Love. We are bombarded by the word aren’t we? We talk about who we love, what we love, why we love, how much we love, and the nature of our love. We even have a day set aside to demonstrate our love to those we love. You can’t turn on the radio or listen to a CD without the word popping up somewhere. Love is in the air, it’s on the television, it’s written about in books and magazines, and it’s talked about in school cafeterias, office cubicles, and on Facebook. Yet, with all of this talk, have you really ever stopped to think about the quality of the love that is so prevalent in our society today? It’s pretty weak isn’t it? For the most part it doesn’t last and it doesn’t last because we have come to know love as a feeling that we “get” rather than a decision that is made.

Today we are going to continue our study of Romans 12. In Romans 12:10-13 Paul gives us some great guidance about how we, as a family of faith, united by the love that God has demonstrated for each of us, should love one another. Let’s read our Scripture and then we will get started. Go ahead and back up to verse 9 to begin.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)

There are thirteen character qualities, thirteen aspects of the love that we are to demonstrate for one another listed in these verses. We’ve already studied verse 9 so we won’t be redundant with the first three aspects of love covered in that verse. I want you to notice something as we begin our study this morning. Paul doesn’t say that we are to love, with an “agape” love, those that we like or are drawn to who are brothers and sisters in Christ. He says that we are to love the family, the whole family. It is so important that we not only understand this, but put it into practice. I want to emphasize this because I see something totally different happening in the Body of Christ today. Our love is not so much different than the love that is practiced by those who don’t claim to follow Jesus. We need to be challenged to love others like God has loved us.

Do you think that you are “attractive” to God? Is it your personality that has drawn God to you? Is it your wit, your wisdom, or your good looks that caused God to stand up and take notice of you? Hardly. God loves you and me because He has chosen to love us. He knows that we are needy folks, schizophrenic folks, hard-headed folks, prejudiced folks, arrogant folks, contrary, moody, and difficult folks. Yet, He loves us. He loves us. Isn’t that amazing? It is more than amazing, it describes in vivid detail the kind of love God has and wants us to have for others. We are to love those who are just like us–messed up folks.

In the early Church they had their problems, but boy did they know how to love. I was reading this past week about the early Church and I’ve run across some writings that demonstrate their love for one another that I want to share with you.

Aristides was a Christian philosopher who died in 133 A.D. He observed and wrote about the followers of Jesus. Listen to what he saw among those who called themselves Christians.

They walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them, and they love one another. They despise not the widow, and grieve not the orphan. He that has distributes liberally to him that has not. If they see a stranger, they bring him under their roof, and rejoice over him as if he were their own brother: for they call themselves brothers, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit of God. When one of their poor passes away from the world, and any of them see him, they provide for his burial according to their ability; and if they hear that any of their number is imprisoned or oppressed for the name of their Messiah, all of them provide for his needs. And if there is among them a man that is needy and poor, and they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days that they may supply the needy with their necessary food. (Aristides, 125 A.D.)

Are you starting to get the picture? This description of love is not quite the picture that we get in our day is it. Let me continue.

Tertullian was born in 160 A.D. and died in 220 A.D. He was a very interesting man. He was born in Carthage to parents who weren’t Christians. His dad was a Roman centurion in Africa. He wanted his son to do something with his life so he prepared him for civil service. He got the best education in jurisprudence and the art of forensic eloquence that a person could get in that day. Tertullian was brilliant and quickly moved to the head of the class–until his conversion to Christianity. Tertullian knew that it was God who had given him his intellectual aptitude so he used his mind for the glory of God.

Tertullian wrote, Apology, as a defense of the Christian faith to the Romans officials who were persecuting the followers of Jesus. To those governing officials he wrote,

But carry on, good officials. You will become much better in the eyes of the people if you will sacrifice the Christians for them. Torture us! Your iniquity is the proof of our innocence. For this reason God permits us to suffer these things… Yet your tortures accomplish nothing, though each is more refined than the last; rather they are an enticement to our religion. We become more every time we are hewn down by you: the blood of Christians is seed. (Apology, 50, 12ff).

Later, in Apology, Tertullian wrote that it was unjust for the Christians to be persecuted because their chief aim was to serve God by caring for those of the community who were struggling. Tertullian writes about the generosity of Christians.

Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he is able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety’s deposit fund. For they are not taken and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God’s Church, they become the nurslings of their confession. But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another. (Tertullian, Apology 39.6, written about 197 A.D.)

I love the line, “But it is mainly the deeds of love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. ‘See,’ they say, ‘how they love one another.'”

