Summary: Many times when we think of God using us and us using spiritual gifts we think of some pretty impressive stuff - miracles, prophecy, healings and the like. But Paul gives us some great instruction about the color of the ways God uses us.
We’ve come to this point in our study through Romans by seeing that since God has had so much mercy on us that it is only reasonable for us to make ourselves available to Him to help spread the truth of God’s love and gift of salvation. Last time we saw that we need an accurate look at ourselves and our progress as a Christian so that we can be used to help tell His story. We learned that we serve as part of an organism called the body of Christ, that we are all interdependent with each other, and each of us has a part to play, all equally important. Paul tells us to use the abilities God gave us to the fullest extent we can. Be energetic in your service. But today we see that doing things with zeal also needs the right motivation.
Because as we begin to use the gifts God gave us, it can easily become two things: 1) a way to impress others or 2) a way to impress ourselves. It becomes a show and a showoff. But Paul keeps us on firm footing as he gives us the way to focus our gifts and service to the Lord. And he sums it up nicely with just four words:
Let love be genuine. In a lot of ways, what we are seeing in these verses is the demonstration of the gifts of the Spirit Paul talked about in verses 3 – 8. We ten to think that using spiritual gifts is a miraculous show like in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. But those kind of obvious gifts are simply a delivery system. What is more important is the motivation and purpose, not the way it is done.
When you are finding your part in the body these are some of the ways God will use you. Genuine love is non-fake love. In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, the word is used for the helmet of God as he comes down to save the world. It is the real thing, the genuine article, not something feigned or fake. The kind of love most of us experience in the world is selfish love—its love given in hopes of something returned. We do it very unconsciously. If the love we give out is not reciprocated, we pull away. The kind of love God works into our character has two characteristics: it is a very self-less love and it is a very other-focused love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. NKJV (Rom 5:8-9)
Genuine love should color everything we do—every motivation, every word, every action. Love is the ingredient that makes for a healthy Christian and a healthy body. When we lack love for each other, that is when all kinds of trouble begins—selfish gain, jealousy, back-biting, gossip, undermining, etc. 1 Corinthians 13 is a great dissertation on love: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7)
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35)
Abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good
Slipping into a self serving love is pretty easy. We do it naturally as humans. All it takes is starting to serve the self once again, the old nature that was crucified on the cross, and we start down a road that leads to hurting others instead of helping.
A part of what we need to do as Christians is to recognize when love is genuine and when it isn’t.
The word “abhor” can be translated “to shudder.” We should be revolted by anything that is not in keeping with the goodness of God, even in ourselves. By the same token we need to hold fast to what is like God. “Hold fast” means “to glue onto.” We need to be super-glued to that which is good. Having a good sense of the difference between good and evil helps us as we help others maneuver through their own journey to understand origins, purpose, and destiny.
It’s like Paul said: Gal 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Which is a great transition to his next statement: