Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. 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; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Most of us have learned how to ‘pretend’ to love others, how to speak kindly, to avoid hurting other people’s feelings and appear to take an interest in conversations. We maybe even skilled in pretending to ourselves to be moved with compassion, when we hear of other people’s needs, or become indignant when we hear of injustice. But God calls us to real love and real compassion, and that takes hard work.
Today’s verses summarize the real core of Christian living. The rhythm and verses are an echo of the Old Testament words written in Proverbs, together with the Sermon on the Mount; a list of do’s and don’ts for the early Christian convert.
Christians are not exempt from the pressures and stresses of daily living; however, Paul reminds us of the qualities that sets us apart as Christians.. These qualities more than ever, still hold true for us today in the 21st century. We live in an age of litigation, lawsuits, incessant demands for legal rights, political unrest, broken promises, and broken relationships and Paul’s demands seem impossible for us to live by. A sceptic would say they are!
However what holds this portion of Romans together is the commitment to Love. We often pride ourselves in recognising the person that is not genuine, who utters eloquent words, yet are empty and shallow. The context can vary, but the reflection of true love and honesty can shine from the heart and eyes of the hearer and the speaker. We cannot fool God!
We think that the letter of Romans is all about doctrine, or justification by faith. Here, though, as Paul is beginning to head toward the conclusion of the letter, we see once again that the Christian life for him is all about faith working through love.
Let love be genuine!
Lord, who said it is easy being a Christian?
It takes a lot of hard work and determination,
and yes we often fail at the first hurdle.
For your love for us never falters,
is always steadfast;
Your faithfulness for us never diminishes,
is always strong;
Your compassion for us, never wanes,
is always constant;.
In each sacred moment,
May the prism of God’s love illuminate our lives.
Now and always
The Rev’d Ruth Dillon, Minister, Fleet URC and Beacon Hill Hindhead URC Wessex Synod.