Scripture: Romans 12:9-21
Observation: Paul shows us how to love others. He begins by encouraging us to really love others with genuine affection and a desire to honor them. He tells us to help those in need, always be eager to practice hospitality, and to feel empathy. He warns us never to think we’re too good for anyone or too proud to be in the company of ordinary people. He ends by telling us to love our enemies, to conquer evil in the world by doing good.
Application: It’s Valentine’s Day of 1997. I’m a first grader with a toothy grin, skinny legs, and probably ratchet-looking hair. (I had the thickest bangs ever.) I don’t remember exactly what kind of small folded valentines I brought to share with the other 22 people in my class, but I would venture to guess they were pink and purple and had some sort of Disney princesses on them. (Jasmine was my home girl.)
I also had a VIV – that’s Very Important Valentine. His name was Jonathan. We had previously been chosen to be the Mary and Joseph of our Kindergarden Christmas play, so clearly we were meant to be. On this Valentines Day in the late 90s, he told me he loved me and gave me a chocolate rose. I’m pretty sure that chocolate rose was his version of “loving me with genuine affection.” Unfortunately, that chocolate rose made me sick, and soon after, Jonathan moved away, and I moved on. I’m resilient like that.
We all have a first “true” love, right? My guess is that my first grade love isn’t the same type of love Paul is talking about in today’s passage. And what a challenge this type of love is, right?
Let’s take a quick look at all the different things Paul tells us about love just in the first few verses:
- Don’t pretend to love – really love. (verse 9)
- Love with genuine affection. (verse 10)
- Take delight in honoring others. (verse 10)
- Be ready to help those in need. (verse 13)
- Always be eager to practice hospitality. (verse 13)
So the question is – how are you doing? Are you really loving others with a genuine affection? Not with something manufactured or surface deep, but something selfless and complete and authentic. Do you spend your days thinking about how to bring honor to those closest to you? When it comes to those in need, are you the first to lend a helping hand? Are you focused on loving and welcoming others with a spirit of hospitality?
I’m not going to share my answers (I’m not that brave to admit the truth), but I will say I don’t always love others genuinely. Sometimes, I start to love people conditionally, loving them for what they do and not who they are. It’s not intentional, but it is destructive. That kind of “love” is really no love at all. It divides us, it separates us, it makes us self-focused. And look at what Paul tells us in verse 16:
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!”
Here, Paul reveals two common reasons we don’t love others well: we’re too proud and think we know it all. How often do you judge others (whether consciously or unconsciously) rather than truly love them? How often do you determine how much you will love and honor another person based on their situation and circumstances? How often do you withhold love from someone because you think you’re better than them in some way?
For me, the answer is too often.
Today, I want to do more than just read Paul’s words; I want to live them. I want to love selflessly, fully, deeply. I want to love without limits. I want to love abundantly, unconditionally. I want to love because Christ loved me first in a way that’s so genuine, so unconditionally, so abundant.
Let’s love well today.
Prayer: God, I can so often get caught up in loving others for what they do, rather than who they are – sons and daughters, created by you. I pray you’ll expand my capacity to love today; help me love the way your Son loved, without boundaries or limits. Help me love well today. Amen.