Placing Love In Context
July 11, 2021 Series: Romans
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Romans 12:9–12:21
 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9–21
OPENING ILLUS: unexpressed love
Some have love...but their trouble is not expressing it. [but then, is it really love?]
The father who loves his son, but can’t bring himself to tell him.
The daughter who loved her controlling mom, but was too afraid to share the gospel with her,...even as she lay on her death bed.
Oh, the consequences of unexpressed love.
Some years ago, through the passing of a dear friend, I learned a difficult lesson about a phrase that had crept into my vocabulary -even worse- in my posture toward others: “...it goes without saying…” - we’re never promised the next opportunity to say what should ‘go without saying’, so how about we get better at saying it. With our words: YES! Also with our lives!
The Love of God doesn’t ‘go without saying’ - it is expressed explicitly through Jesus Christ and empowered specifically through the Holy Spirit!
This sets the context for a loving church as well as our loving witness wherever we are.
Paul makes it clear that Christian love always leads to action - deliberate & purposeful expression that glorifies God & ministers to His people. So, what does God's way of love look like?
James Montgomery Boice points out…
Love is not some mushy emotion that embraces all, forgives all, forgets all, & requires nothing...In fact, you will notice at once that in our text Paul does not even define love. He passes immediately to how love functions. - James Montgomery Boice
Foundation of Mercy (end of C.11, beginning of C.12)
There is grace available to us along with the gift of faith (V.3-8)
Renewed Life and heart level change that counters the ‘spirit of the age’ (V.1-2)
Transformed Thinking that aligns our perspective with the Kingdom of God (V.3-8)
Love: our focus today will be on what scripture affirms and instructs about love rather than swinging at the air in how the world attempts to define through constant morphing of definition.
I appreciated Sam Storms definition and will link to the fuller article addressing what can be so prevalent in the world today “Love is Love!” Or, Is It?
“Love” is acting and speaking in such a way that the object of one’s affection is most greatly blessed in this life and in the age to come. - Sam Storms
I’m adding some breakdown (bullet points) to this passage for us -talking about the context of the local church, love’s non-negotiables and the context of the World- in reality, we’re called to these things no matter where we are, no matter the moment, no matter the person.
Jesus didn’t save us to parse out our faith differently in our homes, workplaces, campus, community group of Sunday gathering - he saved us, our whole being, to himself so that our whole being -no matter where we are- would point to him as our savior.
Today, as we go through our passage you may notice that I’ll not address all of the commands or imperatives that are given to us as followers of Jesus. In Romans 12 alone there are something like 36 commands given to us, in our verses today there are 30 (83%) of them stacked on top of one another… Seems to me that could easily become overwhelming
I do encourage listening for where the Holy Spirit wants to reveal things to us today in areas needing repentance or change - I also encourage us to be ones who go to the scriptures on our own through the week to gain an understanding of what each of these imperatives, or commands, are and how it is that they are to be accomplished, that is - in light of the mercies of God!
My heart today is to hopefully help set out a call or a challenge for us, as Metro Life Church, to respond to corporately. This is not saying that we aren’t a loving church - I have the privilege of hearing stories of the amazing ways that we are a loving church and it amazes me. But we’re not perfected yet, we’ve got growing to do because I’m often part of conversations helping to reconcile ways that we’ve got some growing to do. So, as we go through our passage today, let’s look most specifically at God’s Word with a listening ear to what the Holy Spirit wants to reveal to us.
Love: Expressed in the Church (v.9-11)
A Loving Culture
 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. - Romans 12:9–13
Love: Let’s begin by considering some oft-overlooked aspects of Love
Love (agape) is a practical fruit of the sprit (Gal 5)
Supernatural glory of divine love placed in us for a natural outflowing toward others, in our passage today, in the church.
This is born of the work of the spirit in us, guided by both the character -and care- of God
To this point in the book of Romans, references to Love have been about the Love of God
Love (Philos - beloved, dear, friendly, brother) is sacrificial (Rom 12:1 sets the context)
Toward those we’re called together with in the church
ILLUS: this morning’s new members being added.
in meeting with them for pastoral interviews for membership, they were raving about how much of this they’ve experienced here at MLC! I don’t want to sit back and assume then that we’ve got it all together, I want to see these verses again, invite the Holy Spirit to breathe live into those cold, dead or callus parts of my heart, convicting where necessary so that in repentance change can happen.
Paul’s assumption is that, as a part of our renewed heart, transformed thinking, that we’ll be involved in a local community context of the church and he wants to equip us for being a part. He’s also making the assumption that because of our faith, we’ll withstand troubles with the world. That may be in the form of persecution but it could also involve issues relationally or in commerce. This is not something to fear, we’re equipped here to face those things to the Glory of God. Jesus reminds us in John 16:33that “in this world we’ll face tribulation, but take heart, I have overcome this world.” -why would he want us to know that? Because at the beginning of John 16:33 he tells us that “in him, we can find peace” - that’s good news for our souls today, good news that we can experience the benefit of.
So far in Romans all references to love have been to the love of God, but now Paul focuses on love as the essence of Christian discipleship.
verse 9 serves as a boundary against any misinterpretation of verses 10-21. It is not loving to let the beloved sin against you. To allow or to promote sin is never the best thing for anyone. Also, to “cling to what is good” means we must not sin against ourselves. In other words, we must not love others in such a way as to disobey God and be poor stewards of our physical and emotional health or of our families.
