Last week we began our trek through the application portion of Romans. Everything we will be told to do in this part of this epistle is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit which means none but the redeemed can truly walk as Paul instructs. However, we all know that behaviors and speech that looks like Christian life can be imitated by false brothers, so our on-going mission is to keep an eye ourselves to make sure we see reasons for the hope we profess.
Verses 9-18 are a series of short statements of instructions, very much New Testament Proverbs as he contrasts good behavior and attitudes with those which are bad.
Romans 12:9-18 (HCSB) Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.
Love is to be without hypocrisy. These two are polar opposites. Worldly love is self-seeking and must be hypocritical, so we don’t lose face. We give birthday and Christmas gifts because we want others to think well of us much of the time; usually feeling guilty if our gift isn’t valued as highly as another or liked as much as another. This represents self-love and is not biblical love, which is to seek what’s best for the person. Love in truth can only truly be done when it’s done by the Spirit.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Do we stop and ponder what is good, what is evil? Recall how at the end of a long road filled with much sorrow, Joseph declared to his brothers that though they meant it for evil, God meant it for good. Being locked up on false charges after surviving being thrown in a hole and sold as a slave, who would have thought Joseph’s life was good? We are short-sighted, selfish people – that’s why we can’t see the good our Lord intends when we experience something unpleasant, which we think is evil. That’s why we must be people of the Book wherein our God has revealed what is good and what is evil, so we might live as wise a serpents in this evil age, not being led astray by its agents.
Show brotherly or family affection with brotherly love. There is One who is closer than a brother and He shows us what love is. He disciplined Himself, withstood temptation that would cause us to crumble, allowed creature He called into existence to mistreat and murder Him. Betrayed by those He called to be apostles. After Peter had denied Him the third time, he caught the eye of the Lord Jesus looking at him from across the courtyard. Is was not the look of condemnation but of love, knowing the frailty of the man yet loving him such that he became a stout man of God. Affirming one another is not the bedrock of this type of love, teaching, exhorting, rebuking – all with the aim of heralding Christ more clearly – is.
To out-do each other in showing honor – esteeming others more than ourselves – is another aspect of biblical love. This is what the Lord taught in Luke 14 when He advised people not to take the seat of honor at a wedding feast, but wait to see if the host invites you to that seat. What James (chapter 2) was talking about when told us not to give preference to the rich man in the assembly but associate with the poor. How is that working out in most churches? Yet the counsel of God is to out-do one another in showing honor.