Flavius Claudius Julianus was born in 331 in Constantinople. He was the ruler of the Roman Empire serving as Caesar from 355-360 and then as Augustus from 361-363. Julian was later known as “Julian the Apostate.” His chief aim as Emperor was to restore pagan worship to the empire and eradicate the Roman Empire of Christianity. Julian wanted to borrow from Christianity the love and morality he saw practiced by the followers of Jesus, but he wanted the pagans to exemplify these qualities. In one of his writings Julian said that Christianity,

has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers and through their care of the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar and that the [Christians] care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help we should render them. (Emperor Julian)

It’s one thing to read the words of Tertullian or Aristides, but to read the words of the archenemy of Christianity, the leader of the Roman Empire, praising the love and devotion of the followers of Jesus, now that is something else. Let me read to you once again our Scripture from Romans 12:9-13 and see if the actions of the early Church reflect Paul’s description of love.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13 NIV)

I mentioned to you that there are ten aspects of the love that Paul urges us to display in our relationships with one another. Let’s take a look by beginning with verse 10.

First of all, we are to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”

There are four Greek words used to describe various kinds of love. “Agape,” which we have already looked at, describes love with no strings attached. “Philia” and “storge” are used in verses 10. “Eros” is the word that we get our word, “erotic” from and it is not used in the Bible. In verse 10, the word, “devoted” is the Greek word, “philostorgos” and it means, “the mutual love of parents and children and wives and husbands,” or “used chiefly of the reciprocal tenderness of parents and children.” The last phrase of verse 10, “in brotherly love,” translates the Greek word, “Philadelphia.” Like the city of Philadelphia, the city of “brotherly love.” These are words used to describe a family kind of love. This is the kind of love we are to have for one another. This is a devoted love, a love like we have for family members. In my family we can have our squabbles and disagreements, but you don’t want to mess with one of my family members. And so it should be with our family of faith.

Secondly, we are to honor one another above ourselves.

One Bible commentator says that the word used for “honor” means, “to go before, or to lead, to set an example.” That is exactly what we are to do. Most people are looking for a pat on the back, but as brothers and sisters in Christ we are to be the ones patting folks on the back. Have you ever set out in your day and said, “Today, I’m going to look for things that others do to brag on them, to appreciate them, to honor them.” That is the mindset of the followers of Jesus. Paul wrote in Philippians 2:3-7,

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:3-7 NIV)

Why should we do nothing out of “selfish ambition” or “vain conceit?” Why should we consider others before we consider ourselves? Why should we look out for others instead of #1? These are the distinguishing marks of our Savior. He made Himself nothing and took on the very nature of a servant.

Thirdly, we are never to be lacking in zeal.

James Montgomery Boice says that a literal translation would read, “In regard to what you ought to be doing, don’t be lazy.” Paul wrote to the folks in Galatia and said,

9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:9-10 NIV)

Don’t give up. Don’t stop doing good for others. Paul also wrote to the folks in Thessalonica. Here is what he had to say, 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right. (2 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV)

In Romans 12:10 Paul said “don’t lose your zeal.” In Galatians and Thessalonians he said, “Don’t become weary in doing good.” We tend to make commitments with passion, but then lose our passion and conviction don’t we? Paul urges us not to lose our passion for loving others.

Paul also alluded to becoming “weary.” Is the “weariness” that Paul is talking about physical exhaustion? Could be, but I would not isolate it to physical fatigue. There are other things that can contribute to our weariness aren’t there? People can wear you out can’t they? You make a concerted effort to let petty things go, seek to be a blessing, and go the extra mile to love folks only to have them take advantage of you. Now, that will wear you out and make you want to just go home and take care of your own business. Paul says, “Don’t do it. Never tire of loving others.”

The fourth aspect of love we are to show our brothers and sisters in Christ is this: Keep your spiritual fervor.

This is the positive command of the previous exhortation to not be lazy. The word, “fervor,” literally means, “to boil,” or “to be hot.” We are to keep the fire of passion burning throughout our life so that we can live out the life that we have been called to live. Now, you need to know that this is impossible on our own. Paul told Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” Evidently it had died down. Donald Grey Barnhouse says that there is a key to keeping our spiritual passion for God and for loving His people throughout our lives. Barnhouse writes,

The glow of the Spirit is the warmth of the soul touched by the love of Christ. It cannot exist apart from the knowledge that we have been loved, that Christ gave himself for our sins, that we have been redeemed, and that the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in our hearts. Such knowledge causes us to yield in full surrender to him as Lord of all. The Holy Spirit, who dwells in all believers, will glow through those who allow him to fill and direct their lives. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Discipline: Exposition of Bible Doctrines, Taking the Epistle to the Romans as a Point of Departure, Vol. 9, Romans 12:1-14:12. Grand Rapids: Wm B. Erdman’s Publishing Company 1964, p. 74)

The fifth aspect of love is: Serve the Lord.

