“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; pursue hospitality to strangers.” (Romans 12:9-13 NRSVUE)
The fruit that we are to produce in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23) is based on love. Love is something that people can easily say they have but for the follower of Jesus it must be more. It must be genuine. It means really caring for each other – and that love is reciprocated because we are all part of the body of Jesus and we are serving him. It means we take care of each other with helping in any way they need. It means our primary concern can’t be ourselves but we outdo each other in doing things for each other.
If we are a people of love, a people dedicated to following our Teacher, then we have to hate what is evil while holding on to what is good. We must be zealous. Do we really show enthusiasm in our being a Christian? Does following Jesus excite us so much that we can’t help sharing what we have with others? Do we pursue others to help them, knowing this is what Jesus would do? Is prayer a part of our lives, not just occasionally but constantly?
You might be thinking that this list written by Paul to the Roman Christians – and by extension to us – is a difficult one because this is not the way most of us live. This is not the way those around us live. This is not what the world considers ‘normal’. But he didn’t stop there.
“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 arrogant, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.’ Instead, ‘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.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:14-21)
Do you remember when you were a child and your parents asked you to do something or to act in a certain way? Often our response would be, “Do I have to?” I can almost hear Christians saying the same thing about what Paul wrote. Do I have to? Do I have to let go of grudges? Do I have to spend time with those I consider beneath me? Do I have to not retaliate when people are bad and mean to me? Do I have to help those who hate me?
Of course, the answer to all of these is a resounding ‘yes!’. This is the way we are to live. It is a way of living that puts other people first. It is a thinking about others before we think about ourselves. It is not allowing evil to infiltrate our lives but to overcome evil by doing good. It is the way Jesus himself lived.
We are called to live different than those around us. We are called to imitate our Teacher in every aspect of our lives.
Think about it.
AI generated mage by CharlVera from pixabay.com
Readings for next week: Romans 6-13