Romans 12:9–21comment (0)
January 5, 2006
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: Romans 12:9–21
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Live in Love
Let Love Be Genuine (9)
Paul begins with an all-important statement about the quality of the love that is to characterize the church: “Love must be without hypocrisy.” The word here for “love” is agape, which, to this point, had been used in Romans only for divine love (5:5; 8:35, 39), except in 8:28 where it is used for man’s love for God. But here the word is used to indicate the kind of love Christians are to show to others — a God-like love that loves regardless of the circumstances, a deliberate love that decides it will keep loving even if it is rebuffed. We are challenged to live out the highest love and to do so with the highest sincerity.
Paul also explains love’s morality: “Detest evil; cling to what is good.” One might think love is soft on evil. Not so. Evil is to be hated. Sincere love demands God-honoring moral resolve about good and evil. Christian love is more than a feeling; it leads to a hatred of evil and a tenacious attachment to what is good.
Let Love Be Generous (10–13)
Next Paul mentions love’s commitment in the church: “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.” As a spiritual family of faith, the church is to exhibit the intimacy and tenderness toward one another that mark the best earthly families. The natural outcome will then be to “outdo one another in showing love.” Healthy families have a mutual respect for one another. They defer to one another and take pleasure in the elevation of other family members. This is how it ought to be in our churches.
Paul also challenges us with love’s energetic expression. The believer is to be “fervent,” or set on fire, as he fulfills his duty to love others. Our love is to be dispensed with burning energy toward those around us. Such fervent loving calls for our best and is costly. True love labors.
The three exhortations in verse 12 combine to encourage believers to “stay the course” in their fight with the world. We need to rejoice in the hope of a glory that is secure and certain, exhibit patience and endurance when affliction comes and give ourselves to prayer.
Paul mentions love’s care in verse 13. Our care for brothers and sisters in Christ should reach down right into our wallets and purses and cost us. Paul presents this as a privilege rather than a sacrifice because the word “share” is one of our great Christian words, koinonia, which suggests a common sharing or fellowship. When Christ’s churches are living in love, the needs of the people are being met through sharing and caring. Love’s care is exhibited by “pursuing hospitality.” The loving believer does not wait for the stranger to show up but goes out and seeks him.
Let Love Express Humility (14–16)
These verses call for a caring heart, vulnerable to the world. A Christian who only associates with people of the same intellectual or professional interests is not living in obedience to the Word of God. We are to have a heart open to the world. We are to pray for those who persecute us, to enter others’ joys and sorrows and to associate with everyone regardless of his station in life.
Let Love Promote Peace (17–21)
These verses are contrary to our sinful human nature. Our conditioned reflex is to hit back. Here Paul instructs believers not to seek revenge; they are to trust God because He avenges wrong. He is a perfectly just God, who will not ultimately allow evil to go unpunished. We can therefore trust Him to avenge any evil that people may do to us.
Not only should believers trust God, they should also commit to do good. God-like sacrificial love compels the believer to meet needs, even those of his enemies. This kind of radical, countercultural, Spirit-enabled living can soften the heart of the “enemy” and can cause him to seek reconciliation with the Lord. Verse 21 wraps up by challenging the believer to battle constantly the tendency to conform to this evil age. But more than the purely negative quality of resistance to evil is needed. God calls us to be active in using the grace of the gospel and the power of the Spirit to win victories over the evil of this world.