Summary: In chapter 12 of Romans, Paul gives an overview of what real, sincere love looks like. In so doing, Paul moves love out of the realm of the abstract into the realm of the concrete.
This morning I want us to start with a Peanuts comic strip.
1. One day Linus said to Lucy, “I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up.”
2. Lucy replied, “You a Doctor! Ha! You could never be a doctor! You know why? Because you don’t love mankind. That’s why!”
3. Linus defended himself, saying, “I do love mankind….it’s people I can’t stand.”
B. That cartoon illustrates the challenge that we face as people who are trying to obey God and be more like God.
1. The Bible makes it clear that we must love people specifically, and not just love humanity in general.
2. God’s will for us is to love people in real and concrete ways, not just love them in some abstract, vague way.
3. I like the old story of the man who found his children’s tracks in his freshly poured cement and he came into the house and let loose at the kids with an angry tirade.
a. His wife quickly interrupted him asking, “Don't you love the children?”
b. He replied, Of course, I love the children in the abstract, but not in the concrete!”
4. This reminds me of old saying:
To live in love with the saints above—Oh, that would be glory.
But to live below with the saints we know—Oh, that's a different story!
C. Today, as we return to Romans 12 in our series from Romans, and we return to this last section of the letter that is much more practical, we will notice a real change in Paul’s approach.
1. Rather than the long, well-developed sentences with theological arguments that we have been used to in Romans, we will notice that the sentences in this section are much shorter.
2. Almost every sentence contains a command, and in many no verb can be found.
3. We will also notice the subject seems to change with every verse; sometimes every phrase.
4. The whole section gives the impression that it is a random series of commands with little structure or common theme.
5. But I think that a closer examination and consideration will cause us to conclude that there is a unifying theme and purpose to this section.
D. So, what is Paul trying to do in this section?
1. Last week as we started into chapter 12, we focused on the way that Paul helped us see that the only logical response to the mercies of God is to lay our bodies and lives on the altar of sacrifice to God.
a. This offering of ourselves involves a transformation that includes a rejection of worldly ways through the renewing of our minds.
b. This leads to a right view of ourselves in God’s sight and a right relationship and use of our gifts for the good of the body of Christ, the church.
2. Today, as we examine the rest of chapter 12, we will see that this offering of ourselves to God will require an expression of real and sincere love toward others.
a. If you have been a part of this congregation a while then you know that we have tried to make it clear that love is the guiding principle for everything with regard to obeying God.
b. Love is the most important factor in our walk with God.
c. Jesus put love for God and love for others at the center of what is most important.
d. We have tried to keep that central in our teaching by using as our mission statement: Loving God, Loving Others, Loving Truth.
3. But “love” can be a vague and relative idea.
a. So, one of Paul’s purposes in this section is to move love out of the realm of the abstract into the realm of the concrete.
b. In the rest of chapter 12, Paul gives us many specific attitudes and behaviors that constitute what real and sincere love looks like.
c. This expression of sincere love would have been a blessing in the diverse church at Rome made up of Jews and Gentiles, and it will be a blessing here in our diverse church at Wetzel Road.
E. So, let’s begin the discussion of what sincere love looks likes where Paul began.
1. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. (Romans 12:9-13)
a. Did you notice the shortness of the sentences and the many different subjects addressed.
2. Verse 9 begins, “Let love be without hypocrisy…”