As a youth group, we have been going through the book of Romans together, and our study for this week was on chapter 12: 9-21. The heading on this section in some translations since “Love in Action,” and I invite you to turn there with me and read the passage. On the surface, after a reading of this text one would assume that this is just a collection of random one liners. But as we look closer, we see that all of these instructions are centered on this theme of love. Paul sets the tone in verse 9 when he says “Let Love be genuine.” This word “genuine” can also be translated as “sincere” and the Greek word that is used here means “without hypocrisy.” So the implication here is that there is a type of love that is not genuine or hypocritical. Pretending to love someone in order to show off, or to bring attention to yourself, or expecting something in return are all ways that we have a tendency to love in ingenuine ways. But as believers, our love must be genuine. The word love here is the word “agape.” Love that is unconditional, unselfish, and sacrificial. This is the word used to describe the type of love that God has for us, and it is the same love that we are to show to others. This is the kind of Love Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
So what does Agape look like in action? Paul goes on in this passage in verse’s 10-13, and 15-16 to show how agape love ought to be demonstrated in the church community With our brothers and sisters in the family of God, we are to “outdo one another with honor,” to think of others more highly than ourselves and to value their interests more than ours. Another way Agape love is shown is when we contribute to the needs of saints and seek to show hospitality. We must be willing to reach into our wallets and part with our possessions to share with those who are in need. He also says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” If we are going to truly love someone, we are going to share in their experiences. This means celebrating with those who have had awesome things happen. It also means sharing in the sufferings of others, praying with them, carrying their burdens. With all of our brothers and sisters in the family of God, we are to live in harmony and seek to be of the same mind. Loving others doesn’t mean that you always have to agree, but it means putting your differences aside for the cause of the gospel. Not only are we to love those in our church community, but we are also to show agape love to our enemies, as we see in verse 14 and verse’s 17-21. All of these verses give a positive way to respond to those who wrong or hurt us. Paul says in verse 14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” This is an echo of what Jesus said in his sermon on the mount “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Instead of retaliating when people persecute you, bless them and pray for them. He continues in verse 17 “ Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” What is our natural response when someone wrongs you? To retaliate! But this text flips this upside down and says do not repay anyone but do what is honorable. People are watching you, and the way that you respond to those who hurt you will give glory to God. Agape love doesn’t take revenge, instead it does the opposite, as we see in verses 20-21 “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. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Our love must be genuine, both in our relationships with the family of God and in our relationships with the world. Let us heed the instructions of Romans 12:9-21 and take these to heart as we go about our week this week.