This post was originally written for HopeStreamRadio.
There is so much richness in Romans 12:9-20. It says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink …” (ESV)
Hospitality is another item on this list that I commit to in spurts and starts. There was a time I invited people over for a meal every week or two. I’ve gotten so busy with other commitments, I rarely do so anymore. It is my goal to do better.
While hospitality may include sharing a meal, it can also be something as simple as having a friend over for coffee and a chat. And I am blessed with friends who don’t care about the condition of my home—good thing too.
But the very best thing we Christians can do with regard to hospitality is invite others, both friends and acquaintances, into our home to study God’s Word together.
Any form of hospitality is easier than the next mark of a true Christian. We are to bless those who persecute us. Can you really imagine doing so? But that’s exactly what Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:44 that we are to love and pray for our enemies. Wow! We can only do this if the Holy Spirit is at work within us.
Do you remember what both Jesus Christ and His disciple Stephen said when they were being killed? They asked God to forgive those who were putting them to death, pointing out that these individuals simply didn’t know what they were doing. Let’s remember their example when someone says something hurtful—or does something worse.
We are to be compassionate and caring. In fact, we are to be so moved by what is happening in others’ lives that we are to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” Have you ever empathized that intently? This requires a couple of things: 1) we must stop rushing from one task to the next long enough to really listen and be moved by another person’s situation, and 2) we must stop focusing on ourselves. Believe me when I say I’m not passing judgment. I’m speaking to myself at least as loudly as I am to you. God, please give us this kind of empathy. May we truly love those You bring into our lives.
Live in Harmony
And if we love others—including our enemies—we will seek to live in harmony. As this passage goes on to say, “So far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Harmony goes beyond simply being at peace with others, but living peaceably is a start. (We will talk about that more next time.)
My husband is a musician. And as you probably know, harmony is a vital component of music. Even if we’re not musically inclined, we likely recognize when something is “off.” A dissonant chord can send shivers down our spine. Each note must mesh together into something more beautiful and compelling than each on its own. And that’s the way it should be in our families and churches.
Does each of us complement the others? Are we stronger, more effective than we would be individually? Considering how we can live in harmony with others is worth an entire series of devotionals.
Don’t Be Haughty
The next item on the list meshes perfectly with those that come before it. We will not be hospitable, love our enemies, empathize with others, or live in harmony with them if we are haughty. Haughtiness is mutually exclusive with each and every one of these marks of true Christians.
Confidence that we can accomplish all God calls us to—because of His strength at work within us—is not the same as haughtiness. We can focus on others and still be confident. We will not be inclined to do so if we’re haughty.
Care for Others
We are not called to care only for our family and friends. We are called to associate with the lowly. How do we feel about society’s outcasts? More than that, what do we do to reach out to them with the love of God? (Talk about speaking to myself. I must keep my eyes open to the opportunities God will surely bring my way.)
We must be careful that pride, a close cousin of haughtiness, doesn’t slip into our hearts as we care for the lowly. While our actions may appear commendable, God knows our hearts. We must also remember that God doesn’t see us as in some way better than them. He doesn’t love us more than He loves others.