Reading: Romans 12: 9-17
Verses 9 and 11: Love must be sincere… Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
For Paul, faith was something that must be lived out in the world. Faith cannot be just in one’s home or even just within the walls of the church. Our passage’s key theme today is love and what that looks like in our relationship with God and within the context of community. The love of Christ that Paul knew and was guided by is the same love that we know and are called to live by.
In today’s passage Paul weaves together the personal and the corporate aspects of Christian love and faith. He begins with the foundational element: “Love must be sincere”. Love cannot be faked nor can it be reigned in. It must be like Jesus’ love: all out for all people. Paul addresses what our corporate love should look like. He advises us to be devoted to each other, to honor others above self, and to not be haughty but to associate with all. Paul also instructs us to be there for one another – to celebrate the joys and to mourn in the sadnesses. In other words, be a good friend. For Paul that also includes sharing with all in need, practicing genuine hospitality.
Paul also speaks to our personal relationship with God. He encourages us to “Keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”. For Paul, his love of Christ did not waver – it was always full-on, never stop love. There was always another lost soul to connect to Jesus Christ. He challenges us to have the same love. To this end he offers some practical tips: hate evil and cling to good, be joyful in hope, be patient in the trials, and pray faithfully. These were the things Paul practiced. He knew that these practices would keep us in love with God. This relationship with God is like all of our other relationships: the more we put in, the more we get out.
To a small degree we have the choice to love as God loves. We, at times, can make the choice to love or to hate, for example. But in general we are of the flesh and cannot always make the good or loving choice. God’s presence and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are the keys to a steady walk with God. The more we choose to seek God’s presence, the less we rely on self. The more we listen for and heed the voice of the Spirit, the louder that voice grows. Day by day may we seek God’s presence and may we strive to hear the voice of the Spirit above the din of the world. In doing so, we will walk more and more in God’s love and grace. May it be so.