and God has stored up for us an inheritance so wonderful that it is beyond imagination. Sincere love can endure tough times with others, sticking with them and standing by them through the storms. This does not mean that we suppress our feelings about what is going on in our life, as many people teach, or that we are to stoically ignore the pain that permeates the lives of people. Instead scripture reminds us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. The bible says that we are to share in others feelings freeing them by letting them out so they can be dealt with in a constructive way. When we don’t let others express their hurts we only add to their pain. Sincere love is open to expressions of grief, anger, frustration, and is not afraid to partake in the pain of others. We, like the disciples, prefer the party to the pain, so we partake in the triumphant entry yet fall asleep in the garden. Yet when did Christ really want them to be there, in the agony of anguish, what about us, will we holdfast and be devoted through the thick and the thin?
- Serves through the practical
According to Paul the practice of love is practical, love seeks to meet people’s needs where they are, it does not just exist in the realm of theological concept but in the harsh realities of daily life. Love is eager to practice hospitality, and practice requires participation. Today we often fumble around with the principles of love while washing our hands of the practice of love. 1 John 3:17 says you can’t claim to love God when you turn your back on a fellow Christian while having the means to ease their suffering. Sincere love is generous, willing to open up its heart and its wallet to meet others where they are. Paul now reminds us that love steps across all bounds when he says “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.” The pattern of love in the world around us is that we love those who are lovable, those who are part of our group, who meet our criteria. But the transformed Christian mind is not conceited; it extends love to all because it knows that sincerity and snobbery are totally inconsistent with one another! The famous parable of the Good Samaritan crosses every human boundary expressing love at work through the message that our neighbor is anyone in need, and that we are to love them where and however we find them. Today will you go through the motions of love or will you really love?