“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21 NIV).
Olympic athletes are at the very peak of perfection, but they did not get there on their own. No, they have many coaches, trainers, and experts helping them along the way. You don’t just go out and win a gold metal against the very best in the whole world by yourself without hard work and sacrifice. You have to put in the time and even more so you have to listen to the experts on how to make yourself better. The coach has one purpose to make you perfect.
What do Olympic quality athletes have to do with our passages? Well they have worked hard at becoming perfect at something, they have listened and became trained on how to be perfect at something. It does not matter if it is running a race, throwing a shot-put, or skiing down a hill at record speeds. They are perfect, as perfect as they can be at that one thing. Paul in these passages is encouraging us to love perfectly. In order to do this, we need to listen and learn. We need to research what the experts like the apostles have to say on the subject in Scripture and listen to the leadings of the Holy Spirit that is within us to be perfect at love.
This is not an easy task, even Paul in these passages starts off using both the words ‘love’ and ‘hate.’ We must however pay very close attention to how he uses these words. First, he says we need to love unconditionally and without hypocrisy, sincere. Second, he says to “hate what is evil.” Note he says ‘what’ not a who. Hate injustice and what evil does. But then he turns around and tells us to live in harmony with all; to not repay evil with evil but with kindness and love. What? Yep, we are to love those that do evil and live in harmony with them, and to even go one step further and bless them. To actually pray for them and not to curse them. No revenge that is God’s place not ours.
This is absolutely counter cultural, just watch some of the TV shows on today with it’s cast of characters doing whatever it takes to get ahead. But for us backstabbing is out, getting even with that one that hurt you is out, gossip is out. Instead, you need to show them the perfect love that is in you. How? Let the Spirit lead you. If you’re not so good at loving this way then study what the Bible says on it. Cling to what is good, love, devotion, honor, serving, hope, prayer, and hospitality, humility. The world’s way is not ours. Our way as followers of Christ is to do as he did, and as he taught, and to love unconditionally everyone, and He does mean everyone.
How are you doing at being perfect in Love?
Do you need a coach, a trainer like the Spirit?
1 William M. Greathouse and George Lyons, Romans 9–16: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, New Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008), 162
2 William M. Greathouse and George Lyons, Romans 9–16: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, New Beacon Bible Commentary (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2008), 157.
3 Ibid, 164.
4 Ibid, 158.