Romans 12:9-13 ESV
“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.”
The word “love” here is agape love which means to prefer what God prefers, for it focuses in moral preference. It also means benevolence and goodwill, both of which have to do with seeking the good of others, i.e. what is in their best interest; to seek the welfare of others, i.e. God’s best for them. So, this love is not an emotion. It is action. It is what we do, not what we feel.
This love, too, must be genuine, not faked, not phony, i.e. not hypocritical. In other words, we don’t pretend to love people to their faces and then sin against them behind their backs when they aren’t looking. We don’t pretend to love people only for our own purposes, in order to use them, or to get something out of them, or to manipulate them to our advantage.
And, part of loving people, and loving God, is to abhor (hate) what is evil, and to cling to (hold fast to) what is good. For, this is healthful and beneficial for the welfare, both physical and spiritual, of both ourselves and others.
And, the way in which we demonstrate our hatred of evil is that we resist it, we flee from it, and we don’t let it be a part of our lives. We don’t yield to it.
When we love others with this kind of love, though, it does not necessarily mean that they will love us back. They may return our love with hate. They may return our kindness with meanness. And, they may attempt to take advantage of our kindness towards them in order to harm us in some way. But, we are not to let that discourage us.
We must continue to love others with God’s love, and we must continue in our service to the Lord. We must continue to hold out hope for the salvation of human lives, and to believe that God can change hearts as he changed ours. And, we must keep on loving, and keep on giving of ourselves to God and to meeting the legitimate needs of others, and we must keep on praying for them.
Romans 12:14-18 ESV
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”
This word “bless” carries with it a similar meaning as “love,” for they both have to do with doing what is good for others, as God defines good. It literally means to speak reason which confers benefit (what is beneficial). So, this isn’t about going around saying “nicey-nice” things to people to make them feel good about themselves even while they are living in sin.
It means to speak truth to people for their good, for what will benefit them morally, emotionally, spiritually and/or physically. So, this means we won’t lie to people. We won’t feed their flesh. We won’t say what they want to hear, but we will say what they need to hear, but in love, and with kindness. And, we will consider what is in their best interest over and above our own reputation, or whether or not they will love us in return.
And, we are to do this, not just for our friends, or just for those who will love us back, but for our persecutors, for those who use us, and who lie to us, and who do evil against us. We are not to repay their evil with evil, but with good, as God defines good, i.e. with what is beneficial for them morally, spiritually, and emotionally, etc.
Regarding our attitude towards others, we are not to think of ourselves as superior to others or to look down on them. For, we are all flesh and blood. We are all sinners at birth. Not one of us is righteous in our own sight. We who are saved by God’s grace are saved by his grace, not of our own doing. So we have no reason to boast that we somehow secured our own salvation.
But, this doesn’t mean that we lie to people or that we withhold the truth from them so that they don’t think we are thinking we are superior. And, this doesn’t mean we continue in sinful practices just so we can relate to people, or so that we become like them in their sin just so that they don’t think we are spiritual snobs.
We must still live holy lives, separate (unlike, different) from the world, no matter what the world (or the worldly church) thinks about us. We must still walk in obedience to our Lord, doing what he says, and we must still speak to others what is for their wellbeing, i.e. for their good, as God defines good.
And, with regard to living in harmony with others and to living peaceably with all, this does not mean we compromise our faith or our morals or biblical standards or the Word of God. We remain faithful to our Lord, steadfast in faith, walking in purity of devotion to Jesus Christ, living holy lives pleasing to God, above reproach.
Thus, harmony and peace must first and foremost be with God and with his word, and then we live in harmony and at peace with others as much as is possible under those circumstances. We don’t demand our own way, but we consider others and their needs and how we can minister God’s love and grace to them in a way that will bring honor and glory to God, and in a way that will show love and kindness to others.
If Our Enemy Is
Romans 12:19-21 ESV
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
This summarizes what has already been said. We don’t return hate with hate but with love. We treat our enemies with kindness, loving them as God loves us. We do for them and to them what is for their wellbeing, not to harm them, but for their good, as God defines good. And, we leave wrath to God.
So, in all practicality, if our enemy is hungry or thirsty, we feed him, and we give him something to drink. Basically, we meet his fundamental and basic needs. But, this isn’t just on a physical or emotional level. This is on a spiritual level, too, for this is what it means to bless those who persecute us, too, to feed them spiritually with what will be for their spiritual wellbeing.
And, this is the meaning of “encouragement,” too. For, to encourage is to inspire, embolden, urge, incite, foster, help, and persuade, as well as it is to hearten, cheer, and reassure. So, to encourage is to speak the truth in love. So, loving others is not just about doing nice things for them, but it is to do what is best for them, for their good, as God defines good.
And, when we love our enemies with God’s love, and we do for them and to them what is for their good, despite how they treat us in return, and we speak to them reason, which is of God, which is for their good, then God will use this in their lives to convict their hearts of sin, which may, in turn, then bring them to repentance.
But, in all of this we must guard our hearts against all evil so that we are not overcome with evil trying to help another out of the pit of sin. So, in all our attempts to demonstrate God’s love to others, in all genuineness and purity of mind and purpose, we must make certain we are putting on the armor of God so that we are not overtaken with evil, but so that we can overcome evil with good.
O Could I Speak the Matchless Worth
Author: Samuel Medley (1789)
O could I speak the matchless worth,
O could I sound the glories forth
Which in my Savior shine,
I’d soar, and touch the heav’nly strings,
and vie with Gabriel while he sings
in notes almost divine,
in notes almost divine.
I’d sing the precious blood he spilt,
my ransom from the dreadful guilt
of sin, and wrath divine:
I’d sing his glorious righteousness,
in which all perfect, heav’nly dress
my soul shall ever shine,
my soul shall ever shine.
I’d sing the characters he bears,
and all the forms of love he wears,
exalted on his throne:
in loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
I would to everlasting days
make all his glories known,
make all his glories known.
Well, the delightful day will come
when my dear Lord will bring me home,
and I shall see his face;
then with my Savior, Brother, Friend,
a blest eternity I’ll spend,
triumphant in his grace,
triumphant in his grace.
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