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Love May 7, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 12:9-21.

Summary: Paul begins by commanding his readers to love both believers and non-believers without hypocrisy; they should strive to avoid words and actions that hurt others, and they should hew to words and actions that benefit others. Moreover, believers should love each other as close relatives, and they should set an example to each other in terms of showing respect and kindness. When serving God, they should not become lazy – but remain diligent. When facing difficult circumstances, they should be joyful, patient and devoted to prayer in expectation of God’s present and future blessings. They should also share the burdens of their fellow believers and empathize with them; one way for them to fulfill this responsibility was to entertain strangers. Now believers should pray for the good of their enemies instead of wishing evil upon them. Also, believers should be united in their feelings, interests and purposes; instead of being high-minded, they should be humble and shun arrogance. When wronged by others, believers should not desire to retaliate – they should be careful in their actions in order to win the trust and good favor of men. Indeed, believers should aim to promote a state of peace that is consistent with God’s calling for their lives and His desires. Again, believers should not retaliate against those who have wronged them, since it is actually God’s prerogative to punish them. Instead, believers should seek to meet the material and spiritual needs of their enemies, which is an effective means of subduing them. Paul concludes by asserting that kindness – instead of violence – is the best method for subduing believers’ enemies.

Thoughts: The latter half of verse 10 actually consists of an exhortation for Christians to set an example to each other in terms of showing respect and kindness. Hodge weighs in as follows:

The word translated above…strictly means “to go before,” “to lead,” and then figuratively “to set an example”…It is not only an injunction for politeness but urges that in all acts of respect and kindness we should take the lead. Instead of waiting for others to honor us, we should be the first to show them respect.

This is a command that I struggle to obey. When I am reminded of this command, I think, “all Christians should be aware of what Paul is saying here; therefore, why do I need to set an example for them? If I take the lead in showing them respect and kindness, doesn’t that imply that they’re disobeying this command?” While that may be the case, I am not released from my obligation to fulfill God’s desires in this regard. Painful as it may be, I should set an example for other Christians and pray that by denying myself in this way, God will be glorified and I will be blessed.

Verse 20 includes an interesting quotation from Proverbs 25, where we learn that by looking out for our enemy’s best interests, we “will heap burning coals on his head.” Hodge explains this phrase as follows:

To heap burning coals on anyone is a punishment which no one can bear; he must yield to it. Kindness is no less effective; the most malignant enemy cannot always withstand it. Therefore the true and Christian way to subdue an enemy is to overcome evil with good.

Most, if not all Christians would assert that it is rather difficult to show genuine kindness to our enemies and truly care for their well-being. Somehow believers must continually remember that this attitude and its associated actions can be quite effective in terms of evangelism. Believers should be mindful that the eternal destiny of their enemies is at stake, which lends a certain level of urgency to our interactions with them. It is encouraging to remember that even the hardest rock can be eventually worn down by a constant drip of water.

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