Intro: In our passage for today, I have put into brackets some excerpts from the Greek Lexicon—a resource designed to help readers understand the original biblical text of the New Testament. Keep in mind Scripture is more than knowledge about God, it is to be applied and practiced with our lives. This letter from Paul is written to Christians in Rome and believers everywhere. In fact, the Apostle Paul wants us to know God gave us these guidelines for living, so we would submit to the Word and use our faith properly while we live in this fallen world.
Scripture has changed how I view myself as a child of God, worship the Father, Son, and Spirit, and treat other brothers and sisters in the faith. Scripture motivates me to practice my faith in fellowship with our holy God as he redeems the world. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17).
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “pretend?” According to Scripture, to pretend is to engage in hypocrisy—to wear a mask like an actor to portray what one is not. Let’s get real for a minute. Professing Christians can speak kindly to others, as well as avoid hurting their feelings, but not really deeply love or care about them enough to share life. Just because we have some self-control and skill that helps us speak in a way that sounds compassionate or kind, does not mean we are willing to take an interest and sacrificially invest our efforts in another person’s well-being. Professing Christians can be satisfied with a form of godliness, without the “heart” or love of God being engaged. This is an example of a religious spirit. It is living in the shallow waters of Christ’s love.
Actors with lip service are everywhere in this fallen world. How can you tell the difference between believers who actually love you and the actors who pretend to love you? The answer is found in: 1) the honor revealed and extended, because human beings have been made in God’s image; 2) the generous sharing of time and resources to help with the pressing needs of others; 3) a devoted effort toward personal involvement and duty to God’s genuine love that helps all of us live according to the Word. The Apostle Paul calls this the believer’s personal responsibility. We are to be living sacrifices in Christ. So, may this Scripture bring change to our understanding, renew our minds, and refresh our practice to love because it is our responsibility as disciples of Christ.
Romans 12:9-16 NLT
9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them [without hypocrisy]. Hate [abhor] what is wrong [evil]. Hold tightly [cling/connect] to what is good. 10 Love [be devoted] each other with genuine affection [tender love], and take delight [take the lead] in honoring [and valuing] each other. 11 Never be lazy [idle], but work hard [be diligent] and serve the Lord enthusiastically [boiling hot with passion]. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope [expectation]. Be patient [endure] in trouble [tribulation], and keep on [be devoted in] praying. 13 When God’s people [saints] are in need, be ready to help them [share]. Always be eager to practice [to pursue] hospitality [love of strangers].
14 Bless [speak well of] those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy [rejoice] with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony [have an understanding mind] with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy [associate with] the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all [don’t disdain advice]!
Prayer: Lord, may I not only speak kindly to my fellow believers, but speak well of them to others. Help me to cling and bind myself to your ways, so I can express the tender love you express to me. Fan the passion of my love for the salvation of others and help me to remain diligent in practice as I endure the pressures of this sinful world. Cause me to be a living sacrifice for you. I need your power, Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.