Daily Bible thoughts 301: Monday 25th February 2013: Romans 12:9-13

Each exhortation here is worthy of ‘sucking’ like a sweet, to get the maximum out of it. Or, to change the image, be like the bee, working to extract all the pollen from the flower. Give meditative thought/reflection to each statement. But note the ‘atmosphere’ in which these words are written; it is one of mutual love. All we are called to be and do is within the context of a loving church community.

Love must be sincere (9a): A note in a Bible I looked at earlier today spoke about how easily we can feign love and concern under a cover of treating people politely. It can all be pretence. We can get into that way of being if we are not careful. We don’t mean to be frauds, but we are so busy, pulled this way and that in our daily lives, and we can become drained of genuine compassion. Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. The Message.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love (10a): Loving people is fundamentally about a commitment to treat people as God has treated us; to act towards others as we would want them to act towards us. Loving actions may have to come before loving feelings. This is about a decision to pour ourselves into the lives of others in a godly way because it is the right thing to do, and we trust God to energise us. (The psychologist William James pointed out that, over time, our feelings tend to catch up with our actions.)

Honour one another above yourselves (10b): See also Philippians 2:3, 4. I have often thought that if we put the teaching in these two verses into practice, we would never have disharmony in church life….practice playing second fiddle. The Message. (It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.)

Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Of course, giving hospitality is one way of helping those in need. As Jesus said, don’t invite to your table those who will invite you back. Forget any thought of ‘exchanging’ hospitality. Freely give it to those who can’t or won’t return it. (Of course, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever invite people round who will invite you back, but our focus should be on serving the needy. This is not a mutual bargain but an act of Christian service.)

It’s been said that loving people will hit you most of all in your diary and wallet. It will cost you time and money. These last two exhortations in our section for today highlight this. There will probably be a financial cost in helping the needy, and a time cost in opening your home. But as Jesus taught: It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:17, 18).

One final thought: cooking may not be your thing, but don’t let that stop you opening your home. A cup of tea and biscuit can be shared with great love and warmth and with sincere welcome. Give people the gift of your time and share what you have with them. There is a great need in the church for mature Christians who will open their hearts and homes to new Christians on a regular basis, and mentor them in the things of Christ. Will you step up and rise to this challenge (and opportunity!!)