27 February 2014

Romans 12:9-21

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good.” (v. 9)


Paul continues to depict the character of life in Christ by encouraging his readers to pursue lives of love and faithfulness. The passage is filled with brief exhortations, with the first section dealing mainly with life in the Church (verses 9-13), and the second focusing largely on how to relate with those outside to the Church who are hostile to it (verses 14-21). For Paul, it is important that Christians relate well to those inside as well as outside the community of faith.

Genuine love should mark the lives of believers (verse 9). Christians should treat one another with affection and honour (verse 10), and extend hospitality to those within - and also with out - the church (verse 13). Paul encourages believers to "rejoice... be patient ... persevere in prayer" (v. 11). Living a life of love towards others involves constant openness to the God who has called us.

In turning to relationships with those outside the Church, Paul assumes a context of social hostility. Believers can expect persecution and rejection, just as Jesus said they would (Matthew 5:11-12). In response, however, believers are called to 'bless' their persecutors, seeking their good (verse 14). They are to strive for peace and harmony, and - at all costs - avoid vengeance, since God will act justly when the time is right (verse 18-20). In a helpful summary of his advice, Paul encourages Christians to "overcome evil with good" (v. 21).

It is significant that Paul's instructions here are shaped by the teaching of Jesus. It was Jesus who emphasised love of God and neighbour (Matthew 22:36-40), and Jesus who called for blessing of enemies (Matthew 5:43-45). Paul was no maverick inventor of Christianity, but a faithful follower of Jesus who applied his teaching in new circumstances.

To Ponder

  • In what ways can Christians today "outdo one another in showing honour" (v. 10)?
  • How do you think Paul's instructions can help Christians experiencing persecution in the world today?
  • How can we allow Jesus' teachings to shape our own lives, just as Paul did? 

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the Discipleship Development Officer for the Methodist Church and an Associate Lecturer at Cliff College. He lives in Derbyshire with his wife Ali and their two sons.