Romans Bible Guide – Day 33
March 18, 2016
Previously, in Romans: Paul has begun the fourth major section of the letter, focused on the practical expression of the life of Jesus in the Roman house churches and in other faith communities.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Points of Interest:
- ‘let love be genuine’ – Fellow members give each other love. But rather than leave the expression of love up for grabs, Paul practices some discernment himself here and fleshes out a picture.
- ‘hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good’ – Paul will flesh out the good to embrace (vs. 10-16) and the evil to resist (vs. 17-21) below.
- ‘outdo one another in showing honor’ – I love this example of not being conformed to this world (12:2). In a society obsessed with amassing personal honor, Paul directs the Romans to compete in giving honor to others. I’m picturing speech recognition apps that catch how many times you compliment and praise another person each day. Developers, where are you?
- ‘do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit’ – Like the renewing of the mind needed for discernment (12:2), Paul recognizes that love needs to flow from an energized heart and spirit. On these terms, the fueling of one’s own fire is an act of love towards your community.
- ‘hope… suffering… prayer… contribute… hospitality’ – The expression of love in verses 12-13 sounds like what a community needs in hard times. Certainly hard times were abundant for the Roman house churches. People have always experienced economic insecurity, influxes of strangers and refugees, and innumerable personal and corporate needs. Communities rise or fall on whether or not they express this kind of love when we face challenging times.
- ‘bless those who persecute you’ – This begins a list of four commands about non-retaliation and two regarding reconciliation. Peacemaking is at the heart of connection with Jesus, living in community, and choosing love.
- ‘If it as possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ – Paul is clear that one side can’t make peace. It takes two parties’ good will and trust to reconcile. It takes a whole society to forge patterns of peace. But it’s part of our worship to actively do our part.
- ‘never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God’ – Peacemaking isn’t weaknesses or denial of injustice. It’s putting retribution in the hands of the only person who can do it fairly and effectively – God, not us. And it’s recognizing the uniquely effective potency of love to change others and break hostilities.
- ‘by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads’ – Over the years, my wife and I have taken the end of this section very practically. After all, it’s a line from Proverbs (25:21-22), which is a book of pragmatic advice for good living. Unexpected kindness and mercy have proven far more effective in changing the hearts and actions of our adversaries than any arguments, anger, or payback ever have.
Taking It Home:
For you – What in this expression of love seems particularly winsome or challenging or timely to you? Can you make plans for a fresh expression of love in your life? And how do you need more zeal or ardency of spirit to have the power to regularly love this way? Ask Jesus for discernment in the cultivation of a fully-alive spirit.
For your six – Let’s have some fun this week. Using these verses as guidance, make plans to love one of your six practically, beyond your prayers for them. Pray that the receiving of your love would have power in their lives.