Sermon Notes

August 19th 2018

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson August 19, 2018

Practicing Genuine Love / Romans 12:9-21 (MSG.)

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

INTRODUCTION
Romans 12:1, 2 set forth the primary theme of the remainder of the epistle: Out of gratitude for the grace of God in our salvation, we should present our bodies as living sacrifices in worshipful service. This will entail a whole new way of thinking and acting—a transformed life—which is the outflow of a constantly renewed mind.

This obligation to God is simply a reiteration of the primary theme of the Old Testament as emphasized by our Lord Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37 ff.). The verses which follow Romans 12:1, 2 articulate and apply another great theme of scripture—Our obligation to love God by loving others (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22: 39). Love must inspire and govern our ministry to one another within the body of Christ as we exercise our spiritual gifts (Romans 12:3-8).

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul shows us how love should govern our relationships, not only with our fellow-believers, but also with our neighbors and even our enemies. Paul speaks of the good love inspires—even if the recipients persecute the Christians who practice such love.

This is what we are exhorted to in this passage: Verses 9-13 set forth love as it is mani-fested in the family of God, the Church. Verses 14-21 describe how Christian love looks when it is out in the world. Let's take each of these two sections separately and see what is covered by each of them.

INTO THE VERSES

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

This describes love among Christians. Notice that it consists of six things Paul brings out very clearly. In order to understand them, we must enumerate them:
1. “Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.” Paul is saying hate what is evil in people, but don't reject the person because of the evil. The person is good. God loves him. He or she is made in the image of God. Therefore, true love learns to hate evil but not to reject the good. To do otherwise is to practice hypocritical love, love that pretends to be Christian. Hypocritical love rejects the person be-cause he doesn't behave according to an acceptable standard. But it is also hypocritical to condone sin because we accept the person. Christian love is a love that strikes the right chord between the two extremes.

2. “Be good friends who love deeply.” True love remembers that relationship is the ground of concern, and not friendship. The basis of our concern for one another is not that we know each other well or enjoy one another, it is that we are related to one another—even though we may never have met before. If we are Christians, we know that we already have a tie that ought to evoke concern and care for one another. Thus, we treat our brothers and sisters warmly and with acceptance and forgiveness.

3. “Practice playing second fiddle.” True love regards others as more deserving than yourself: The practical application of this is, “Be willing to let others have the credit.” If we really don't care who gets the credit, then we can just enjoy ourselves and do all kinds of good deeds.

4. “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.” Real love retains enthusiasm despite setbacks, always rejoicing in hope. He never lets his spiritual zeal sag, but maintains it. Jesus says that being lukewarm is very distressing to Him (Revelation 3:16). It is important that Paul adds the phrase “serving the Lord” here, for it re-minds us that the only thing that will keep our enthusiasm high is an awareness that we are serving the Lord.

5. “Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.” The way to rejoice in hope is explained by the two others things mentioned here. We can rejoice in hope because we are patient in affliction, and we are patient in affliction because we have been faithful in prayer. So, when trials come, the thing to do is to begin with prayer (Philippians 4:6). Take them to Him.

6. “Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” True love responds to needs. All we have to do is take a sober look around us and we will discover that, despite all of the social safety nets that have been put into place, people are still hurting. It is a direct responsibility of Christians to care for one another's needs.
To summarize: True love rejects sin but not persons. It remembers relationship is the ground of concern. It regards others as more deserving than themselves. It retains enthusiasm despite setbacks. It rejoices in hope by being patient in affliction and faithful in prayer; and it responds to needs in direct and personal ways, and especially by practicing hospitality.

14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Now Paul moves on to describe love exhibited to a non-Christian world. Again, he gives us six ways to do this:
1. “Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.” Love speaks well of its persecutors. That means we don't go around badmouthing people who are not nice to us. We don't run them down or speak harshly about them to others, but we speak well of them. Find something about that person that we can approve, and then say so to others.

2. “Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.” True love adjusts to other people’s moods. There is nothing worse than a cheerful person when something has gone wrong for you. But Paul says that we must adjust ourselves.

3. “Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.” True love does not show partiality to persons. This is what Paul encourages us to refrain from. The real reason for showing partiality is conceit. But if you have an honest view of ourselves, we know that we are no better than anybody else. Therefore we should be willing just to enjoy the ordinary people.

4. “Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.” True love is not sneaky or under-handed. Paul tells us not to take silent revenge for insults, and not to resort to subterfuges to get even.

5. “If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.” There are people who just will not allow you to be at peace with them, but don't let it start with you. It takes two to fight. If we refuse, at least the conflict does not depend on us and is not traceable to our actions and attitudes. That is what love really does.

6. “Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” Revenge is one of the most natural of human responses to hurt or injury or bad attitudes. But any time we act that way, we show that we have forgotten the many times we injured others without getting caught ourselves. But God hasn't forgotten. We must never carry out revenge, because we are not in the position of a judge. We, too, are guilty. We need to be judged. Therefore, Paul's admonition is, “Don't try to avenge yourself.” We will only make a mess of it. The inevitable result of trying to get even with people is that we escalate the conflict. It is inescapable.

Paul gives two reasons why we should not avenge ourselves:
1. God is already doing it. “Leave room for God's wrath.” God knows you have been insulted or hurt or injured. He knows it and He is already doing some-thing about it.

2. God alone claims the right to vengeance because He alone can do it in a way that will be redemptive. He won't injure the other person, but will bring him out of it.

What should we do, then, when someone injures us? “‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink.” Two things will happen if we refuse to avenge ourselves and let God do it:

1. We will be enabled to act positively instead of negatively. That will result in what Paul, quoting Proverbs 25:21-22, calls “heaping burning coals on his head.” This doesn't mean that we are going to get even by another process; this refers to the ancient way of lighting fires. They didn't have matches in those days, so if you wanted to light a fire in your home, you couldn't go and borrow a match. But you could go and borrow some coals from your neighbor. Of course, you took along an earthen jar that would not burn. Then you would ask your neighbor if you could borrow some coals to light your own fire. Now, if he was a good neighbor, he would fill the jar and you would carry the padded jar home on top of your head. This be-came a picture of an ample, generous response to a neighbor's need. Because of that, it became a metaphor for responding so generously to your neighbor that it made him ashamed of himself for his attitude toward you. That is what Paul is suggesting here.

2. We win the battle. If there is a conflict going on, we will win it if we respond with doing good instead of evil.
Three times Paul stresses the fact that we are not to return evil for evil—in Verses 14, 17 and 21. Throughout this passage it is underscored that the major way we express love in the world is by not reacting in vengeance when we are mistreated by the world. This is a practical way Paul has of reminding us that we are not to be conformed to this age. We are not to think like they do, but like Jesus (I Peter 2:23).

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