In verses 9-21, Paul provides instruction concerning the Christian’s conduct. This is a very practical section of Scripture. Broadly speaking, 12:9-13 deals with the believer’s responsibility to those in the church and 12:14-21 deals with the believer’s responsibility to those outside the church.
OUR LOVE TOWARD THOSE INSIDE (Rom. 12:9-13)
How should we treat and relate to those in the church? Consider our passage,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Rom. 12:9-13)
The command at the start of this practical list is to love. The idea of love is at the background of this entire section (12:9-21). There are many ways in which this passage can be outlined. I have chosen to place the 13 commands into 5 categories that describe this love. As we consider these 5 categories, here is a key question to ask, “How should I love my fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord?”
A Pure Love (12:9)
It is the duty of all God’s people to love fellow Christians with a pure love. This is demonstrated by the following commands, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
A Selfless Love (12:10)
Selfless love in the church means to give sacrificial commitment to one another. Paul writes, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10).
An Active Love (12:11)
Love in the church ought not to be stagnant duty, but rather a spirited delight. Paul continues, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Rom. 12:11).
An Enduring Love (12:12)
An enduring love in the church is a love that knows the certainty of eternity and governs an enduring commitment. Verse 12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”.
A Giving Love (12:13)
The final category in this section is a giving love. Paul writes, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality” (12:13). The command to “contribute to the needs of the saints” refers to the sharing of our material goods with those who are in need. The word “hospitality” literally means, “love for strangers”. It is showing love in the domain of one’s home. A giving love seeks out opportunities to show hospitality to those in need.
OUR LOVE TOWARDS THOSE OUTSIDE (Rom. 12:14-21)
Moving from the way the Christian relates to those in the church (12:9-13), the focus is now primarily on those outside of the church (with a few exceptions cf. vv. 15-16). How should a Christian whose mind is being renewed (cf. Rom. 12:2) treat those outside the church? Consider the following verses,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 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.” 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 (Romans 12:14-21)
This passage provides a radical approach to the Christian life. Regarding persecution and hardship, the Lord Jesus Christ made it very clear to His disciples “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). The apostle Peter warned, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12). Jesus even stated that the believer’s enemies might even come from their families (Matt. 10:36). Persecution and pressure at varying levels will be a part of the Christian life. How then should a believer respond? In our passage of consideration the Christian is not to retaliate, but rather to return good for evil. This is only possible by means of a renewed mind. What about evil and justice? This passage teaches us that God will sort that out (Rom. 12:19) and we are to be concerned with our responsibility. Verse 21 provides a fitting conclusion, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
Suggested Study Questions:
- What is the greatest motivation for loving fellow Christians? See 1 John 3:16; 4:7-11
- Why is genuine biblical love important in the life of a church and what impact will it have? See John 13:34-35
- How can our love for each other not be a stagnant duty, but rather a spirited delight?
- Why is it hard to not respond to injustice with retaliation?
- When it comes to the bad behaviour of unbeliever’s, what do the following verses teach us? See 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:13; Titus 3:3-5
- How can we learn to leave injustice with God?
- In light of verses 19 and 20, what do you think the heaping of burning goals on your enemies head means? See also Psalm 140:10