Last week we looked at the beginning of chapter 12 in the book of Romans. We examined the change that takes place in being Christian. We talked about our transformed nonconforming nature we are called to follow through with as Christians. Not just as new Christians, but a transforming nature that follows us all through our entire Christian journeys.
This week we continue on this journey as we examine the true nature of Christians. We are asking questions like: Who are we called to be? What are we called to act like? What are the true marks of being a Christians? And lucky for us Paul takes all of what Jesus teaches and does a good job of summing it up here to the Romans. As we continue to go through these chapters in Romans examine what they mean in your life and the type of person that Jesus calls us to be.
This week we are examining love and what it means. We all have enemies. Plain and simple we all have people whom we do not look favorably upon. We have all have times and people we struggle to love like we should. Whether it is because they have done something wrong, rubbed us the wrong way, or whether it is just something about them we just don’t like. We all have enemies and people we do not treat like we should.
Jeff walked in on the first day of work at a new job. As he examined the room he noticed all of the people working. He noticed the cubicles filled with people typing away on computers and filling out reports. His boss welcomed him and directed him to his desk and showed him around the rest of the office. As the tour was ending Jeff and his boss were encountered by a coworker, Phillip. As Phillip walked up he did with and ere of superiority over Jeff, because he had been working there for 5 years. Jeff felt as though he was more than competent at the job he was hired for and Phillip treated him as though he had never done it before.
Weeks and months passed and Phillip would not let up on Jeff. Treating him like a child who was learning to do something for the first time. Jeff began to harbor hate for Phillip and was constantly thinking of how life would be better without him. He could not see any reason to treat Phillip with any respect at all, for Phillip had showed no respect to Jeff since day 1.
I am sure many of us can relate to this situation at some point in our lives. Whether it actually happened at work, or when we were in school, or even places in the community. There are always those people we feel do not deserve our love. These “enemies” as we would often view them are exempt from our love because they have never showed it to us. Often time our enemies can be based on our conformities to societal ideals like we talked about last week.
Paul in this passage does not say there is no evil, because that would be a lie. We know there is evil in the world. We know that bad things happen and these things that should have hatred harbored toward them exist in the world. We acknowledge hate, but it is how we handle evil that defines us as Christians. Paul calls us to a morally different life. He calls us to taking of the “high road” as we would often call it.
Last week our mark of a true Christian from Paul was being nonconforming to the world, and being transformed by God. This week it is simple. Just Love. We are called to love. It is that simple. There are no strings attached to it. Love is the basis of this faith. If we look at the branches of all that Jesus teaches us we can root it back to the love we are called to have for everyone. No matter what their relationship is towards us. As Paul starts out he says, “Let love be genuine.” (v. 9) We need to let our love be of God be genuine and flow from us like it is second nature, and as we continue, “love one another with mutual affection.” These commands lay the foundation of Paul’s ideal of love.
When we move to verse 14 we begin to see an alignment with our text from Matthew. We here from these two how Jesus says, and then Paul reiterates, how we are supposed to truly love. Lets look at this concept of love and what it truly meant in the first century. When we look at the Greek Language, in which the New Testament was written, we see love used in different ways and we see different words used for love. Think about our culture. We have one word for love. It is “love.” Plain and simple, but we have many complicated definitions and levels for love. We have a familial love, a passionate love, and other kinds that I cannot even begin to list or we will be here for a while.
Well the Greek language recognizes the many different meanings for love and gave them each a word. There a several different words for love that occur in the Greek language. However, in the New Testament we encounter just two. We hear the Greek agape and phileo. Phileo is the sort of familial love. Think Philadelphia, “the city of brotherly love.” Then we have agape which is the most used by Jesus, and describes the unconditional love that we should have towards God and one another. However, there are also words like ergos, which talks of a passionate love. Then there is also stergo, which is a natural love in Greek.
As you can see from these examples love was a very important concept for the Greeks in their language and became an important concept to those using the Greek language in writing. They saw it important to delineate what type of love they were talking about. As the author of Matthew records these events of Jesus he takes careful consideration to the Greek word he is using. Jesus would have spoken Aramaic and not Greek so the disciples and writers recounting Jesus’ life are already translating his words. They could have chosen any of the Greek words for love, but they use this agape form to delineate the unconditional love Jesus calls us towards.
Paul takes this same love concept that Jesus preached and preaches it to the Romans he is writing to. Paul is reiterating the agape love to the Romans so they can understand the concept of the love without limits or conditions.
You know there may be people in this world whom we may not like, but as we read here in Romans and also as we hear from Jesus, that we are not called to harbor hate. Paul says in verse 14, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” When we truly think how difficult this is we understand the impact it can have on our life.
Think about the negativity you carry towards other people in your life. Think if you took it out. Think of instead of continuing the spread of negativity you were positive and loving towards everyone. Think how different your life would be. Or here is a good example. Imagine a political campaign where the candidates were not allowed to say bad things about each other. Imagine no negativity. Now that will probably never happen, but think how different that campaign would be. Imagine people responding to evil or hate with love. Imagine how lives would be different.
This is the basis that Paul and Jesus are seeking to get us to. “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” A life lived with God should be one of spreading peace and love with everyone. A love that stays away from evil thoughts and evil acts and instead acts out of the love that Jesus calls us to share.
It is this last line of the chapter that I really love in what Paul is saying. Paul says in verse 21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” As Paul closes this thought he puts forth this idea which sums up his last few sentences, and which is something that we should be taking with us. When we think about the evil in the world and the way that it affects us we cannot allow the evil to win. When we allow the evil to win we reinforce the cycle of evil in our world. Instead of stopping it we all it to continue.
Hate gets us nowhere in life besides more enemies. So instead when you encounter evil or hate respond with kindness. Respond with the good. Respond with God. God calls us to live lives where we are continually transformed by the Spirit as we saw last week, but what does that entail. That means that we are part of spreading God’s love to the world. We cannot spread God’s love if we are to busy spreading hate and anger. Rather we are called to embody Jesus in our daily lives. We are called to embody the love and kind heart of Jesus as we go forth and do God’s work in the world. That is our mission. It is to JUST LOVE.