But we are to love others at cost to ourselves; not to earn someone else’s love, or God’s love, but “in view of” the love that he has already lavished on us. The Bible makes much of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. He was stripped and killed in order to love us. In view of that, we are to live as he did, and love as he did. If the way we love another comes at a cost to ourselves, we have started to know what Christ-like love is. - Keller, Timothy
Perhaps here’s a helpful way to summarize this section as it relates to Real Love expressed in the context of the local church:
- Committed & Discerning (v.9)
- Others Focused (v.10)
- For Real Life Together (11)
Committed & Discerning (v.9)
As we seek to operate in the Gifts of Grace, Gathering together, masks off, we’re not playing a role that we think we have to play in front of each other and as such being hypocritical about our own need while dishing out life-advice to others about where they’re right or wrong in how they’re doing things. Having our conscience informed by God’s love, his character, his care, knowing how to wisely make moral decisions about what brings God Glory in us and through His Church.
Others focused (v.10)
The gathered church isn’t a social club, moral think-tank or community gathered to be energized by the latest way we’re going to combat the world. It’s not less than those things but it is so much more! Paul uses familial language to describe our love for one another - not to replace the mission field, discipleship priorities or blood ties to our natural family - rather, to emphasize the long-game, lifelong bond we can experience the good of in the church. A dear-to-our-hearts, close-as-a-brother, gathering together.
For Real Life Together (v.11)
What animates this gathering of the redeemed in their life-long bond through saving faith in Jesus? Not only are we whole-hearted in our approach to one-another, we’re boiling over with God’s love like hot water boils over the top of a pot. Eager to sacrificially-serve each other because of how Christ laid down his life for us.
Love’s Non-Negotiables (v.12-16)
In the church & In the world
 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. - Romans 12:14-16
Combines FEELING & ACTION (V.12-15)
Anything that we do has a certain trust -not an uncertain expectation- because our love is going to bloom into hope - a love that looks ahead to our glorious future together. When troubles come, and they will, we’ll be steadfast, constant and display the fruit of the spirit through our lives as we seek to love as we’ve been loved by God.
Genuine love in the church will be marked by a radical form of generosity - sharing out of the abundance that God has provided to us. Welcoming the stranger into our homes, into our lives, to our table. Harmonious living is not synthesizing our thoughts along with those of others or the world, it is a biblical posture toward those around us that still stands firm for the faith, but does not need to be offensive on its behalf. In helping others to think or act biblically, we’re never given permission to think or act unbiblically ourselves.
More than just the ‘southern hospitality’ -pouring a glass of sweet tea and a throwing a stick of butter at it- we’ll seek to minister to the whole person(s) we’re sitting with because our whole being has been renewed & transformed and we love others best by sharing that renewal and transformation with them. This humbles us in receiving and sobers us in being able to share in testimony or practical ways with others.
Love: Expressed in the World (v.17-21)
A Loving Witness
 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:17–21
Here again we realize what it looks like to live out of the abundance of the fruit of the sprit. We can live peaceably with others because of the diving peace with God offered to us through Jesus. Realistically, there’s only so much we can do but as far as we can, we’ll seek to do it. We’ll not be a people who seek to extract from others or avenge because we know there is a day of judgement coming that we’ve been graciously saved from through the mercy of God. That’s the foundation for our thoughts and thus, our actions toward others.
We’ll be committed to even express generosity and hospitality even to those who act as an enemy because we want our witness to be true, secured not by works that I accomplish but, the finished work of another when we were still at enmity with Him.
We don’t need to be ones that pile on burning coals of judgement to those who are against us, it was the kindness of God that lead to our repentance, in turn - our kindness -as a fruit of the spirit- can lead to conviction and repentance in others as well. May we know and understand the fullness of the mercy, grace, kindness, compassion, generosity and hospitality of God so that we can rightly express this to others.
Church, don’t these verses help us understand just how powerful and practical the Good News of the Gospel is?
- The Gospel tells us there is a judge, he can be trusted to make all things right
- The Gospel reminds us of how patient God has been with us
- The Gospel informs the way we think of ourselves with sober judgement (12:3)
- The Gospel enables us to sincerely and lovingly share in others highs and lows
RETURN TO OPENING ILLUS:
The Love of God doesn’t ‘go without saying’ - it is expressed explicitly through Jesus Christ and empowered specifically through the Holy Spirit!
Think about what we’ve heard over the past several weeks:
- God the Father: his arms extended open toward us, welcoming us to receive of this great salvation
- Jesus Christ: his arms extended through the ministry of his life, the saving blood poured out in his death and the victorious power of his resurrection
- The Holy Sprit: his arms both leading and comforting us in our times of need. Not only bringing conviction but applying the soothing salves of the truths of the Gospel to our wounded, weary souls.
- In Christ we have love expressed toward us
- In Christ this love was shown toward us before we even had opportunity to sin against him
Today is not about the imperatives listed here so that we can know Christ, today is about looking to Christ as the source for our salvation and hope to live in a way that brings Him glory. That his Holy Spirit would fill us with the fullness of the glory of God so that we can display that through our lives as they’re transformed.
So, today… Look to Christ:
- He died for us while we were yet sinners
- His father’s love extends toward us, even today to respond in salvation or repentance
- He was persecuted and turned away from, even by those who claimed to be closest to him
- He is the embodiment of love and he has sent us a helper to be the same for his Glory