9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:9-15 NASB
This chapter really seems to be different that other writings of Paul, as we have learned from our previous studies; Paul is very long winded and that he actually runs together thoughts and ideas without even thinking of punctuation, but now in this chapter Paul is quick and to the point. Much like the proverbs. This section almost resembles a Psalm. Do this, don’t do that.
Hypocrisy, some translations use the terms such as…
Love must be sincere. hate what is evil, cling to what is good. – NIV
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. – ESV
Don’t just pretend that you love others: really love them. Hate what is wrong. Stand on the side of the good. – TLB
Hypocrisy, meaning having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess. Something can be a hypocrisy, but also a person can be a hypocrite. To be a hypocrite means to be a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess. In short, being fake.
God expects from us authentic love, that which is not mixed with hypocrisy or false sentiment. I believe I am safe to say that most of us really detests someone that pretends to like us. We despise them. We tend to not trust them. There always seems to be a motive behind their actions and it does not settle well with us. Even if they have good intentions and may be authentic, if we feel hypocrisy, we tend to put up walls and shutdown emotionally.
Have you ever had an experience where you were sure there was a hidden agenda with someone, or the situation just seemed “too good to be true”, but then turned out to be real and true?
Continuing in verse 9, Paul uses a word we don’t see or use much in the American English language; abhor. Abhor is hatred of the highest level. Abhor is one of the strongest words for hatred found anywhere in the bible. The word implies not mild displeasure or mere dis-like; Paul is commanding in the name of the Lord that we loathe evil.
Remember in the first part of this chapter we heard about being transformed. Paul continues with the same message. . As we seek to grow in grace, we seek to gain the mind of Christ, which is to think like Jesus, to love what Jesus loves and to hate what Jesus hates.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.
What is your definition of brotherly love? what does it look like? Is it possible? What are some of the difficulties you face when you attempt to show brotherly love?
Then the harder question: do you allow someone to love you in this brotherly fashion?
Give preference to one another in honor. Do you even honor your friends? Or do you just tolerate them? We ought to prefer each other for honor. We are not to seek honor for ourselves but rather to reflect or deflect honor to others. In other words, it is a call to humility. Paul’s basic thrust, however, is that believers are to be leaders in establishing the principle of honor among one another.
Regardless of where we are and how we may be outnumbered, we are to respect a fellow Christian. We must demonstrate a spirit of humility. That is the heart of a servant, and it is to be the heart of a Christian.
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord
Lagging behind in diligence. What do we think Paul means by lagging behind in diligence?
Some other translations really expose what Paul was communicating here:
Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. – NLT
Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. – NIV
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. – ESV
Do you catch yourself from time to time being slothful in zeal to serve the Lord? Do you get sluggish when you are serving him?
What are some of the triggers you use to awaken yourself to such situations?
What are some of the ways in which you shake that attitude and get realigned with the spirit for His good purpose?
Jonathan Edwards gave a great sermon about pressing into the kingdom of God. He said that those who have come to Christ have been born again and given a spirit of zeal to pursue the things of God with a sense of urgency and with hunger and passion. Therefore, it is a duty of every Christian to press into the kingdom of God, making that the main business of life. The kingdom of God cannot be a secondary interest for a true Christian. We are to be diligent and active in the things of God.
How do we do that? Paul continues:
rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. – Romans 12:12-13
So this takes us back to a basic principle we have touched on before; rejoicing in hope.
Does hope ever make you excited? Are you grateful for hope? Maybe the more obvious question might be, what is like to be without hope?
If we know that not having hope is not a healthy mindset. That it is actually a dangerous state of mind, do we grasp and rejoice for having hope? Or do we just take it for granted? Many people believe that when the soul loses hope it loses the desire to live. It is a critical point in diagnosing one with depression.
What are some of the ways you rejoice in your hope? What are some ways we can rejoice in our hope?
Now the tough question: what is your hope?
Then an area I am sure we can all relate to; tribulation. That can be affliction, trouble, sufferings, and the list goes on. To persevere, to endure, being patient while in tribulation and suffering…I don’t know about you, but I am rarely patient when I am suffering or being afflicted. I want to do anything I can to move on. In many times, I believe, I rush right through a test or opportunity with no maturity received. I get so focused on moving on that I don’t get wisdom from the situation to learn from it. If I don’t learn from situations I tend to not be passionate about avoiding them in the future.
