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. (Romans 12:9–10)
These verses kick off a rapid-fire list of marks that should characterize Christians. It is an ethical code of sorts—a way to live—that applies to the church for all time. As we read these words, we’re right to pause and take a long, hard look at our own lives: Is our love genuine? Are we for real? What are we doing here?
Questions in Context
These are good questions, so long as we know where we’re reading in the Book of Romans. This is chapter 12, and that’s important. Paul has already rooted us in the “how” of our salvation—it’s a “gift of grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). The deep questions we might ask are only worth asking because Jesus has rescued us.
This string of character markers, remember, comes after the amazing hinge verses of Romans 12:1–2. After Paul lays out the mind-boggling doctrine of salvation in chapters 1–11, Romans 12 begins: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God…” (verse 1).
Paul has turned his letter to the subject of how we live—how we live in light of what God has done in Jesus. Remember, Paul’s appeal for how we live is not so that we would deserve God’s love, but because God loved us when we didn’t deserve it. It is about God’s mercy. That is Paul’s abiding point for eleven chapters. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Because of God’s mercy—because he makes air fill our lungs and our hearts still beat—we live totally transformed lives. In a word, because of Jesus Christ we love God and others (Romans 13:8–10).
So Let Us Love
And this call to love is made clear in the list that verse 9 starts. “Let love be genuine” could really serve as the heading for this entire section in the Book of Romans (Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 773). That’s the reason for these transformed lives.
Then Paul just tells us how that looks. He gives us a straightforward explanation what this genuine love is all about. Genuine love means to abhor what is evil, to hold fast to what is good, to love one another with brotherly affection, and to outdo one another in showing honor. These are the fundamental characteristics of what it means to belong to Jesus—characteristics of a purpose that’s greater than merely taking up space.
Far from laws to box us in, these character markers help us navigate life. They provide a powerful tonic of reality. They unclutter all the busyness that tends to distract us. They wake us up, in a sense, and remind us that the life to which Jesus calls us—our new life for which he laid down his own—is a life of love.
Father, make us to walk in love like this. Make us to live with no regrets, but to know that every morning we’re still alive—every day our hearts continue to beat—is a day that you have willed. It’s a day in which we get to live and love because of Jesus Christ. Amen.