This originally appeared on the Saar Fellowship app as three daily devotionals in May/June 2019.
After being exhorted to serve their local assembly of believers – something we all need regular reminding of – Paul then starts a section detailing the character and actions of believers (vv.9-21), almost like instructing them how to live as a disciple of Jesus. It’s broken into three parts; relating to those in the family, relating to those outside the family, and relating to those in the church, bigger picture. Today, then, in the family.
9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
In the family, love should be genuine, and we should have the strongest dislike for what is evil. We hold fast to what is good by honouring God in all we do, both in our individual families and in the church family. One way to do this is by holding His Word in the highest regard. His Word is His revealed will to us whilst we are here on His earth, His Word became flesh and dwelt among us, His Word is what changes us, His Word is what saves our souls (James 1.21b).
V.11 is great, isn’t it, simply – don’t be lazy! Get off the sofa and do some stuff! Get involved and serve, serve the Lord by serving His people, serve the Lord by serving His bride, the church, serve the Lord and do not be slothful, don’t be lazy! Yesterday we talked about gifts, we are all uniquely but in a unified manner gifted to serve each other, it takes dozens of people to make a church service happen, dozens of different people! Don’t be slothful, get involved and join them! Contribute to the needs to the saints by serving the Lord.
These few short verses could not be clearer; a believer in Jesus is one who serves. As James writes, I will show you my faith by my works (2.18b).
So, mark of a true Christian in the family – one who serves the rest.
After exhorting the Roman believers, and us by extension, to contribute to the overall health of the assembly (vv.9-13), Paul now turns attention in one verse to how we interact with those outside the church family.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Is this not the hardest thing in the world sometimes? To bless those who persecute you seems to unnatural, doesn’t it. We are not talking about minor disruptions here, either. Paul is talking about serious persecution, perhaps even to death. Written around 57 A.D., believers in Rome were just a few years away from the first wave of organised persecution against them by the Roman Empire, so even now, in 57A.D., the climate must not have been too receptive to Christians.
Rather than trying to claim persecution for something like poor driving on the highway, rather than trying to claim persecution when we are passed over for a promotion at work which had nothing to do with your faith, rather than trying to claim persecution when things in our lives are just not going too well on that particular day, we should remember the generations that went before us, and for that matter, those who still face trials and tribulations like this in different parts of the world. There are believers who are targeted for their Christian faith, there are believers, heartbreakingly, who are killed for their Christian faith.
What does the Word of God exhort us to do? Bless and do not curse. In such a radical call to love, we are told to model the love of Christ Himself when He was killed for His mission. In the midst of His most painful experience on earth – both physically and spiritually – Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We too are called to love this radically, this counter-culturally, and this fervently. Bless, do not curse those who mock you for your faith, pray for those who persecute you, bless them by raising their name in prayer to the Lord.
It is what He did, and it is what we are called to do.
Finally in this mini-series right in Romans 12, Paul exhorts us to certain behaviours in relation to the church, bigger picture.
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. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 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.” 20 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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
What a list of character traits to display, we could talk for days about this!
How do we do v.15? By doing v.16! Living in harmony with each other, genuinely caring about each other will result in us rejoicing when our family rejoices, and weeping with those who are weeping. Being in unity results in this kind of relationship with each other.
There are a couple of key words in v.18, so far as it depends on you…Here we see that we are to do our best to live peaceably with all, but that sometimes, the world, the flesh, and the devil will put people in our paths that it is just not possible to live peaceably with. Now, how we handle this will be a mark of our true Christianity. We do not curse those who oppose us, we do not fight with those who antagonise us, we do not slander those we do not agree with, simply, we bless them and move on.
When we relate to those in our church family, those outside of it, and really anyone we cross paths with in this way, there will be something noticeably different about us.
You can take this to the bank – what we read in Romans 12.9-21 is not the standard pattern of human interaction, so when you conduct yourselves like this, you are witnessing for the Lord, you are representing your faith, you are mirroring Jesus to them.
This will, through the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit and His ability to convict people of their sins and turn them to Jesus, overcome evil with good. Our job is to simply live like this, reflect His love, mercy, and grace, and watch Him change lives for the better.