How do we view others? Some people walk into a room and feel alive with the buzz of people, energized at the potential of new friends! Others see people who are not in their preferred tribe as enemies. If you disagree with me, then you can be demonized. Or if you aren’t for us, you are against us. Maybe you view people as projects needing re-education or enlightenment to see things your way.
We all know, Christian or not, there has to be a better way to treat those around us. The current norm is not working. The bible’s answer is love.
Maybe you aren’t convinced it is worth following Jesus because you have seen more harm from Christians than that actual love. It seems like a good time to go back as followers of Jesus to remind ourselves what our love should look like.
Romans 12:9-16 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.
Sincere love. Love without hypocrisy and fully genuine. This poses a problem for many today. If I really don’t like someone or feel it, how can I love them? If I’m commanded to love others and try to act as if I do, doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Part of the answer at least for Paul is that ‘love’ is a lot about what we do, not just what we feel. In the early church ‘love’ was often connected quite directly to helping other people out financially or through other practical needs. This, more than the butterflies of a first date is love.
Our culture knows love is more than a feeling, it is action. Have you missed a loved one's birthday? Special occasion? In those moments we know it is more than “the thought that counts”, love necessitates action. Or, you end up sleeping on the couch!
Again and again, in the Christian experience we discover that when we behave towards someone as though we really did love them, then, to our surprise, love, care, and concern for the other begins to well up. You don’t have to wait for the feeling to come for it to be authentic. Be sincere. Not manipulative, sincere. Show love.
Sincere love looks like several things in rapid-fire through Romans 12:9-13. Reflect on them, slow down, imagine them working out, and picture ways you can practice this kind of sincere love.
Love that is sincere then is also sacrificial. Romans 12:14-16 pulls out how we can sacrifice. We sacrifice with our words by blessing rather than cursing. We sacrifice our emotions by entering into another’s world. We relate. We are not a doormat or coerced to do this. Notice no one is forcing this. Jesus invites, Jesus is safe, and Jesus transforms. This sacrifice is a beautiful gift that blesses those around us. It is us willingly entering into the highs and lows of another. We sacrifice our status as Jesus did by being willing to associate with anyone.
This is love. Where do you start? I love this simplified statement of following Jesus:
"While you're figuring out what God wants you to do next - go love everybody.” - Bob Goff
Navigating this year ahead starts with a right view of God, a right view of ourselves, and keeps a right view of others before us. We view others with love. Jesus treated us this way, God loves you, and in light of his incredible mercy, go and do likewise. Love others sincerely and sacrificially.
Q. Slowly read the list, where do you excel? Where do you struggle? Why?
Q. Who is someone difficult or you disagree with to whom you could send a note of encouragement? Do it.