Christianity can be reduced to three dimensions. First is the dimension of joy, which we should manifest all the time, regardless of our situation. We are called to rejoice in hope. We need to understand that tribulation is inseparably related to hope, because when we are forced to suffer, the Holy Spirit uses tribulations to work character in us and to provoke in our souls the virtue of hope.
Today we really don’t grasp or use hope in the same context as the bible used when Paul wrote this text. Today we hope that certain things will come to pass, even if we doubt they will, but the biblical concept of hope has nothing to do with such uncertainty. The New Testament concept of hope has to do with absolute certainty that the promises of God for the future will come to pass.
Faith looks backward, trusting in and relying on what God has done in the past, but faith also looks forward and finds its anchor for the soul in the future promises of God. That should be the foundation of the Christian’s joy.
No matter how painful the present moment may be, we can still have joy because we know that the pain and suffering and tribulation we endure now is but a moment in time. God has laid up for us such treasures in heaven that the brief moments of pain and suffering we have to endure now are not worthy to be compared to His treasures for us!
The second dimension of the Christian life is patience. In this verse Paul is writing about the virtue of forbearance of hanging in there when things are tough. Job is often used as a great example of endurance, but rarely does the character of patient ever come to mind when I hear or think of Job. But in light of his whole story, he was patient, he persevered and endured tragic situations with hope and trust in God. To me now, I can use the life of Job as a reflection of patience and hope. Because realistically, if he did not have hope, he could not have been patient and endured.
The glue between hope and patience is continuing steadfastly in prayer. The Christian life is one of prayer. Not prayer just reserved or offered at certain hours or appointed times. It is to be a relationship with God. An ongoing dialog. As many of us experience that closeness of friendship, the constant interaction, that is the heartbeat of relationships. We are to be always conscious of God’s presence, relying on him and communicating with the Father in our thoughts.
When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. – Romans 12:13 NLT
I believe we can all agree that being compassionate and hospitable are gifts that are manifested. Not everybody has that first desire to jump right in and help those in need. Most of the time when we are honest with ourselves we tend to want to shout out that we are the ones in need. Why isn’t anyone helping us? Then that mindset spills right over into our lack of hospitality. Why should I invite them over? They have never invited me. These are not reserved attitudes of non-believers. These are attitudes and beliefs of people in church, proclaiming to be Christians. Hypocrites.
Paul is describing what it is to love without hypocrisy. For many of us, we love to entertain and be hospitable. The whole concept of helping others and being hospitable is very addictive. Once you start serving and loving others, you get a return like no others. We know that when our spiritual walk is dry and stagnant that one of the healthiest things to do is humble ourselves and serve others. That teetering point is when we struggle through a situation and get that victim mindset and pull away from the servant heart God gave us. When one retracts and pulls away they can be dangerously close to depression and isolation. As a heart check-up and constant measurement of your walk, review your servant actions. Remember, if you are following Jesus, if you are allowing the Holy Spirit to sanctify you, you should be emulating more and more the nature of Jesus, a servant. We must remember that God humbled himself and came in the form of a man, Jesus, to be an example for us, a servant.
Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. – Romans 12:14 NLT
This verse is very reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount. Paul was not around when Jesus gave the sermon, but he sure shares the context. When we read this we must remember that Paul is not just reflecting on a good notion that has been handed down. Paul was constantly attacked by people. His entire ministry was conducted under persecution, just like Jesus’. Paul’s response to persecution was to bless his enemies, not curse them.
Refraining from cursing our enemies is not too difficult, but to bless them, to pray for that God would bestow upon them his favor and grace, is much harder. Doing so is tough, but it is what love means. Then Paul follows it with a harder challenge…
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.- Romans 12:15 NASB
To be honest with you. I can laugh and rejoice with people rejoicing but I am horrible at weeping with those who weep. I enter those situations, when I don’t or can’t avoid them, with a reserved feeling. I don’t want to be sad. Many times their sadness is personal. I was not involved with the situation, and I don’t seem to relate. An example is when someone is weeping over a loved one that I have never met. That is hard for me to mourn with them. The best I seem to do is feel sad for their loss. But in studying about this section I was revealed a tremendous, eye opening story of Jesus. It had to do with Lazarus, Mary and Martha…
John chapter 11:1-46
Did you catch it… Jesus knew the story. Jesus even proclaimed that the event would glorify God. He knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet he did not discredit the families mourning. He could have easily been stoic and non-emotional, but he didn’t. What did he do?
Jesus wept – John 11:35
Do you see that Jesus wept with those who were weeping. In the moment, even knowing that it was for not. He came along side them in the moment.