Romans 12: 9-13 “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.”
Among God’s many blessings and means of grace on earth, fellowship with godly brothers and sisters is among the most fruitful. I’m sure that every single one of us has that brother or sister to whom we owe a lot of what we are today. Love for them is natural in that sense. We owe them as they have done so much for us. And love towards them, in such a case, is the natural response. But there’s something important and interesting about the love that the Bible talks about. It is something we can neither emulate from examples without nor generate through will within, but yet it is something that God expects from us. Furthermore, it is not enough that we have some form of love but we ought to have genuine LOVE as Paul puts it. Now, why would he ask us to have something that we can’t generate?
Paul hasn’t just asked us to have genuine love. In fact, by the time we read through Romans and reach chapter 12, Paul has already given us the means of Grace by which genuine love is generated. He gives us THEOLOGY. He gives us that which enables us to love God, God’s Word.
Paul gives us the gospel truth and teaches us to align our minds in accordance with that truth. Through his writings, he shows us how to “Seek first the Kingdom of God”. In Colossians 3:2, he says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. So it is not enough that we learn the gospel truth that Paul imparts in the first 11 chapters, but he urges us to respond to them. “OUTDO one another in showing honor”, he says. He doesn’t just say show honor. That is not enough. But when he walks into the church, he expects to see brothers and sisters engaged in a race. A race not to show off wealth, not to boast of our assets, not to wear the costliest clothes, not to highlight one’s social status or standing. A race, rather, to show honor to one another. He paints the picture of a selfless man or woman who is consumed by love for his/her neighbor and puts a great deal of effort into honoring fellow brothers and sisters, ie, his local church. Paul doesn’t merely use the word love and then leaves it as it is, allowing for ambiguity on the part of the reader who interprets it. He explains what it actually looks like.
He says, “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”. Love is absent where deceit or evil is present. We can’t have this love in us if we hold fast to what is of the world. He recommends that we hold fast to what is good, hold fast to what God has provisioned for our edification. Hold fast to the teachings of scripture. While it is true that we can’t, by our efforts or by any means of the world, generate genuine love in us, the miraculous scripture can. The scripture most certainly can birth in us genuine love and zeal to serve our Lord.
Paul shows another implication of love within the local church. Being prayerful and patient in tribulation. We hold one another in prayer, we pray for the brethren in their needs and difficulties. But we don’t stop there. We don’t stop at praying for them, but we serve them. We contribute to the needs of the saints. On one end of the spectrum, we have mega-churches and false teachers who teach prosperity. They take immense amounts of money from their members and in return give them false hope. On the other end, we might have the tendency to be stingy people. The text isn’t just talking about money, although that could very well be one of the implications. Whatever it may be, men of God, let us be a giving people. Let us be generous in our giving to one another’s needs. Let us be those people who run to people in need and try to outdo one another in showing honour.
Here’s a portion of the church covenant that members of my Church uphold:
“We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember one another in prayer especially our leaders; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian compassion in affections and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation, mindful of the commands of our Saviour to secure it without delay and work to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. We also resolve to practice personal and family devotions; to educate and train our children in the Christian faith; to support the efforts of the church to prepare the next generation to put their confidence in God; to seek the salvation of our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, and of all the world. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, the cause of reformation and revival, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.”
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