We looked last week at the first few verses of Romans 12 regarding what the “good servant” of God should be. Last week the focus was upon our proper attitude to God—-i.e. one of humility, worship and using the gifts He’s given us.
The next five verses describe the Christian life in terms of how we treat others and how we live among our neighbors and strangers.
“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.” (Romans 12:9-13, NIV)
The recurring theme of Christianity is love, because the founder of our faith, God Almighty, is love. He created us… out of love He sustains and forgives us… because of love, He has prepared unimaginable blessings for us… all because of love. Love defines who God is and He desires that we choose to be like him—-beings that love. Friends, does love define your life and how you live? Can people in our community and within this church see, feel and witness that you are a new creature of love? Do you find that the manner in which you love does not fit into this world’s handbook for life? Do you more and more think that you are an alien because of how filled with love and joy you are—and how much you are therefore misunderstood?
Is my love real Christian love or some other kind of love? Am I giving human love (which is based upon mutual love, or family and is fleeting, conditional, based upon a return) or God’s love—-which is genuine, sincere, long-suffering, eternal, unwarranted and unconditional.
Paul says that it must be the latter, that is, it must be sincere…free of deceit, hypocrisy, or falseness. It needs to mean something when we tell others that you love them. In your life, does “I love you” mean: “you can count on me”, “I am there for you”. “I won’t let you down”, “I will see you through even if others think you are through”, “I have chosen to love you and I will nothing you can do will make me change my mind”. That’s the kind of love I want!
Do you love like that? Are you loved like that? When you pray, are you aware that He loves you like that? There’s nothing better than to go through the day reminded that you are loved by many and there is no discovery in this vast universe more profound to find than God loves you and will never stop loving you…….But there must not be anything worse in life than to go through your days convinced that no one loves you.
Next, if we want to be living like we are really His children, , hate what is evil. Exterminate it. Because of the context of this verse, it look as if Paul is saying that evil will dilute true love. Evil is anything that contradicts God’s love or undermines God’s purposes in the lives of mankind. Evil takes away, replaces, masquerades, usurps, perverts and destroys. How to get rid of “evil”? Hate it. But note that we are to hate “it”, not “him”, “her”, or “them”. I hate what Russia is doing to Ukraine….what abortionists do to the unborn… what liars and swindlers are doing in governments across the world. But just as Paul would never counsel Christians to hate Herod or Nero, we should never stir up hatred for the very ones Jesus Christ died to save. He died for Chuck Schumer, President Xi and Vladimir Putin. We can’t forget this.
Is there sin, something evil, you struggle with? Is that sin perhaps a roadblock to your love for others? Am I allowing something evil to remain within my mind, something that I hide, but nurture, that results in angry outbursts or some other un-Christlike display? There are two ways to remove evil from our lives. Let it die by neglect, or kill it with hate. If I hate a lying tongue, I will soon enough find that I must allow it to be removed from my own mouth as well. If I preach about the sins of pornography and hate how it reduces a child of God to an object to be desired and abused, I will soon find that I cannot help but hate it in my own life as well—unless I am a fraud and a charlatan.
So let’s get the evil out of our own lives first. Then let us encourage those we love to hate the evil they are doing as well. Then, it’s fair to say we can properly discuss the evil that surrounds our society, and stupidity of some of things beings said on TV and other media sources. But my first task is to hate the evil that I commit! It’s so easy to smugly point out the evil in others…
Then, cling to the good! Replace that evil with goodness. Be the optimist for crying out loud! Yes, there’s bad… but there’s good in this world also. We forget that although there is inherited sin within each of us, there’s also the inherited image of God within us! Something about us is quite unique and worthy of God’s attention. Creation might be fractured, the world is not perfect, our nation might have erred from where it should be, and the Green Bay Packers might not win the Super Bowl this year, but there are good things to celebrate!
Queen Elizabeth—what a heroine of the Christian faith, the English speaking world and her kingdom. A class act!
Freedom of the press —we can say what we want and not end up in a Siberian jail cell or rotting in a Cuban dungeon.
