About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Chapter 12:9 - 21

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Love (ch. 12:9 Ė 21)


For those who are familiar with Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, you will note a similarity between Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 through 14.  Here in Romans 12 Paul speaks of the Body of Christ and the individual's part to play in the body.  Then Paul goes on to speak of love.  He does the same in 1 Corinthians 12 and 13.  He speaks of the Body of Christ, our call from the Lord to work in the body, and then he speaks of love.  Love has to do with serving, which I noted in the last section.  Everything we do in the Body of Christ must be done from love and an attitude of serving.  Paul is consistent in his thinking in all of his letters concerning this matter.   


These next few verses are self explanatory.  These verses continue in the context of the Body of Christ.  In verse 9 Paul admonishes his readers to love one another.  That's the well known Greek word "agape", meaning, a selfless expression of love.  It's often called God's kind of love because there is no hint of self service in the act of love. 


Paul then says hate or abhor evil.  The English word "hate" is translated from the Greek word "apostugeo" that finds its roots in the act of shuddering.  We are not to simply dislike evil or take it for granted as we often do.  We are to hate it; to shudder or quiver at its presence. 


The Greek word "kollao" that is translated as "cling" in the NIV literally means to glue or to cement.  We are to be cemented to that which is good. 


In verse 10 Paul tells us to be devoted to one another.  Be devoted is translated from a form of the Greek word "philos" which speaks of brotherly love.  This devotion by the definition of the Greek word implies a heart felt tender heartedness towards one another.  This emotion, this affection, is the glue that holds us together as brothers and sisters in Christ.


Also in verse 10 Paul tells us to honor others above ourselves.  Honoring others above ourselves is not part of our human nature.  We are selfish by nature.  Thus this takes effort on our part and once the effort is made the Holy Spirit can aid us in the process of honoring others above ourselves.


In verse 11 Paul says that we should never lack in zeal.  Paul was zealous for the Lord.  In today's language you'd call him a very passionate man.  He's telling us to be passionate.  Now I realize that some people by their very nature are more passionate than others, but, I'd suggest that we all can and do exhibit some kind of passion. Zeal or passion is a driving force in one's life and Christians should be a driven sort of people.


Verse 12 speaks of the importance of patience, joy and hope, but this joy and hope is in the midst of affliction. Paul doesn't give any space for complaining when it comes to being afflicted. He says we should be full of joy when trouble comes our way.               


In verse 13 Paul speaks of sharing with those in need, especially with those in need within the Body of Christ.  It is interesting to me that when you look at any modern church's financial statement most of the money is spent on the organizational structure and not the needy, which really is the first priority in the New Testament.  In many cases there are no funds left for the needy.     


In verse 14 Paul said that we should bless those who persecute us.  Jesus said the same. This may be hard to do, but what we need to remember is why we are to bless our persecutors.  It is God who will avenge these people on our behalf, and He can do a much better job than us.  He might well avenge our persecutors in this life, but if He doesn't, He will at the end of this age or in the next life.  I believe this can be taken as a general word for anyone who does any evil towards us, but I think specifically that Paul might well be speaking of the Romans who were persecuting Christians back then.       


This admonition would be a serious matter for the Christians in Rome to whom Paul was writing.  Paul would have to take his own advice in a few short years when the Roman soldiers took his life by beheading him.  The common practice for Christians in these early years of the church was to submit themselves peacefully to those who would execute them.  They did not try to kill those who would oppose them.  They did not attempt to overthrow the government who opposed them.  They did their bests to obey the government but when government required them to obey in a manner that would cause them to disobey God, they refused to obey government and honorably accepted the consequences, even if that meant death.  I believe that Paul's final and most important testimony for Jesus was his execution.  


In verse 15 Paul says to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.  The whole idea here is to associate yourself with the feelings of others.  We tend to be stand-offish when it comes to things like this.  We don't want to get involved in other people's emotions and feelings.  It gets pretty personal at the point, and such personalness can be uncomfortable for some.  The reason why Paul would make this statement is based on what he said a few verses back.  In verse 5 he said that as believers in the Body of Christ we belong to one another.  If you take that statement seriously and if you understand that you belong to other believers you will share in their joy and you will share in their sorrow.      


