July 17x

July 17
by Joe Hill
Romans 12:9-21
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In my Grow Group this Summer, we are reading C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity. In his chapter on Christian love- of both neighbor and God- he talks about this very idea found here in Romans 12: sincere love in action. He asks, “What if I don’t sincerely love my neighbor? What if I don’t feel like I love God?” His answer is simple. Start acting like you do!
He says: Ask yourself, “If I were sure that I loved God what would I do? When you have found the answer, go and do it.”
Our actions can reap a harvest of sincere love. Treat others well and you will find you love them more, and love them more sincerely. Treat others poorly, with resentment, or condescension and you will find you dislike them more. I think we know this principle instinctively, but often don’t make the connection when it comes to our love for God and others. We know that you get better at soccer by practicing, you don’t practice because you are already good. When our faith is practiced in loving actions towards our neighbor and loving devotion to God, our love grows.
Real love is not easy. Married couples often say that their love has grown over the years, but also that marriage is hard. I don’t think those two statements are unrelated. “Honor one another above yourselves…bless those who persecute you… do not repay evil for evil…” These things are not easy, but they reap a harvest of love: love of others and love for God.

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