Romans 12:1-2 deals with our relationship to God after He has saved us by His mercy and grace. We love God because He first loved us and we offer our bodies to His service. Our love for God and desire to reveal His love to others affects all other relationships that we as Christians have. The first area that our relationship to God affects is our relationship to other believers.
Paul wrote Romans 12:3-13 in order to instruct the Christians at Rome to practice honest evaluation of self (12:3), to practice faithful cooperation with each other (12:4-8), and to practice loving consideration of each other (12:9-13). This passage instructs us that in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves, faithful cooperation with each other, and loving consideration of each other in the church.
First, in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves in the church (Romans 12:3). The truth that we have none earned salvation is to humble us and keep us from having an attitude of superiority. When God saved us He gifted us so that we could serve Him in His church. Each Christian must know what his or her spiritual gifts are and what ministries he or she is to have in the local church. We are saved by grace, we are gifted by grace and we serve by grace. We are to practice honest evaluation of ourselves in the church.
Second, in light of God’s love and mercy toward us, we are to practice faithful cooperation with each other in the church (Romans 12:4-8). Each believer has a different gift and God has bestowed these gifts so that the local body can grow in a balanced way. We are interdependent by God’s design. We have unity of purpose and diversity of ability. Just like the members of our physical bodies have different functions and yet work together, so we are to have faithful cooperation with each other. We have different functions and yet we work together as a team. We are to practice faithful cooperation with each other in the church.
Third, in light of God’s love and mercy for us, we are to practice loving consideration of each other (Romans 12:9-13). Here the emphasis is on the attitudes of those who exercise their spiritual gifts. It is possible to use a spiritual gift in an unloving and unspiritual way. Love is the circulatory system of the spiritual body, which enables all members to function not only in faithful cooperation with each other but also in loving consideration of each other. Here we see how we are to practice loving consideration of each other.
First, our love for each other is to be sincere love – “Let love be without hypocrisy” (12:9a). Hypocrisy means to “play the part or play-act.” There is to be no pretense in our love for each other nor is there to be any ulterior motives that would cause us to “use” each other for selfish gain under the pretense of love.
Second, our love for each other is to be discerning love – “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (12:9b). “Abhor” means to detest with horror. The word for “evil” means that which is injurious or harmful to someone else – it is a relationship word. Love hates! Love hates that which would cause harm to those it loves. In this context, we are to hate that which would cause harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only are we to abhor what is evil, we are to cling to what is good. The word “cling” is the word for glue. The word “good” is another relationship word and it is the word for that which would benefit or help others. So we are to detest with horror the evil that would injure our brothers and sisters in Christ and we are to be glued to the good that would benefit or help them. Our love for each other is to be discerning.
Third, our love for each other is to be family love – “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love” (12:10a). We don’t see each other as just a group of people who come together, sing some songs, and hear a message – we see each other as family – as brothers and sisters in Christ no matter our social status, education, nationality, or race. We are to be glad to be part of the family of God and we are to love each other with family love.
Fourth, our love for each other is to be showcasing love – “Give preference to one another in honor” (12:10b). The words “give preference” mean to outdo by taking the lead. The word “honor” means to put others higher than self. So we are to “outdo one another in putting others higher than ourselves.” We are to regard one another as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). We are to showcase the importance and value of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Fifth, our love for each other is to be enthusiastic love – “Not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (12:11). “Not lagging behind in diligence” means to not be lazy – don’t fall behind. “Fervent in spirit” means with zeal or boiling intensity. We are to be enthusiastic in our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. What makes it possible for us to have this enthusiastic love for them? It is how we serve the Lord because they are members of His body. Our love for each other is to be enthusiastic.
Sixth, our love for each other is to be persistent love – “Rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer” (12:12). Let’s face it; loving each other isn’t always easy. This is why our love for each other must be persistent. As we deal with others and love them out of our service for the Lord we are to rejoice in hope. The word “hope” in the original has the definite article “the” in front of it. We are to rejoice in “the hope.” What is “the hope?” It is the certainty that every believer will be just like Jesus one of these days. When our brothers and sisters seem unlovable we are to persist in loving them because one day we will all be set free from the presence of sin.
We are also to persevere in tribulation. I believe that the context here is dealing with the burden of loving others in the body of Christ and having that love rejected or spurned. “Persevering” means to bear up under just like you would in a family with a rebellious family member. The word “tribulation” means crushing pressure. We are to bear up under the crushing pressure of the problems of a rebellious member in the family. We don’t leave the family or give up on the family member – we persist and continue to love the family and all its members.
We are to be devoted to prayer. To rejoice in hope while persevering in tribulation means that we must be devoted to prayer. It’s hard to talk to others about someone in the church when we have been talking to God for them in prayer. Our love for each other is to be persistent.
Seventh, our love for each other is to be participating love – “Contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality” (12:13). The word “contributing” means to participate with or share with others. We are to participate with or share with the needs of the saints. On one level this means to share in the hurts and heartaches of the saints among us. On another level it means giving money or goods to meet the needs of the less fortunate among us.
“Hospitality” means to show kindness to strangers. We are to practice showing kindness to those among us that we don’t know as well as we do some of the others. One of the primary ways this is done is to invite them over for a meal, get to know them, and speak of the things of the Lord together. Our love for each other is to be a participating love.