Love's Final Intentions.

We have been studying the love Christians should have within the body of Christ (Romans 12:9-16). The pointed commands beginning in verse 13 seem random, but they do flow from what Paul wrote in the verses just before. Love that is holy, relational, passionate in serving and persevering, will be aware in these ways.

Bless Your Persecutors (Romans 12:14)

Persecution usually comes from outside the body of Christ, but sometimes it comes from within. Christ-likeness isn't really proven until it is tested, and some people's character turns ugly under pressure. Mistreatment from those who are close to us hurts even more than pain caused by those outside the church. Scripture repeatedly teaches us to expect affliction, but we are not to fear it. Mark Twain said, "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear." Being able to bless those who cause us pain requires the kind of love that Paul described in verses 9-13.

We are to bless fellow Christians who don't respond well to pressure, not to marginalize them (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27-28). If they are true believers, our ministry could lead them back to fellowship. Sadly, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. (See Acts 20:29-30; 1 John 2:18-29, 4:1-6; Revelation 2:12-29.) If they claim to be, we approach them as saved people and apply Scripture to their difficulty. Anyone will listen more to someone who loves them than someone who has not demonstrated that. A lack of self control must not be the response to another lack of self control. Spirit-led people can respond calmly no matter what.

Pastors aren't able to address every potential crisis situation themselves. The people of the flock must be shepherding each other. Every kind of person in the local church needs to be discipled by someone (1 Thessalonians 5:14, 2 Thessalonians 3:14).

Balance Your Dispositional Awareness (Romans 12:15)

We cannot rejoice or mourn with others if we don't know what is happening in their lives. A church that is shepherding each other will know each other well. Though each person won't know everyone, someone will know who is hurting and who is happy. We all affect each other (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Imitate God's Impartiality (Romans 12:16)

We are to make efforts to preserve the unity of the local church (Philippians 2:2, Ephesians 4). We show impartiality because God saves, shepherds, and disciplines without favoritism (James 2:1-6, 1 Timothy 5:19-20). Those considered "lowly" in Roman culture were people without education or finances. In the church, each person is equal because they are in Christ.

Because of our standing, we show humility. As one commentator said, "Conceit has no place in a life that's ruled by love." When you are tempted to be haughty, remember what your life would be like if Jesus had never saved you.

Application Points

  • How do you respond to pressure? What does difficulty reveal about your character?
  • Do you know someone who is struggling to respond well under pressure? How can you minister to them according to the instruction above?
  • Have you embraced a discipling relationship in which someone knows you well and you know them?
  • Do you show impartiality? Consider our equal standing in Christ. Are you humble? Remember who you would be if Jesus had not saved you.

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Luke 17:1-4 – Be prepared to minister to believers under pressure.
  • John 2:1-11, 11:17-38 – Jesus shared joy at a wedding and grief at a funeral.
A Hymn to Encourage: "Christian Hearts, in Love United"

Christian hearts, in love united,
Seek alone in Jesus rest;
Has He not your love excited?
Then let love inspire each breast;
Members on our Head depending,
Lights reflecting Him, our Sun,
Brethren His commands attending,
We in Him, our Lord, are one.

Come, then, come, O flock of Jesus,
Covenant with Him anew;
Unto Him Who conquered for us,
Pledge we love and service true;
And should our love’s union holy
Firmly linked no more remain,
Wait ye at His footstool lowly,
Till He draw it close again.

Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
“Love each other,” we comply,
Aiming with unfeigned affection
Thy love to exemplify;
Let our mutual love be glowing,
Thus will all men plainly see,
That we, as on one stem growing,
Living branches are in Thee.

O that such may be our union,
As Thine with the Father is,
And not one of our communion
E’er forsake the path of bliss;
May our light shine forth with brightness,
From Thy light reflected, shine;
Thus the world will bear us witness,
That we, Lord, are truly Thine.