But 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.
In bold, in our passage this morning, are two further marks of the True Christian that are linked and probably challenge the majority of us as Paul moves from more internal marks to those which actually require of us specific outward action. We cannot share with those in need or practice hospitality without cost and practical activity.
They do not however stand on their own, as it were in a different category, but surely rise from sincere love, hating evil, clinging to good and indeed all the characteristics we have looked at so far for they are the practical outworking of our inward theology and relationships.
There are clearly some very homogeneous churches where members/partners come from very similar backgrounds but the majority will be gatherings of diverse people with diverse needs and Paul’s challenge to ‘Share with the Lord’s people who are in need’ will be relevant to most if not all in some regard. The fulfilment of this ‘command’ will require perceptiveness from those who are blessed with much to see those who are in need and it will require humility from those who are in need to acknowledge the fact. This means that we all need to abandon, or at least sit lightly on our, often treasure, self-sufficiency.
The early Church practiced this behaviour to a high degree.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No-one claimed that any of his possessions were his own but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. Acts 4.32-34b
It was a unique time, their numbers were small but growing fast, they were up against the power of both the Jewish and Roman authorities and there was no welfare state, all of which clearly drove them together.
We cannot replicate that situation and the challenges it threw up but I wonder, are things any different in 2022 and should we be demonstrating such care and concern for others?
Further we read in Acts 2.46-47
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
As the early Christians lived like this they experienced great blessing. They practised hospitality and as a result really got to know each other. They were focussed on the resurrection and the person of Christ and they experienced daily additions to the number of believers.
This should make us think! Are we open to an old way of doing things (the passages above from the Book of Acts) which actually would be very radical in our ‘me’ centred communities and to some extent our ‘me’ centred churches.
Such living is demanding on time, money and resources but could it be something that would begin to turn the world the right way up?