“Resolved: To live with all my might while I live.” Jonathan Edwards
Romans 12:11 “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”
Paul has been writing in the previous verses about how the Christian is to love by God’s mercy. For the next couple of verses he will speak to the character traits that should embody a Christian, and he begins with character balance and focus as we serve the Lord. Paul had already used the word “zeal” in verse 8 when he said to lead with zeal. Now in this first phrase Paul is reminding us to not be lazy when we work for the Lord. He makes reference to this sort of steadfast working for the kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:58 as well, but he quickly adds that with this steadfast working in the kingdom we are to be passionate and heartfelt too. There must be hands and heart, action and passion. Jonathan Edwards wrote it like this: “Resolved: To live with all my might while I live.” Our focus for this action and passion must be to serve the Lord. One must not win out over the other. We cannot be all heart and no work, nor can we be all work and no heart. Let us set our hearts on God’s promise to us in Jeremiah 29:13-14 as we serve Him today: “You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord.”
Study/Meditation: How do Jesus’ words in Luke 10:27 echo Paul’s words in Romans 12:11? What should this look like in your life?
*Father, help me be passionate and productive in Your kingdom. Show me where I should work and help me develop a heart that is pleasing to You in this work. Amen.
Being married is hard. Being a mother is hard. Being in any relationship for any length of time with any person is hard.
I mean, let’s face it: We all live this life through a lens focused on self, and self often doesn’t like it when self is being mistreated.
Truly this isn’t news to any of us who have lived in adulthood for more than a few years, but what can be news to some of us is that this “self lens” is a lie, and it is the source for more of our life-spun angst than we are many times willing to admit. (more…)
Honoring one another is to be other-centered. #service
Romans 12:10b “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
One sociologist has described the world today as “other-directed.” That is not what Paul is calling us to here. To be “other-directed” is to be focused on what others are doing and saying and how they are living in order to determine the best course for our lives. Showing honor to the brethren is not a weak approach to living where we are not anchored in God’s Word and His ways. Honoring one another is being “other-centered;” it is focusing on the needs and desires of others ahead of self and working to meet those needs. Again Paul is speaking to all of these directives in the context of love. We love each other by showing them honor, and this is oftentimes when we may not think they deserve it. We seek not to judge whether to honor others in our service and in our love or withhold it because of past hurts, but to give it selflessly because that is exactly what our Father has done for us. This is an expression of genuine love. If we love each other the way God wants us to love, then we will give of ourselves freely, seeking to honor one another in service as an expression of that love.
Study/Meditation: What does the bible say about honoring even those who aren’t necessarily worthy of that honor? (Read 1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Corinthians 12:21-26, and James 2:1-7)
*Father, show me how I might honor my Christian brothers and sisters today. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to do so. Amen.
Choosing who to #love with brotherly affection is not an option in the family of God.
Romans 12:10a “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
Most people don’t realize that brotherly love between peoples who had no racial, familial, or ethnic ties was absolutely unheard of in ancient times. Paul was calling his Christian brothers and sisters to something he knew was out of the realm of their comfort levels. Consequently, we shouldn’t be so surprised that we are being called to the same thing today, even when we look out across even our own churches and see people we really don’t want to love. God has not commanded something He doesn’t expect, nor does he command something He hasn’t equipped us to do. Augustine prayed this to God, “Lord, command what You will, and give what You command.” Remember that this section of Paul’s letter began with the phrase, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” (Romans 12:1) God has mandated that we not only get along with one another and serve one another with gladness, but He commands that we love one another as family. So, even though we all may seem fully unlovable at times, we lean on the mercies of our Father who gives us the hearts to do what He commands. We are the family of God. We share Him, and we love each other for that reason above all others.
Study/Meditation: What makes love for each other a “family love”? How might that look on a practical level?
*Father, thank You for bringing me into Your family. Help me to love my brothers and sisters as You command that I should. Amen.
Authentic #love discriminates.
Romans 12:9b “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
In order to correctly deduce Paul’s meaning in the second half of verse 9, we must understand that in the original Greek, he did not begin a new sentence. In fact, verse 9 should read more like, “Let love be genuine, abhorring what is evil and holding fast to what is good.” Therefore his reference to making a distinction between good and evil is in direct relation to displaying authentic love toward one another. In other words, love discriminates between right and wrong, between good and evil. True love cannot be expressed in glossing over what is evil. Non-discriminating love isn’t love at all; it’s just universal tolerance. Love may choose to manifest itself in the face of evil, and it often does, but it will not ignore the distinction between good and evil. As Ligon Duncan said, “True love has its eyes wide open as to right and wrong, enemies and friends, and love manifests itself in such a way that those distinctions are not evaporated.” (“A Call to Love and Other-Centeredness,” Ligon Duncan, www.fpjackson.org)
Study/Meditation: How do you show love in a practical way while still making clear distinctions between right and wrong? Why is making this distinction vital in the Christian walk? (Hint: Read 1 John 5:2)
*Father, I look to Your Word to discriminate between good and evil. Give me the wisdom and discernment to make those distinctions so that I can correctly love Your people. Amen.
Genuine #love is displayed as well as felt.
Romans 12:9a “Let love be genuine.”
If we look closer at the previous verses where Paul is addressing spiritual gifts, he qualifies each with an admonition on using them: “…if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8) Then, just as he does elsewhere, Paul follows his teaching on using spiritual gifts with an exhortation to love, but he is very specific on what this love should look like. He had made reference to it in the previous verses, and now he reminds us to serve one another in love, a love that is proven genuine or authentic in its selflessness and fruit. Each spiritual gift is demonstrated in the heartfelt display of its use. In other words, all that we are as Christians is bound up in our love for one another; it is centered on the genuineness of our desire for the good of each other and is manifested in the use of our gifts for one another’s well-being. Paul might say to us today, “Use the gifts God has graciously given to you for each other because you authentically love one another, just as God first loved you.”
Study/Meditation: The negative perspective on Paul’s admonition would be, “Don’t be hypocritical in your love.” Read Matthew 15:7-9 and 23:25-28. What were Jesus’ thoughts on hypocritical behavior? How can you be certain that your love is genuine?
*Father, help me to love genuinely, serving my brothers and sisters with a heart that loves unconditionally. Forgive me where I fail to do this and give me the wisdom to see those areas that need to change. Amen.