The Character of Christian Community.

Romans 12:9-16’s list of responsibilities may seem to have no rhyme or reason to their order, but they fit into the chapter context perfectly. Romans 12 begins the practical portion of the book as we seek to live God’s glorious gospel outlined in Romans 1-11. If the chapter is a 3-story house, verses 1-2 are the foundation. Verses 3-8 are the first floor named Community. The second floor, verses 9-16, is about Compassion. Verses 17-21 address our Commission.

Inside the community of the Church, what does it mean to love well?

Paul sums it up in one word why and how our community exists, what she looks like and how she acts. The NASB says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” In the original Greek, this is not a complete sentence. A more literal translation would be “love sincerely.”

Roman culture understood the word “hypocrisy” to describe a bad actor. It did not describe someone who knew or said what was right but didn’t do it, as we use the word today.

The word for love that Paul uses is an objective love, not an emotive love. This is the love God has for us: a love of choice (1 John 4:7-8). He chose to love the unlovely. The imperative actions that follow in the passage are natural outgrowths of the love we choose to show our brothers and sisters in Christ when we are being transformed (verses 1-2).

Love is Holy (Romans 12:9b)

Love abhors evil with consistency. One author said, “The basic moral intention of love is to hate evil. Proper love has a violent hatred for wickedness.” This reflects the common saying to “love the sinner, but hate the sin,” applied within the body of Christ.

How do we know what to hate? Sin lists, of which Galatians 5:19-21 is the most comprehensive, tell us specifically. Righteousness hates what God hates.

We must constantly monitor our lives to abhor evil, but we will make mistakes. Be willing to make adjustments so that your choices match what God loves and hates. When you are convicted about a wrong choice, take that as confirmation that you are born again! God’s grace in 1 John 1:9 ensures that you can continue to grow.

In future weeks, we will study further aspects of love within the body of believers:

Love is Relational (Romans 12:10)
Love is Passionate (Romans 12:11-12)
Love is Aware (Romans 12:13-16)

Application Points

  • Right choices are the fruit of right relationships. If you strive to make right choices without a relationship with Christ, His Word, or other believers, you will not succeed. That is legalism, not Christianity, and it cannot transform you.
  • Right choices start with the individual Christian, not directives given to a group of people.
  • Parents, it is your responsibility to teach your children what God hates.
  • Take each word from Galatians 5:19-21 and compare them to the content of your screens. In your playlists, TV shows, movies, etc., make sure everything you listen to and watch does not include what love hates. Your soul and your children’s souls depend on this. The evidence of holy love in our lives is how we know that we know Jesus.
Cross References:
  • 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Colossians 3:5-7 – Additional sin lists.