Relationship To Other Christians
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.” (Romans 12:9 NLT)
”[Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9 AMP)
There’s a series of books entitled “Eat This, Not That” which are designed to show people how to choose better foods that are somewhat healthier than what they might be currently eating. Choosing snacks with less preservatives and chemicals and more natural whole grains, for example, is just one recommended strategy for better health and weight management. Some of the recommendations in the books seem pretty obvious while others might be a little less intuitive. Just the fact that such a series of books exists and has been so popular indicates that most people desire to eat a healthier diet and it also shows that making less than optimum food choices is something that many of us do on a regular basis.
The passage in the Book of Romans that we now come to has a lot in common with those diet books because we could very well title it “Do This, Not That.” And like those diet books, it seems at first a little strange that we would need to be reminded of the things we are being told. That a Christian should do good and not evil, or that he should pray for God to bless others rather than curse them should be as apparent as the fact that eating whole grain crackers is a better choice than snacking on fried, greasy potato chips. But human nature is such that reminders like these are often necessary. Sometimes potato chips just taste better to us than rye crackers and, when someone hurts us or cheats us, praying for God to do good to them is not likely our first inclination.
Therefore, the final verses of Romans 12 concern the Christian’s relationships to other people: first those within the family of God (vv. 9-16) and then those without (vv. 17-21). The key verse, indeed the key sentence, to this entire passage is: “Let love be without dissimulation…” (12:1 KJV). I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” What a great paraphrase of our Lord’s Second Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31)! Real love is not self-seeking, selfish, or hypocritical. It is genuine. It is all of those wonderful things that it is said to be in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, we could say that Romans 12:9-21 is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in action.
Real love for others is born out of our love for God. Real love’s roots must dig deeply into the rich soil of Christ or else it is little more than sentimentality or philanthropy. “Love” apart from Christ can never be genuine because it is carried upon the wings of our emotions, subject to the highs and lows of our moods. Hypocritical “love” loves only when it is convenient, expedient, or otherwise pleasurable to us. It is subjective and capricious; it is like a feather blowing in the wind and just as unpredictable. It extends itself when the feeling is right, or there is gain to be had. It withdraws itself when sacrifice is demanded or others become less loveable. Real love is passionate, stretching not from the emotions but from the reborn spirit which God has created anew inside the believer.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” (Romans 12:10)
“As to brotherly love, kindly affectioned towards one another: as to honour, each taking the lead in paying it to the other:” (Romans 12:10 Darby)
Kindly affectioned may not convey to the modern reader exactly what is meant here. To me, the expression resonates of a sort of rigid, Victorian propriety. It sounds like something that would bring a firm handshake and a pat on the back rather than a hug. But the term used here means a deep, dear, and tender-hearted love. Our love for other believers must not only be genuine, it must be vibrant and enthusiastic.
The Christian is to “prefer other believers in honor“, that is, we are to value them and seek their honor rather than worrying about defending our own. The call to fellowship with other believers is a call to service. As the Lord Jesus said, the greatest disciples are those who serve other disciples (Mark 9:35). The Christian life is about looking after the well-being of our brothers and sisters in Christ, not enriching ourselves.
Abhorring Evil, Clinging To Good
Before moving on next time to verse 11, let us look back at the last part of verse 9: “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” If there is any one thing that undermines the efforts of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the believer more than anything else it is the believer’s failure to observe this one simple command. Most Christians today do not abhor or hate evil; we tolerate it. Sometimes we even embrace it. We are instructed here to literally be horrified by evil and wickedness, repulsed by its very presence. But how many of us are really repulsed and horrified by the evil around us? We have become de-sensitized by the world’s casual attitudes toward sex, violence, pride, greed, and every other imaginable sin. What passes as entertainment today is little more than despicable lasciviousness and all manner of fleshly impulses being glorified. And most of us in the Body of Christ indulge as much on these things as non-Christians do.
We want the Lord to cleanse us from all unrighteousness and all the while we are re-filling our minds with sinful images faster than the Spirit can wipe them away. It is little wonder that most of us do not have a more powerful witness before a lost and dying world when we are willfully participating in the corruption of our own purity. If we are to get serious with God, we should love what He loves and hate what He hates. And God hates evil.
Conversely, we are implored to cleave to that which is good. We are literally to be glued or cemented together to that which is good. We must not let go of the good that God has instructed us to do.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
We wrestle with sin as much as we do because most of us continually feed our minds and hearts a steady diet of wickedness. We do not really spend much of our time thinking about things that are good, true, honest, and pure. The deeds of the flesh, whether real or dramatized, surround us all the time and most of us have developed an acceptance toward them. But until we truly begin to abhor and despise all that is evil, our struggle with sin will continue to be a losing battle.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)
If we are to walk closely with the Holy Spirit, living a life pleasing to God, we must become sick and tired of sin itself. We have to hate all that is evil, especially the evil deeds that we ourselves commit. It’s one thing to despise the evil that others do, but what about our own wickedness? Do we despise that, too? Is our loathing for evil strong enough for us to allow God to change us and renew us by the transforming of our minds (Romans 12:2)? Many of us in the Church do not take the sin in our own lives very seriously because we rest on the fact that Christ has paid the penalty for our sin debt and we have been forgiven. True enough, but we must also recognize that most of us are hardly living the life that God desires for us because we refuse to abhor the evil that so easily ensnares us.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
*New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
*Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
*Darby Translation (DARBY)