Russian troops fleeing from Ukrainian soldiers as they retake their land! The bad guys are losing!
An election in November. We live in a nation where we can do something about the people in office we don’t like, or the media that has it all wrong, by voting.
Our very existence and redemption! We’re heaven bound—-this world is not ours—-the Kingdom of God is our inheritance. Get excited!
Then Paul reminds us to “be devoted to one another”. That is, look out for each other. It’s not just a matter of having warm affections, but devotion—-which is a zealous attachment..loyalty…and a unflinching affection. Does that describe how you treat those you love? Are you devoted to your wife, husband, parents, children, friends, members of this fellowship? It is obvious if you are and ….evident if you are not. Some of us seem to think that our lack of excitement or emotion shows how mature and advanced we are in our walk, when in fact it merely shows we’re still in diapers, spiritually speaking! It doesn’t take practice, or require live long enough, to be the pessimist or to be lacking in passion—it happens quite easily and naturally—it’s the way of the world, but not the way of the King’s true sons and daughters.
Keep the fires of love burning as you serve God by serving others! Remember the parables of Jesus about how the acts of honor and love for a lowly Samaritan, or a small child, or the least person in our community is really a deed done unto Jesus Himself—-and He’s watching. So get excited! Those Saturday visits, the trips to the nursing home to play bingo, those times you offer to visit in the hospital or merely pray for those that in trouble is pleasing to God.
Which should lead you to get excited about what you’re hoping for! Great things are coming! Now and for an eternity. God has not forgotten you or forsaken us. With tough days, hold on and wait for the Lord. It’s darkest right before sunrise! That’s why Queen Elizabeth is so mourned this week. She believed!
When she became queen, the Prime Minister was Sir Winston Churchill. Once, when things were going badly during the blitzkrieg of England, he said to a very scared nation: “We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and on the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender.” — BBC speech, June 4, 1940, last day of the Dunkirk Evacuation
…”Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’ ” — Speech to the House of Commons, June 18, 1940
“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” — Speech to the House of Commons, Aug. 20, 1940, paying tribute to the Royal Air Force during The Battle of Britain
The man had hope! And his hope and words, perhaps more than any other man on the planet, helped us defeat the Axis powers and prevail in WWII. Oh, to have another Winston Churchill in Washington, DC…
Paul’s final two points are things we should have learned in kindergarten, but as adults we often forget. Paul talks about sharing and being nice to the people that God has brought into our lives. Why? Well, because He said so, of course, but share and be kind as a witness to what being re-made, redeemed and restored to a true child of God is all about! There should be sincere and obvious joy when we are privileged to help those that visit our church, or those that reach out to us for help. Yes, yes, some, a few, will take advantage of our hospitality and kindness—-let them! Let it be known that our hearts and bigger than our pocket books! May we each have a reputation for being too generous, too forgiving, too kind, too warm and too welcoming to strangers—-put it on my gravestone! God will sort out those that are using us and will deal with them in His own time—-let us be kind and embracing nonetheless.
And please note that helping those in need is not limited to those that need food, or clothing or help with their electric bill. I am told that those on the brink of giving up on life or planning suicide often admit that their greatest deprivation, the single biggest reason for giving up, was the belief that no-one cared about them. I read dozens of blogs last night from depressed men and women that admitted that their greatest hurt was that not one family member or friend remembered their birthday. No one called them or sent a card. It’s as if they did not exist.
Tyler is having a birthday this Saturday——please come to our home if you are reading this and live nearby—— 5:00 pm. We want to celebrate and I intend to be sure that Tyler, Tommy and Greg, know that their birthdays will always be the three most important days in my life. We all want to know that someone else, anyone else, loves us…remembers us and thinks about us. It’s not good to be alone and forgotten. There are people in our community that are alone and do not know if they really matter. One of my directives from my heavenly Father, is to remind those He sends my way that I love them and care about them, and God loves and cares more than they realize.
How do you treat those you love and those He has providentially placed in your path?
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