In verse 16 Paul says to live in harmony with others.  I will add at this point that keeping peace and harmony is important.  We do the best we can, but at the same time, we do not compromise the truth of the gospel in order to keep harmony and peace. Our number one priority is to remain in harmony with our Lord.


Paul also says in verse 16 to associate with those of a lower status than you.  There should be no division based on economic or social status.  I have been greatly blessed over the years because of this.  People of much higher economic and social status have been my friends and brothers in the Lord.  This is due simply to the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people.


In verse 17 Paul says not to repay evil for evil.  I've already commented on this.  God is the one who will avenge those who do evil to us.  We do not have to concern ourselves with that.  We see this very clearly in Revelation 6 where the martyred saints under the altar cry out to God for justice.  They cry out to God that He will deal with those who had executed them for their faith.  God says He will in fact do this, but the time was not ready for Him to carry out justice.                   


When Paul tells us not to repay evil with evil I believe he is talking on a personal level to individuals.  I don't believe he is talking on a national level.  If he were, then, a nation should not defend itself from an evil attack, and I'd suggest that all of us would agree that a nation has an obligation to protect itself and its citizens.  Israel in Old Testament times was required to defend itself from opposing nations.      


Also in verse 17 Paul tells us to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.  Of course you have to know what the Lord views as right.  You have to study the Bible to find these things.  Many people don't study the Bible so they don't know what really is right, other than what they know of the Ten Commandments, and there is more to being right in the eyes of God than the Ten Commandments. 


In verse 18 Paul says that if it is at all possible, live in peace with everyone.  He says, "If it be possible", because he knows it is not possible to live in peace with everyone.  His life has shown that to be true.  Nevertheless, we must try to live in peace with all men.  Again, there is one exception to this.  We cannot nor must not compromise the truths of Scripture in the process of making peace.  There is another point to be made here.  If division comes, it should be the truths of Scripture that cause the division, not our behaviour.  Way too often our unholy actions cause division.  That should not be.   


In verse 19 Paul tells the Romans what I've already said a couple times in this section.  He says not to take revenge against those who oppose them, but leave revenging to Godís wrath.  We may feel like taking revenge, but Godís wrath is far beyond anything that we can do anyway.  Let Him take care of those who do evil to you.   


In verse 20 Paul states that if you do good to those who do evil to you, it is like heaping hot coals on there head.  We don't love our enemies for this purpose, but the result of our love is often very frustrating to those who do evil to us.  They want us to get angry and retaliate, and when we don't, it makes them madder than ever. 


Paul closes this chapter in verse 21 by saying we should overcome evil with being good.  We should not let evil overtake us and get involved in evil ourselves by paying back those who do evil to us.  Christians do have the ability to overcome evil with good, and Paul, in all he went through, is a very good example of that. 


Such talk of doing good to your enemies often brings up the subject of passivism.  It's a difficult subject to work through and I've thought about it for decades.  The conclusion that I've reached to date is that these types of passages, and that includes the one's where Jesus tells us to love our enemy, is directed to us as individuals.  Both Jesus and Paul are speaking to individual believers.  We are to love those who oppose us.  On the other hand, God deals with humanity on two levels.  He deals with us on an individual level and a national level and the instruction to love our national enemies is not the same as the instruction to love our individual enemies, or so I think.  I am not a passivist when it comes to war and fighting for the safety of one's country.  God Himself has and will involve Himself in war.  There is a place to fight, but not for the Kingdom of God .  God Himself will fight that battle as He puts all of His enemies under His feet.  If God were to love His enemy, then He would not be throwing satan into the Lake of Fire as seen in the book of Revelation.  Therefore, I do believe there must be a distinction between the individual and the nation when it comes to loving your enemy.            

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