World Conference 2023

Romans 12:9-21

3 September 2023

Exploring the Scripture

Having encouraged disciples to live for Christ, Paul outlines series of actions that represent a Christ-centered lifestyle.  His writing moves from teaching to strongly urging the Roman Christians to take specific actions.  His advice in any one matter would be enough for an entire sermon.  Taken as a whole, Romans 12:9-21 represents a Christian’s “to do” and “don’t do” list reminiscent of the Ten Commandments.  Each ethical teaching is a broad, general category that could easily include various specific applications. Each serve as a guiding principle for individuals to interpret and employ in real life.  

Verses 9 and 10 deal with love.  Love did not refer to sentiment or romantic attachment but meant wanting the best and highest good for someone else, with no strings attached.  Hating what is evil includes refusing to take part in the evil present in the world around you. Wanting good for others leads to mutual affection and upholding another’s honor ahead of your own.  

Verses 11 - 13 deal with faith.  Enthusiasm, zeal, and an ardent spirit are the characteristics of the faith that steadfastly serves God.  That faith allows Christians to rejoice in hope and endure suffering patiently.  It promotes a strong prayer life.  And eventually, it leads to giving generously to other church members and offering hospitality to strangers. 

Verses 14 and 15 deal with compassion for all.  Paul modeled returning good for evil in his own life when he blessed those who persecuted him.  Compassion means “feeling with” another, whether they are rejoicing or weeping.  God weeps with those who weep and finds joy with those who rejoice. Christians are called to do the same.  

Harmony and peace are the themes of verses 16 – 19.  Reject arrogance and arrogant behavior, which serves the individual at the expense of the community.  Instead, associate with, be in solidarity with, the humble; and do humble tasks, always open to learning more.  Instead of giving evil for evil, Paul urges the saints to act nobly, for the highest good—an echo of the meaning of love.  Christians are called to be peacemakers and renounce vindictiveness.  Vengeance and judgment are the domain of God alone.  Humans who dare to revenge themselves are grabbing the power and authority of the Divine.  

Finally, Paul sums up his teachings by urging all disciples to meet their enemies’ needs willingly. Proverbs 25:21-22 urges the Israelites to give bread and water to their enemies.  Such a response to evil will heap shame on the perpetrators and perhaps even cause them to repent.  Loving, generous actions can overcome evil with good and bring about transformation.  Christians are called to invest in God’s overpowering force of goodness, mercy, and grace, with Christ as the model. These appeals for Christ-centered living are the ethical imperatives set in in being “like-minded” with Jesus Christ and in the Christian community.  

Project Zion Podcast

Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.


Central Ideas

  1. Love is wanting the best and highest good for someone else, with no strings attached.
  2. Sincere faith is the foundation for service, hope, patient endurance, trusting prayer, generosity, and hospitality.
  3. Christians are called to weep with those who weep and find joy with those who rejoice.
  4. Arrogance and egocentricity serve the individual at the expense of the community. Christians are called to act nobly for the highest good.
  5. Vengeance and judgment are the domain of God alone. Christians are called to be peacemakers and renounce vindictiveness.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the ancient definition of love change how you understand the advice to “love your enemies?” How can you apply it in your own life?
  2. When have you wept with those who weep and rejoiced with those who were celebrating? When have you sensed God weeping or rejoicing with you?
  3. What evidence of arrogance and ego can you identify in your ministry and life as a disciple? How do you combat them? 
  4. What does it mean to renounce vindictiveness in your world today? In the church community?  In the political arena?  In your inner world of memories, emotion, and brokenness?  

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