Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 12:9-16
All historical eras of Christian culture have elevated individual faith leaders as examples to follow. Often these leaders are blessed with extraordinary energy and multiple gifts. This celebrity status encourages those around them either to give their all to glorify Jesus or to settle for being admiring and supportive spectators.The latter situation hinders development of Christ’s body. What can we do to avoid celebrity Christianity?
The above section of the exhortation in Romans Chapter 12 is a part of the “one anothers” woven through the entirety of Scripture. When each member of the body of Christ takes seriously these imperatives; we experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit Jesus has promised to the community of faith.
This chapter also fills out pragmatic aspects of a prophetic statement given by Jesus just before his sacrificial death: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
In Romans 12, the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul illuminates Jesus’ command to love one another with much more than a to-do list: hate the destructiveness of evil, cling to the goodness of God’s intentions, practice sincere love, devotion, hospitality…have zeal, fervor, joy… associate with the lowly, don’t be conceited. These exhortations nudge us to continue our vital connection with the matchless author of our faith resulting in tangible love – visible to the world around us.
Let’s face it, why would an outsider join a community of faith lacking these characteristics? Our best invitation to a person considering following Jesus is not a one-off act of kindness. When followers of Jesus sincerely care for one another and others the way this chapter in Romans describes, the pull to be a part of what Jesus offers can be almost irresistible.
Have you been frustrated trying various evangelistic methods or just stalled out in sharing the Good News of Jesus? Have you neglected loving those already in the body of Christ? Don’t ignore loving family and friends not yet in the faith, but also prioritize cultivating the Romans 12 kind of love with other followers of Jesus.
By Kathleen Petersen