Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
These verses from Romans 12 make very challenging, and I suspect uncomfortable, reading as we measure ourselves against such a standard. In the NIV (1984) the heading given to this section is ‘Love’, in the NIV (2011) ‘Love in Action’ and in the ESV ‘Marks of the True Christian’. It should be noted that these headings are not part of the original manuscripts and therefore they should not be taken as Holy Spirit breathed but they may be helpful in focussing our thoughts.
In this series of Devotionals I am going to run with the ESV and measure my Christian walk against this `Gold’ standard and whichever way we chose to look at the passage ‘Love’ stands right at the front.
‘Love must be sincere’ (NIV) ‘Love must be genuine’ (ESV).
If we believe that God defines love
‘In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ 1 John 4.10
then we have no choice but that our love must be ‘sincere’ and ‘genuine’ . However we have to face the hard truth that this is not easy in practice for we all have that dangerous, inbuilt inclination to put ourselves in number one place thus usurping God and creating him in our own likeness because that makes us feel more comfortable.
Sincere, genuine love is incredibly demanding.
In the case of God it required the giving of his only Son. In the case of the Lord Jesus it involved him dying for you and me – paying the ultimate price. But when it comes to us loving our fellow men, our love all too often tends to be superficial and even self-serving rather than a reflection of God’s love.
Tertullian an early Christian writer and apologist from Carthage writes as follows in his ‘Apologeticus Chapter 39, section 7
‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they [Christians] love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).
It is a remarkable testimony to the genuineness of Christian love in the early church and was presumably in contrast to the way the majority lived and it begs the question ‘Is that how the world sees you and me – Christians – today?
I am fearful that it is an unlikely thing to be said about most of us in our self-centred world.
But that is a reflection on how the world sees us. What about how we see each other for Paul’s words ‘Let love be genuine’ are in the context of his letter, addressed to Christians?
How well do we love each other within the church family. Am I the only one who finds the love Paul is talking about hard to show towards certain people?
As we follow through these verses of the next few weeks we will likely be brought face to face with our inadequacies in this area.
It is possible that I am the only one who finds this level of Christian loving hard but I doubt it!
Breathe on me, breath of God:
fill me with life anew,
that I may love as you have loved
and do as you would do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
until my heart is pure,
until my will is one with yours
to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God;
fulfil my heart’s desire,
until this earthly part of me
glows with your heavenly fire.
Breathe on me, breath of God;
so shall I never die,
but live with you the perfect life
of your eternity.