When we are loving others we are serving the Lord. We are not to become lazy, we are to keep the fire burning, and remember that we are not merely loving others, but we are serving the Lord. It is imperative that we keep this in mind or we will become “weary in doing good” and abandon ship. Paul wrote to the folks in Colosse.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

One of my favorite verses in all of God’s Word is Hebrews 6:10. It has helped me to realize “Who” I am loving when I begin to lose my passion for loving others. Listen to this.

10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10 NIV)

Sixth, we are to be joyful in hope.

Actually the next three should be taken together rather than standing alone. We are to be “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.” Being “joyful” can be a chore can’t it? You can manufacture it for a little while, but sooner or later life’s ups and downs are going to peel away the thin veneer of pretend joy and expose what really lies underneath. Paul isn’t talking about a manufactured joy, he says to be “joyful in hope.” Our hope is grounded in something other than our having a great day or things going our way. In Titus 2:11-15 we read,

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2:11-15 NIV)

We are waiting for our “blessed hope.” Our hope is that one day Jesus will make good on His promise to come back for His own at which time we will be delivered from this life with its heartaches and troubles. It’s not an empty hope my friends. Every promise that He has ever made He has delivered on so we have no worries, no questions, about whether or not He will come back for us–it is only a matter of time. So we wait, we press on through the hardships of life full of hope, knowing that the finish line is approaching.

Seventh, we are to be patient in affliction.

What does it mean to be “patient in affliction?” That’s a great question and boy do we need an answer because every one of us will face affliction in our lives. The word for “affliction” is “thlipsis” and it means, “a pressing, pressing together, pressure, or straits.” That’s what troubling times do to us isn’t it? They press us. They squeeze the life, the energy, out of us. Paul says that we are to take on a posture during troubling times. The Greek word, “hupomeno” means, “to remain, to not recede or flee, to stand one’s ground.” We get into big trouble when we act rashly during difficult times. We are wait on God, stand still and wait on God. In Psalm 40 we read,

1 For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:1-2 NIV)

During difficult times we have a tendency to question God, to make hasty decisions, and do try anything to get out of the predicament we are in. Don’t give in to these tendencies–trust God, hold fast to God, cling to Him with all your might as you endure the trial.

The eighth aspect of our love is “be faithful in prayer.”

We are not just to pray for ourselves, we are to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica and said,

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

I can see how God works through prayer. Each week I get to pray with various groups of people. I’ve witnessed firsthand how God lays on our hearts those who are struggling, those who have important decisions to make in life, and those who are being pressed by life. It is amazing to see how God, who knows what each of us is dealing with in life, will place you on the hearts of those you don’t even know are speaking your name before His glorious throne.

Ninth, we are to share with God’s people who are in need.

Wasn’t it humbling to hear the writings of those who lived so long ago? To hear how the early Church cared for those who were in prison, those who were hungry, those families who lost a loved one but couldn’t afford a funeral, and children who didn’t have parents? We are to care for those who are in need. Paul told a young preacher named Timothy.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:17-18 NIV)

Generosity is not just the responsibility of the rich–it is the privilege of us all.

Last of all, we are to practice hospitality.

We are to look for opportunities to be hospitable. Caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ is more than simply giving money; it is offering our lives in their service to help meet whatever need they might have. There are some needs that money can’t fix. Jesus summed it up in His parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Do you know the parable? Jesus said that the judgment of God will be like a Shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep are on His right hand and the goats on His left. Jesus said,

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40 NIV)

Whatever we do for others we are doing for Jesus? Are you serious? You can’t be serious? That is exactly what Jesus says my friends. How did the early Church have such an amazing impact on the world when they didn’t have the material resources that we have, the benefit of a seminary education, or conferences on “church growth” to aid them? It’s quite simple: they loved one another. Jesus said,

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

You want to know how to make an impact on the world around you? They aren’t looking for your deep theology. They aren’t impressed by your ability to quote chapter and verse of God’s Word. They aren’t wowed by our elaborate buildings. They aren’t attracted to our special events. They are starved for love, for someone who will love them like God loves them. I will tell you that you can’t love anyone like that until you’ve come to know and experience the love God has for you. Once you come to know that love, really know His love, then you don’t want to keep it to yourself.

Mike Hays
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
August 12, 2014
mike@brittonchurch.com

Love for the Family of Faith – Romans 12:9-13