Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. ¹⁰Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. —Romans 12:9-10
I am so excited (who isn’t?) that spring is finally here! And I am also really excited about these dynamite, fast-fire instructions for living the Christian life that are found in Romans chapter 12, verses 9-21. This passage is wow! Paul's instructions to us in these verses are radical, powerful, and delivered with serious urgency. So often we act as if God’s instructions to us in the Bible are suggestions on how to live, or that they are only good ideas put forth as an unreachable ideal. Oh no. They are commands, given by God Almighty, with His full expectation that we will learn what He has determined is good for us, and then we will go out and obey those rules.
By the time we have learned all that Paul gives us from our Heavenly Father in the next weeks, we will be so blessed and we will be wonderfully equipped to be His servants, and to live as Christ would have us live with our fellow believers. I find that hugely exhilarating. Who doesn’t want to walk more closely, more obediently, more joyfully with our Lord?
The first two verses are so powerful and so rich that, if we would follow these five commands, most of us would experience a radical change in our approach to others and our attitudes toward sin. You can almost feel the Fatherly arm of our great God around us as we read His first instructions; almost hear the seriousness, the pleading in His voice as He gives us the lessons we so desperately need.
He begins with, “Let love be genuine.” Love must be real—absolutely true. My dictionary says genuine means “not affected, or hypocritical; frank, sincere, true.” So let’s pitch flattery, and speak the truth in love. Look for the lovely that God has put in things and in people, even those that you have found to be not lovely. Love must not only be words or sentiment, but we must commit also to self-giving help and service to others and to pray for them. Love must be genuine.
Then our Lord says, “Abhor what is evil.” Not just shun it, not just think it’s better if we don’t. We must absolutely hate with loathing all of the sins that we commit, and the sins of others, too. We must vehemently agree with God in what He condemns, and pray for strength and grace never to do anything against God’s will. If we would be like Christ, we must be forgiving and gracious to the sinner, only hating the sin; for which of us is not a sinner? Jesus set us the example on the cross when He poured out love on His enemies, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Hold fast to what is good" is a joyful instruction—doing this will steady our lives. We need to determine that what God has said is good for us, and because God knows better than we do, what He says is what we will do! For all that God has written in His Word teaches us what He considers good, and we are to treasure it, embrace it, cling tightly to it, embrace all His commands with our minds and hearts, and discipline ourselves to actually do what He has told us to do. Wouldn’t this include our salvation? We are to hold fast to the truth of the gospel until we leave this earth! All this will guide us to wise choices, and so bring us indescribable blessing from our Heavenly Father.
“Love one another with brotherly affection,” says verse 10. Love the people of our church, and Christians wherever we meet them, just like we love our brothers—with affection and commitment and caring and service and prayer? Oh, yes! What a beautiful life for the members of such a church. Lord, please help us do this.
His last instruction says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” I love this command! It’s not something that we turn our attention to often enough. What would it mean to outdo others in showing them honor? It would mean that I would always look for the good characteristics and behaviors and service of others and commend them for it. Yes, and I should encourage them in all they do for our Lord—and help them if they need it. It would mean that I would speak well of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and praise God for their part in our church. If any should be in authority, I would respect them as God-appointed, and cooperate with their leadership as they obey God’s will. Isn’t this a happy assignment? Let’s jump in to support others in their ministry and lives.
We have only covered the first 5 of 30 instructions in this passage. There is rich treasure to mine in the remaining text. These verses will become life-changing, life-giving, life-enhancing guides to our lives as we commit them to memory and seek to live them out by God’s strength and grace!
Why do you think that Paul chose “Let love be genuine” as his first instruction on leading a true Christian life?
How does the dictionary define abhor, as in “Abhor what is evil?” What does the definition teach us about how we should view our own sins, and the sins that are accepted today in our society?
Bullying has become a popular way of dealing with others in these times. How does “Love one another with brotherly affection” and “Outdo one another in showing honor” restrain a person from choosing to bully?